Archive for “Interviews”

Interviews

Revisiting interviews with Vietnam War writers Karl Marlantes and David Maraniss

In the midst of the Ken Burns’ film The Vietnam War (so far, sensational),  I am reminded of my own experience with the war, which, as an 18-year- old in 1972, left me, fortunately, untouched physically but engaged in other ways.  My big brother was in the very first draft lottery, and the image of our family sitting around our TV set, anxiously awaiting the results of the lottery and the impact it could have on my brother and so many of his friends, is burned in my memory.  (Miraculously, he drew #355!)

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay area meant I had a front row seat during Cal’s Free Speech Movement, San Francisco State (where my brother attended and provided our family with daily reports about the turmoil there), Haight-Ashbury, Berkeley’s People’s Park, and ongoing events associated with the civil rights movement.  It was a powder keg time with Vietnam at the centerpiece, and we all grew up pretty quickly.

Music, of course, was a key component of the Vietnam generation, and San Francisco was loaded with

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Interviews

“Up From New Orleans: Life Before, During and After Hurricane Katrina” — A conversation with transplanted New Orleans musicians Mark DiFlorio and Devin Phillips

Watching the impact Hurricane Irma is having on countless lives this week brought back memories of stories that came out of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005.  In the midst of all the devastation, many people left the Crescent City permanently, including a handful of jazz musicians who made the move to Portland at the invitation of the Portland Jazz Festival organization (now known as PDX Jazz).

In 2006 I interviewed two of those musicians — Devin Phillips, who has become a fixture on Portland’s jazz scene and is its most popular and accomplished saxophonist, and Mark DiFlorio, a drummer who lived in Portland before moving to Seattle (his website indicates he is now living in Los Angeles).  Their stories are remarkable, and this interview is worth revisiting…

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Interviews

Gary Giddins discusses Thelonious Monk

If you do a blindfold test and play Monk, the listener is likely going to know it’s him after about two bars. Everything about the way he approaches the piano and music is so distinctive. People used to use words like idiosyncratic and eccentric, but there is, of course, more than that — there is a tremendous beauty in Monk’s music, and it is peculiar to him. Everything about his attack, the particular percussiveness of his style, his use of chords, his astonishing time, can only be described as “Monkian.” And in terms of his almost exclusive reliance on jazz, most great jazz pianists have some

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Interviews

Interview with Thelonious Monk biographer Robin D.G. Kelley

“The piano ain’t got no wrong notes!” So ranted Thelonious Sphere Monk, who proved his point every time he sat down at the keyboard. His angular melodies and dissonant harmonies shook the jazz world to its foundations, ushering in the birth of “bebop” and establishing Monk as one of America’s greatest composers. Yet throughout much of his life, his musical contribution took a backseat to tales of his reputed behavior. Writers tended to obsess over Monk’s hats or his proclivity to dance on stage. To his fans, he was the ultimate hipster; to his detractors, he was temperamental, eccentric, taciturn, or childlike. But these labels tell us little about the man or his

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Interviews

Ben Ratliff on John Coltrane

Longtime accomplished New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff has left the paper. He was a terrific writer who had the ability to pique my interest in an artist in short, reliable, and often brilliant reviews.

I had the privilege of meeting him a few times over the telephone and in person. He joined me in a 2003 conversation with Bruce Lundvall and Joshua Redman about the business of jazz music, talked with Paul Morris about his book Jazz: A Critic’s Guide to the 100 Most Important Recordings, and in 2008, we talked about his book on John Coltrane, The Story of a Sound, which is published

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Interviews

Gary Giddins on jazz criticism

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

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Interviews

JJM interviews on Chet Baker and Miles Davis

With the Miles Davis and Chet Baker films now in distribution, there is a marked increase in traffic on this website’s content that is devoted to them, including several interviews that we conducted with biographers and family members. I have chosen five of them for you to consider spending some time with, featuring Ashley Kahn, James Gavin, John Szwed, Carol Baker and Gerald Early.

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Interviews

Gary Giddins on underrated saxophonists

Fans of the saxophone may enjoy reading a January, 2004 interview I did with critic Gary Giddins on underrated jazz musicians. (This was part of my 15 part series of interviews with him called “Conversations with Gary Giddins.”) In this snippet from the interview, Giddins talks about George Coleman, Booker Ervin, Paul Gonsalves, Charlie Rouse and others who he considered “underrated.”

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Interviews

Jazz writer Gary Giddins on underrated jazz guitarists

“If you look at the Grove Dictionary of Jazz, it is three volumes of jazz history and it embodies a never-ending challenge to discover all those artists. I think the important thing is to look beyond the most celebrated names. In this regard, jazz is profoundly different from nineteenth century classical music, where the pantheon has proven remarkably stable. A jazz listener will want to hear Miles Davis — his reputation is there for a reason — but so much of the fun in jazz lies in finding those distinct personalities who were extremely individual and inventive, yet abide in relative obscurity.”

This comment was made by the most eminent jazz writer Gary Giddins during our “Conversations with Gary Giddins” series, in which he talked about underrated jazz musicians. This particular conversation — from 2004 — concerns underrated jazz guitarists.

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