Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Use those jazz hands

But donít forget your manners

Express Staff Writer

Never been to a jazz fest? The rules are different and more relaxed than say a rock band, and it's not as stuffy as a symphony, but having some audience parameters never hurts. We got these from and the festival's own conduct guidelines.

Jazz musicians feed off their audience, many of whom are aficionados. Here are some tips for those less familiar with the genre:

Basic rules apply

Jazz concerts are laid-back affairs in which audience members are swept up in the music. Trying to talk to someone might ruin the experience. A nod or a glance to someone sitting next to you is usually enough to express appreciation, or not, for a note or a riff.

Try not to get up in the middle of a song to leave or use the restroom. Musicians might take offense if they see their audience walking away.

Follow the band

Proper behavior at a jazz show can vary depending on the location and musicians. A jazz band playing the standards at a concert hall might expect more low-key behavior from its audience than one putting out some new sounds at a night club.

Musicians who want their audience to really get involved in the music by clapping, singing or dancing will usually give cues to the crowd. Best to follow their lead, or, if all else fails, the lead of your fellow audience members.


Jazz is all about improvisation, so musicians will spend much of their time playing solos they make up on the spot. When they're done, the audience is encouraged and expected to applaud and show their appreciation for the work, even though the music is still playing. Audience members will know the solo is finished when the featured musician returns to the standard rhythms and melodies of a song.

Standing ovations are acceptable at jazz concerts. When a performance is exceptional, feel free to participate or initiate an ovation when the song is done.

Seat saving

It's not allowed once a set begins, so get there early and don't be insulted if 10 minutes before curtain you are asked to forfeit a seat for someone who is on time.

Mute those cell phones

Don't embarrass yourself or a loved one by being singled out for a sour note that pierces the air. Maybe even change your voicemail to say you are at one of the best jazz fests in the country and can't be bothered.

Jennifer Liebrum:

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