I’m Changing This Bar’s Jazz Jam Session Rules, by Brian Dunn

Great set, fellas. Really great. I didn’t recognize that last tune. “Caravan”? Hmm. Never heard of it. We need to chat before you put your “axes” away and go shoot heroin in the alley. I’m kidding, guys! I know that’s just a stereotype, like jazz musicians not reading music. Or being able to afford heroin.

Now that The Blue Dolphin has taken on investors and been absorbed into a family of next-gen concept restaurants, we have to carry our weight in the gastropub-slash-theme restaurant space. So I’m making changes that impact this little Sunday night jam session of yours. With any luck, we’ll be able to preserve this cherished jazz institution while making the cash register sing like Billie Holiday, but without her crazy vibrato.

The first thing you’ll notice is the all-you-can-eat fajita bar. I’m putting it right up against the piano. Russell, since you’re closest, you’ll be responsible for keeping the salsa bowls filled. And you’ll need to stir them every 15 minutes; the salsa verde tends to separate. Jeff, take this clicker. In addition to laying down those sweet bass lines, I need you to log how many plates we’re moving. If this fajita thing doesn’t hit with our customers, I might have to consider something more lively, like lobster races.

Oh, and I’m gonna start walking around the place and firing off a T-shirt cannon loaded with our “I’m never blue at The Blue Dolphin“ T-shirts. Those babies eject at 30 feet per second, so look out for friendly fire. I wouldn’t want to hit the next Louis Armstrong in the chops.

Here are copies of our investor group’s mission statement. Notice bullet point no. 17 about “diversity making us a stronger organization.” With that in mind, I bought some new sheet music for you guys. No room for solos, but some great Top 40 tunes with a couple of country songs to get boots a-tappin’. I know you jazz guys love to jam on standards, but I need customers dancing so they work up a thirst that can only be quenched by our signature Blue Dolphin Moonlight Margarita, served in a souvenir glass.

I love that you let anyone come here and play, but these guys take up a helluva lotta space waiting their turn, snapping their fingers, not ordering our Pizza Crumblers. I don’t have to tell you boys that the bar business is all about revenue per table, not giving a musical handout to the next Coltrane. New rule starting immediately: two-drink minimum before playing on a tune. If they can’t produce dos empty glasses, it’s a no go. Cash only, no tabs.

Last thing. I need you to step up and play some mood music every third Sunday when we host The Blue Dolphin Speed Dating Mingle. Help lonely singles make a meaningful connection—give ‘em something they can chat over with none of those depressing minor chords. Just a trio, maybe add a flute. Ernie, it’ll be nothing but brushes hitting the head of that snare drum. And if you try to bust out any Buddy Rich 96-bar solos, I’ll find another drummer willing to play for free, plus perform basic janitorial duties come closing time.

I appreciate all your help with reinventing Sunday nights here. The possibilities are limitless. I’m talking foosball tournaments, amateur bare-knuckle boxing, freestyle rapping contests. Oh, this? I was wondering when you were gonna ask me. It’s my baritone saxophone. Thought I’d sit in with you guys later. I can only play in two keys and my intonation’s pitchy, but when I get going, I can pull off a pretty mean version of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”

Tell you what, let’s chat about it more out in the alley. Heroin’s on me.

Brian Dunn is a Phoenix-based author, writer, and humorist. Brian’s short stories have appeared in The Oddville Press, Heater, and Rock Bottom Journal. His humor writing can be found on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and elsewhere. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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