I was recently interviewed about the state of jazz by culture journalist Bjarke Due Gunslev for the Danish newspaper Information. For reasons of space, he only used a few quotes in the final piece. I’ll now post below the entire interview we did in English via email, then at the bottom is the final article in Danish.
– Are there in your opinion criteria that has to be met for it to make sense to define a piece of music as jazz?
For me, there are traditions you can point to, or trends that emerge over time, but there’s no checklist or rulebook that says jazz must conform to one theory, aspect, formula or principle, and I’m glad there isn’t. That would be boring; the sort of thing rigid, humorless people dwell on. You might say such an attitude goes against the sprit or soul of jazz. Or, to borrow a term from the moldy figs of the 1960s, that paint-by-numbers approach is “anti-jazz.”
Journalist Margo Ormotsadze first interviewed me for Forbes last summer with provocative questions about the state of jazz. She recently followed up by asking a new set of questions via email. Here is her published interview in Russian which appeared in YEP.TODAY. The original interview in English is below.
On June 1, 2015, Machito’s son, Mario Grillo, donated Machito’s handwritten scores and arrangements to the Library of Congress. For this celebration, we discussed Grillo’s family, his work as a studio percussionist and orchestra leader, his Aunt Graciela and his father’s contributions to American music.
I’ve had the great pleasure and privilege of curating the new Jazz Singers exhibit at the Library of Congress. I’m grateful to all my colleagues in the Music Division and the Interpretive Programs Office for help and support during the months leading up to our Feb. 11 opening. Special thanks goes to Exhibition Director Betsy Nahum–Miller for keeping us focused and on schedule. Betsy and I are now working on a version of the exhibit we’ll send out to Disney Hall in Los Angeles in the Fall.
I’m pleased to report that we got a nice early boost from the New York Times when they posted a preview, then Milenio, the national newspaper in Mexico, weighed in. I was especially pleased when Will Friedwald, who has written several important books on jazz singers, came to Washington to view the exhibit and and for context spent time delving into more of the jazz treasures in our special collections. Will then returned to New York and wrote this insightful, perceptive review for the Wall Street Journal. Continue reading
I had the pleasure of moderating a panel discussion at the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival in Rockville, Maryland this weekend. Panelists included [left to right]: publicist Matt Merewitz (Fully Altered Media), Willard Jenkins (D.C. Jazz Festival), saxophonist, educator and concert producer Tim Warfield, jazz critic Mike West (Washington Post, City Paper, JazzTimes) and yours truly. The topic was “Does the Jazz Media have a positive affect on the jazz audience?” We also explored approaches and strategies for audience development. It was a stimulating, insightful conversation and I’m grateful to Festival Director Paul Carr for making it possible. Thanks also to Judy Korey for snapping this pic.
My exhibit on Jazz Singers opened this week at the Library of Congress:
Here’s a short piece about it from the New York Times. The exhibit stays up until the 3rd week in July, then it moves out to Disney Hall in Los Angeles. If you’re in or around DC any time during the next 5 months, please stop by and let me know what you think.
This year I’m celebrating my 40th year in broadcasting. The first 5 years were spent knocking around various college radio stations (WFNR, WMUC, WDCU). For the past 35 years I’ve hosted a jazz program on WPFW-FM.
Jazz journalist Aidan Levy recently interviewed me for a piece on jazz radio for the JazzTimes Education Guide (Nov. 2015 issue). For reasons of space, he had to edit my responses to a few quotes. With thanks to Aidan and JazzTimes, here for the first time is the complete interview.