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

This issue features a roundtable discussion about how the world of religion may have impacted the creative lives of Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison. Also, previous winners of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest reflect on their winning story; three new podcasts from Bob Hecht; new collection of poetry; recommendations of recently released jazz recordings, and lots more.

Short Fiction

"The Wailing Wall" -- a short story by Justin Short

Interviews

Three prominent religious scholars -- Wallace Best, Tracy Fessenden and M. Cooper Harriss -- join us in a conversation about how the world of religion during the life and times of Langston Hughes (pictured), Billie Holiday and Ralph Ellison helps us better comprehend the meaning of their work.

Poetry

Nine poets contribute ten poems celebrating jazz in poems as unique as the music itself

Short Fiction

In celebration of our upcoming 50th Short Fiction Contest, previous contest winners (dating to 2002) reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

The Joys of Jazz

In this edition, award winning radio producer Bob Hecht tells three stories; 1) on Charlie Christian, the first superstar of jazz guitar; 2) the poet Langston Hughes’ love of jazz music, and 3) a profile of the song “Strange Fruit”

On the Turntable

25 recently released jazz tunes that are worth listening to…including Bobo Stenson; Medeski, Martin and Wood; Muriel Grossman and Rudy Royston

Features

Chick Corea, Rickie Lee Jones, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Randy Brecker and Tom Piazza are among those responding to our question, "What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940's?"

Poetry

"Billie Holiday" -- a poem (with collage) by Steve Dalachinsky

Coming Soon

Thomas Brothers, Duke University professor of music and author of two essential biographies of Louis Armstrong, is interviewed about his new book, HELP! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration; also, Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell, author of An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden, in a conversation about the brilliant 20th Century artist

In the previous issue

This issue features an interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins; a collection of poetry devoted to the World War II era; and a new edition of “Reminiscing in Tempo,” in which the question “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940’s” is posed to Rickie Lee Jones, Chick Corea, Tom Piazza and others.

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