“Life during the time of isolation and social distancing” Vol. 2 — music writers/critics Howard Mandel and Joel Selvin

April 26th, 2020

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Man Thinking” by James Brewer

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…..In recent days, I have posed this question  via email to a handful of creative artists and citizens of note:

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…..“During this time of social distancing and isolation at home, what are examples of the music you are listening to, the books you are reading, and/or the television or films you are viewing?” (If you wish, please feel free to also share your thoughts on the effects this isolation is having on your creativity or on your world).

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…..Responses to this question will be published periodically as this era progresses.

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This edition features the email responses of music writers/critics Howard Mandel and Joel Selvin

(published with only minor stylistic editing)

 

 

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photo by Susan Brink

Howard Mandel

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Author; arts reporter; winner of the Deems Taylor Award for Music Journalism; president of the Jazz Journalists Association

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This response was submitted on April 1

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…..I’ve found that I’m engaged in a lot of work – some around the virus, as the Jazz Journalists Association launched its international series of reports, JazzOnLockdown at JJANews.org.  Most daily for the past week-plus, out of a new online project we’d begun called Working the Beat – all online communications — at the same time we’re celebrating 26 Jazz Heroes from 23 US cities online, and the 24th annual Jazz Awards (1st round voting just ended, tabulating now).  I am also consulting the Jazz Institute of Chicago as a member of the board, concerned about programming now that our spring-early summer plans are not viable. So I’ve been editing, writing and rewriting, in touch with a large number of people on every platform except in- person.

…..Since I’ve worked from a home office for most of the past 40 years I’m used to that, and like being amid my books, CDs, instruments, other media, and take breaks to read, listen to either things I’m working on (reviewing for DownBeat, say) or that have just come in the mail or I suddenly have an urge to hear – an old favorite, or maybe something I never dipped into. I listen to a lot of piano music – was digging Tatum ‘34-‘35 solos, which I never had, and an album I hadn’t heard previously by Donald Lambert, but that was in alternation with Fire! Orchestra’s new version of Krzysztof Penderecki’s Actions, originally recorded by an ensemble Don Cherry convened (though he didn’t play on it) in ‘69 – and of course I went back to the original, then wanted to hear Cherry himself so Complete Communion, but new Myra Melford, Miya Masaoka and Zeena Parkins trio also grabbed me, and I listened to Roscoe Mitchell’s newly released orchestral album.

…..And watched the news. But also some movies; Yesterday, Danny Boyle’s Beatles fantasy which I loved, and It Happened One Night – with my daughter in New York City, we texting as it played in our respective living rooms. She’d never seen it before. I’m interested in The Plot Against America, was disappointed in Hunters, liked Avenue Five as hilarious and the Netflix Dracula (one of the best ever!) and also Astronomy Club, which is skits by a troupe of black comics in LA.

…..I’ve been having an unusually hard time reading for pleasure – I’m jumping around among too many books, nothing’s locking in. But ranging widely, wildly including stories by Theophile Gauthier, Max Beerbohm essays, Dwight McDonald’s take on Hemingway in MassCult and Midcult, myths and legends of ancient Israel by Angelo Rappoport, Chester Himes’ All Shot Up, George Silverman’s Explanation which is obscure late Dickens. That’s the past couple weeks. Plus I reread The Burnt Orange Heresy by Charles Willeford in anticipation of the film (produced by a friend) and will recommend highly Maria Golia’s Ornette Coleman: The Territory and the Adventure. I’m also more than halfway through the complete writings on film of Manny Farber.

…..I think all this activity demonstrates my restlessness, discomfort in not being out hearing live music or seeing movies with audiences. I want to be diverted from the immediate dangers and disappointments and fears, but not mindlessly – I want to engage with something pleasurable and meaningful (to me). I’ve been on Zoom calls for business and to hang out with friends. I’ve got lots of mags coming in New Yorker, NY Review of Books, New Republic, Smithsonian, Rolling Stone, Atlantic, Baffler and I read three newspapers daily plus check news feed constantly. . .and also do some writing. So disengaged physically – I miss swimming as I had been, too – but very much with this world. Which is scary, though I personally feel safe from the virus (have been home almost without break for three weeks, since a weekend jaunt to NYC 3/6-9), and my finances will hold out for now. What I worry about is our government and the flux of the world.  What I think about is what can I do best to improve anything, what can I report on that I alone have seen or know or think, how to tell my stories to keep interest and lead to someplace unexpected.

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 Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice

Joel Selvin

San Francisco-based music critic who wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle from 1972 – 2009;  columns have appeared in many publications, including Rolling Stone, Billboard, and the Los Angeles Times; author of  several books on pop music, including the #1 New York Times best-selling book,  Red: My Uncensored Life In Rock, with Sammy Hagar

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This response was submitted on April 7

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…..Tell you what is unusual for me at this strange time…can’t get new books from Amazon for weeks, so I have been pulling books I always meant to read off the shelves and going through those. Finished Frank Baum biography, Anita O’Day autobiography. Have Bird Lives and Straight Life lined up. My music habits haven’t changed — although I have had time to file my records — and I still listen to all kinds of crazy shit.

