The Fame and Fortune of Jazz

The Professor is IN

I don’t know if you’ve figured this out yet, but I’m a pretty big deal. It wouldn’t be a stretch to think of me as the Michael Jackson of the trad jazz scene, but with less crotch-grabbing. Yes, I’ve got that magic combination of smoking good looks and musical genius. And humility. I’m great at humility. No-one can do the humility thing better than me. So it’s no surprise that I’m living the charmed life of a jazz superstar.

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Sure, it’s fun at first, hanging out with Presidents or A-list movie stars, getting snapped by paparazzi while hanging out at my villa in Monaco with my supermodel girlfriend, or getting matching tattoos with Justin Beiber after a big night out (yes, I’m a Beleiber). Jazz superstardom is an emotional rollercoaster, dear reader.

But the gloss of celebrity wears off quickly when I can’t even walk down the street without some starry-eyed girl ogling me and begging for me to sign her undergarments. Sure, they might be nice undergarments, but isn’t there more to this jazz musician than just being an object of desire with an aesthetically pleasing signature? How many more cleavages do I have to sign? I’m getting repetitive strain injury for Pete’s sake.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with being on billboards, starring in movies and fronting your own line of fragrance (Eau de Professor now on sale at www.professorcunninghamjazz.com). But it’s just too much getting mobbed by fans even while shopping for groceries, wanting to know “what reeds do you use?” or “do you play Boehm or Albert system?” (Vandoren 3&1/2, and Boehm. There. Now you know. Now can I buy my produce in peace?)

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And it’s not just the regular fans, you’ve also got to be careful about the stalkers. They’re the really creepy ones. Why, just the other day, I caught one of my neighbors googling me on her computer! (It’s a good thing I was watching her through my telescope at the time.)

You’re probably thinking, “Sure Professor, of course you’re famous. But this sort of thing doesn’t affect the average jazz musician.”

I’m afraid it’s not just me. It’s an epidemic affecting all of us in the jazz community.

How many more piano players will need to sneak out the emergency exit after a gig to avoid being mobbed by fans?

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How many drummers will need to take out restraining orders against crazed devotees who just won’t stop harassing them asking inappropriate questions like “How many inches is your…bass drum?”

How many more trumpet players will nearly suffocate on stage from being buried by underwear passionately thrown at them?

How many more banjo players’ marriages have to break down due to the temptation of some doe-eyed fan in the audience? (“Can I have a banjo lesson?” they ask. What a ruse. Nobody wants banjo lessons.)
How many bass players…oh…well, okay…maybe not bass players.

So for you jazz musicians out there who are as tired as I am from dealing with an insatiable fan base, here are the Professor’s tips for handling the fame:

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1. Hire security. It helps keep the throngs at bay. The downside is that having a bunch of guys in suits and sunglasses can ironically draw more attention to you. Also, it’s not the most cost effective endeavor when you hire $1000 in security for a NY jazz gig that pays $50.

2. Use a disguise. The old classic fake moustache and glasses routine can work a treat. Or you can wear a beret to look like a bebop musician—nobody bothers those guys.
Also, you can do what I’ve done and develop a convincing Australian accent to sound like a foreigner. (Problem is, people seem to like it and know me as that Aussie musician. Damn you, adorable accent.)

3. Classic Misdirection. If someone comes up and says “Aren’t you that clarinet player?” I yell abuse, kick ’em in the shins, and run away while saying “Yes…my name is Ken Peplowski.” I’ve found this is good personal career booster.

So, in conclusion, to all my adoring fans out there: I’m just a humble artist. To me, it’s all about the music. All I really want is to be left alone, and make music without all the attention, praise, reverence, veneration…respect……love……….adoration ………..oh, wait a minute…


Reedman extraordinaire Adrian Cunningham is the leader of Professor Cunningham and his Old School Jazz Band, based in New York City. His most recent CD is Ain’t That Right! The Music of Neal Hefti issued on the Arbors Jazz label. Visit his both his sites on the world wide web: www.adriancunningham.com and professorcunninghamjazz.com.

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The Professor is delighted to field your questions regarding jazz and a variety of other germane topics. Write him at oldschoolprofessor@gmail.com.


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