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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August 12th, 2016

The latest West Coast jazz scene

In Sunday’s New York Times, music critic Ben Ratliff’s feature entitled “Los Angeles Jazz With Kamasi Washington and Others” addresses a snapshot of the current West Coast scene, with an emphasis on Washington’s group and its triple-disc recording titled “The Epic.”

In the piece, Ratliff reminds us of the aesthetic divide that has long existed between New York (“the center of the jazz-performance business”) and Los Angeles – specifically the “temper of life” there, where there is a “possibility for working in a less-pressured and lifelong artistic community, the artist’s sense of security against New York hustle.” From this comes a sense of artistic freedom perhaps not found in the

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April 29th, 2015

Ben Ratliff, author of Coltrane: The Story of a Sound

What was the essence of John Coltrane’s achievement that makes him so prized forty years after his death? What was it about his improvising, his bands, his compositions, his place within his era of jazz that left so many musicians and listeners so powerfully drawn to him? What would a John Coltrane look like now — or are we looking for the wrong signs?

The acclaimed jazz writer Ben Ratliff addresses these questions in Coltrane. First Ratliff tells the story of Coltrane’s development, from his first recordings as a no-name navy bandsman to his last recordings as a near-saint, paying special attention to the last ten years of his life, which contained a remarkable series of breakthroughs in a nearly religious search for deeper expression.

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June 9th, 2013

Reminiscing in Tempo: Memories and Opinion/Volume Eleven: What were five of your favorite record albums (or CD’s) when you were twenty years old, and what are five of your favorite CD’s today?

“Reminiscing in Tempo” is part of a continuing effort to provide Jerry Jazz Musician readers with unique forms of “edu-tainment.” As often as possible, we pose one question via e mail to a small number of prominent and diverse people. The question is designed to provoke a lively response that will potentially include the memories and/or opinion of those solicited.

What were five of your favorite record albums (or CD’s) when you were twenty years old, and what are five of your favorite CD’s today?

Featuring Peter Erskine, Rufus Reid, Terri Lynne Carrington, Ben Ratliff, Steve Khan and others…

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March 5th, 2008

Reminiscing in Tempo: Memories and Opinion/Volume Five: What are five books that mean a lot to you?

“Reminiscing in Tempo” is part of a continuing effort to provide Jerry Jazz Musician readers with unique forms of “edu-tainment.” As often as possible, we pose one question via e mail to a small number of prominent and diverse people. The question is designed to provoke a lively response that will potentially include the memories and/or opinion of those solicited.

What are five books that mean a lot to you?

Featuring Ben Ratliff, David Maraniss, Diane McWhorter, Don Byron, Gary Giddins, James Gavin, Kevin Boyle and others…

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June 29th, 2006

“Jazz in the Modern World” — a Roundtable discussion with Joshua Redman, Bruce Lundvall and Ben Ratliff

What are the boundaries of the jazz idiom? What is the role of jazz in today’s world? To download or not to download? What is the future of retailing and how does that affect the art of making music? What is the value of recorded music?

As ever, jazz faces an array of questions, certainly more than three people can address in an hour. The hour spent in this particular discussion among men at the top of their respective fields focuses on confronting the challenge of marketing a music filled with nuance and passion to a modern audience conditioned by technology for instant gratification, and the issue of competing with its own historic past.

In a Roundtable hosted by Jerry Jazz Musician publisher Joe Maita, Blue Note Records president Bruce Lundvall, saxophonist Joshua Redman, and New York Times critic Ben Ratliff lend their perspectives.

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October 2nd, 2003

Ben Ratliff, author of Jazz: A Critics Guide to the 100 Most Important Recordings

In the preface to his book Jazz: A Critics Guide to the 100 Most Important Recordings, New York Times jazz critic Ben Ratliff writes, “You oughtn’t look at jazz only by its corners, its Hot Fives and Seven’s, its Kind of Blue’s and Love Supreme’s. You have to look at what the corners surround.”

In this spirit, his book is an exploration of jazz in its many varied forms, and opens the reader’s ears to quite surprising recordings comfortably overlooked by other guides.

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January 27th, 2003

In This Issue

Michael Cuscuna, Mosaic Records co-founder, is interviewed about his successful career as a jazz producer, discographer, and entrepreneur...Also in this issue, in celebration of Blue Note’s 80th year, we asked prominent writers and musicians the following question: “What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums; a new collection of jazz poetry; “On the Turntable,” is a new playlist of 18 recently released jazz recordings from six artists – Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano, Matt Brewer, Tom Harrell, Zela Margossian and Aaron Burnett; two new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Jazz History Quiz”; a new feature called “Pressed for All Time,”; a new photo-narrative by Charles Ingham; and…lots more.

On the Turntable

This month, a playlist of 18 recently released jazz recordings by six artists -- Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano. Matt Brewer, Tom Harrell, Zela Margossian, and Aaron Burnett

Poetry

In this month’s collection, with great jazz artists at the core of their work, 16 poets remember, revere, ponder, laugh, dream, and listen

The Joys of Jazz

In this new volume of his podcasts, Bob presents two stories, one on Clifford Brown (featuring the trumpeter Charlie Porter) and the other is part two of his program on stride piano, including a conversation with Mike Lipskin

Short Fiction

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #51 — “Crossing the Ribbon,” by Linnea Kellar

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

Pressed for All Time

In an excerpt from his book Pressed for All Time, Michael Jarrett interviews producer Creed Taylor about how he came to use tape overdubs during the 1957 Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross Sing a Song of Basie recording session

Art

“Thinking about the Truesdells” — a photo-narrative by Charles Ingham

Jazz History Quiz #128

Although he was famous for modernizing the sound of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra -- “On the Sunny Side of the Street” was his biggest hit while working for Dorsey (pictured) -- this arranger will forever be best-known for his work with the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra. Who is he?

Great Encounters

In this edition, Bob Dylan recalls what Thelonious Monk told him about music at New York’s Blue Note club in c. 1961.

Art

Jerry Jazz Musician regularly publishes a series of posts featuring excerpts of the photography and stories/captions found in Jazz in Available Light by Veryl Oakland. In this edition, Mr. Oakland's photographs and stories feature Stan Getz, Sun Ra, and Carla Bley.

Interviews

Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, discusses her late husband’s complex, fascinating life.

Cover Stories with Paul Morris

In this edition, Paul writes about jazz album covers that offer glimpses into intriguing corners of the culture of the 1950’s

Coming Soon

"The Photography Issue" will feature an interview with jazz photographer Carol Friedman (her photo of Wynton Marsalis is pictured), as well as with Michael Cuscuna on unreleased photos by Blue Note's Francis Wolff.

In the previous issue

Jeffrey Stewart, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, is interviewed about Locke (pictured), the father of the Harlem Renaissance. Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 19 recommended recordings by five jazz artists; three new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Great Encounters”; several short stories; the photography of Veryl Oakland and Charles Ingham; a new Jazz History Quiz; and lots more…

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