Jazz history is filled with great moments and musicians, reported on over the years by critics whose work influenced the music’s path. Rudi Blesh, Martin Williams, Albert Murray, Dan Morgenstern, Nat Hentoff, Gene Lees, Leonard Feather, Whitney Balliett, and Stanley Crouch are just a handful of the critics whose liner notes, columns, opinions and histories we read while deepening our desires to grow with the music. The writer whose work is perhaps most renown is Gary Giddins, the award-winning writer who for years wrote about jazz for the Village Voice, and who I was privileged to interview several times about a variety of interesting topics in our Conversations with Gary Giddins series.
In June, 2003, Giddins and I talked about his ascension as a jazz writer, and included his candid observations of other prominent critics. The discussion concluded with a unique “Blindfold Test” that asked Giddins to name the jazz writer responsible for the essay excerpt he is spontaneously shown. It is a timeless view of an important profession, and can be read by clicking here.
Painting by Carl Frankel
“I don’t like the idea of trying to put a button on jazz, strictly defining the parameters, saying, ‘If you don’t do this you are not playing jazz.’ I don’t think it is true of any art form. I remember a writer in the Times saying once that not being able to define jazz was like not being able to define baroque. The guy was an idiot, because, of course, you can’t define baroque. Baroque is a very large category in which all kinds of aesthetic worlds co-mingle. That is also true of jazz, and I certainly don’t think somebody should be penalized for attempting to stretch the music in a different direction. When people try to stop the clock, they stop artistic pursuit, they limit the emotional response that we have to art. If stopping the clock is what gives them pleasure, fine, but I don’t think that’s good for the art, and it certainly has no appeal to me.”
– Gary Giddins
Gary Giddins talks about his introduction to jazz