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Click here to read Volume 1 of this series, featuring recording artist Bruce Cockburn

Click here to read Volume 3 of this series, featuring the journalist Joe Hagan and the photographer Tim Davis

Click here to read Volume 4 of this series, featuring Spelman College president Mary Schmidt Campbell

Click here to read Volume 5 of this series, featuring Arizona State University historian Tracy Fessenden

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In this Issue

A Collection of Jazz Poetry – Spring, 2020 Edition There are many good and often powerful poems within this collection, one that has the potential for changing the shape of a reader’s universe during an impossibly trying time, particularly if the reader has a love of music. 33 poets from all over the globe contribute 47 poems. Expect to read of love, loss, memoir, worship, freedom, heartbreak and hope – all collected here, in the heart of this unsettling spring. (Featuring the art of Martel Chapman)

Interview

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Bob Hecht and Grover Sales host a previously unpublished 1985 interview with the late, great jazz saxophonist Lee Konitz, who talks about Miles, Kenton, Ornette, Tristano, and the art of improvisation...

Features

Red Meditation by James Brewer
Creative artists and citizens of note respond to the question, "During this time of social distancing and isolation at home, what are examples of the music you are listening to, the books you are reading, and/or the television or films you are viewing?”

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time – the author Philip Clark writes about the origins of the book, and his interest in shining a light on how Brubeck, “thoughtful and sensitive as he was, had been changed as a musician and as a man by the troubled times through which he lived and during which he produced such optimistic, life-enhancing art.”

Interview

NBC Radio-photo by Ray Lee Jackson / Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, acclaimed biographer James Kaplan (Frank: The Voice and Sinatra: The Chairman) talks about his book, Irving Berlin: New York Genius, and Berlin's unparalleled musical career and business success, his intense sense of family and patriotism during a complex and evolving time, and the artist's permanent cultural significance.

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Maria Golia’s Ornette Coleman: The Territory and the Adventure – excerpted here in its entirety – the author takes the reader through the four phases of the brilliant musician’s career her book focuses on.

Art

Art by Charles Ingham
Charles Ingham’s “Jazz Narratives” connect time, place, and subject in a way that ultimately allows the viewer a unique way of experiencing jazz history. Volume 7 of the narratives are “Torn from Its Moorings", "Watching the Sea" and "Plantations" (featuring west coast stories of Ornette Coleman and Billie Holiday)

Interview

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection
Richard Crawford’s Summertime: George Gershwin’s Life in Music is a rich, detailed and rewarding musical biography that describes Gershwin's work throughout every stage of his career. In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Crawford discusses his book and the man he has described as a “fresh voice of the Jazz Age” who “challenged Americans to rethink their assumptions about composition and performance, nationalism, cultural hierarchy, and the racial divide.”

Jazz History Quiz #138

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Shortly following their famed 1938 Carnegie Hall performance, Benny Goodman’s drummer Gene Krupa left the band to start his own. Who replaced Krupa?

Interview

photo unattributed/ Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview with The Letters of Cole Porter co-author Dominic McHugh, he explains that “several of the big biographical tropes that we associate with Porter are either modified or contested by the letters,” and that “when you put together these letters, and add our quite extensive commentary between the letters, it creates a different picture of him.” Mr. McHugh discusses his book, and what the letters reveal about the life – in-and-out of music – of Cole Porter.

Book Excerpt

The introduction to John Burnside's The Music of Time: Poetry in the Twentieth Century – excerpted here in its entirety with the gracious consent of Princeton University Press – is the author's fascinating observation concerning the idea of how poets respond to what the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam called “the noise of time,” weaving it into a kind of music.

Short Fiction

photo Creative Commons CC0
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #53 — “Market & Fifth, San Francisco, 1986,” by Paul Perilli

Photography

photo by Veryl Oakland
In this edition of photographs and stories from Veryl Oakland’s book Jazz in Available Light, Frank Morgan, Michel Petrucciani/Charles Lloyd, and Emily Remler are featured

Poetry

photo Bret Stewart/Wikimedia Commons
“Afterwards — For the Spring, 2020” — a poem by Alan Yount

Book Excerpt

A ten page excerpt from The Letters of Cole Porter by Cliff Eisen and Dominic McHugh that features correspondence in the time frame of June to August, 1953, including those Porter had with George Byron (the man who married Jerome Kern’s widow), fellow writer Abe Burrows, Noel Coward, his secretary Madeline P. Smith, close friend Sam Stark, and his lawyer John Wharton.

Interview

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Con Chapman, author of Rabbit's Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges discusses the great Ellington saxophonist

Humor

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"Louis Armstrong on the Moon," by Dig Wayne

Book Excerpt

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Pressed for All Time

In this edition, producer Tom Dowd talks with Pressed for All Time: Producing the Great Jazz Albums author Michael Jarrett about the genesis of Herbie Mann’s 1969 recording, Memphis Underground, and the executives and musicians involved

Interview

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Interview with Gerald Horne, author of Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music

Great Encounters

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In this edition of "Great Encounters," Con Chapman, author of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges, writes about Hodges’ early musical training, and the first meeting he had with Sidney Bechet, the influential and legendary reed player who Hodges called “tops in my book.”

Poetry

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In the Previous Issue

Interviews with three outstanding, acclaimed writers and scholars who discuss their books on Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter, and their subjects’ lives in and out of music. These interviews – which each include photos and several full-length songs – provide readers easy access to an entertaining and enlightening learning experience about these three giants of American popular music.

In an Earlier Issue

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“The Jazz Photography Issue” features an interview with today’s most eminent jazz portrait photographer Carol Friedman, news from Michael Cuscuna about newly released Francis Wolff photos, as well as archived interviews with William Gottlieb, Herman Leonard, Lee Tanner, a piece on Milt Hinton, a new edition of photos from Veryl Oakland, and much more…

Contributing writers

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