[JPL] Response to posting of blog about jazz magazines

louisx at verizon.net louisx at verizon.net
Tue Oct 28 14:49:14 EDT 2008

The only thing that can be "bad for jazz" is if new musicians stop playing 
it. All the rest is exterior noise. I agree with the saying that writing 
about music is like dancing about architecture, but I love reading jazz 
magazines, listening to jazz radio, interviewing jazz musicians.   However, 
in the end it's the music that counts, and any number of bad magazines and 
radio stations will not kill the music. I will say this: The writers and 
editors of the larger modern jazz magazines need to get out to the small 
clubs more often. There IS less coverage of great music played by young 
musicians in out-of-the-way dives, which is where the good things happen. 
That being said, this blogger obviously needs to get a life.

> I'm not sure how to respond to such a vitriolic and inaccurate blog,
> replete with typos, posted on this listserve.  I wasn't sure that I
> should even respond at all to a random bashing like this.  But how the
> members of this listserve perceive us matters greatly to me.  I will say
> it's the very first time I've been called a corporate suit.  I'm sort of
> excited by that since, as most of you know, I'm neither a suit wearer
> nor a corporate guy.  I'm hoping this appellation means a corresponding
> increase in my salary.
> Objectively, I believe he's overreacted to our cover choices, including
> most recently Return to Forever, Esperanza Spalding, Freddie Hubbard and
> David Sanborn.  I'm not sure why he dropped the cover artist Rahsaan
> Roland Kirk; I suppose it didn't fit his argument.  Apparently, picking
> what we deem as the most commercial and accessible story for the cover
> makes me a corporate suit and the magazine a tool of publicity flacks.
> Besides the fact that these cover subjects are pretty damn worthy as
> artists, if you look at the depth and breadth of coverage in those
> issues, you see that we are serving the music and our readership quite
> well.  Clearly, he doesn't dig Sanborn and his heartfelt tribute to Hank
> Crawford and David Fathead Newman, but in that same issue were features
> or stories on Ari Hoenig, Bill Stewart, Corey Wilkes, Billy Cobham,
> Alvin Queen, Tim Warfield, John McLaughlin & Chick Corea.  The issue had
> a drum theme, as you might guess from that list, but in any case, that
> list is a nice representative sampling of the music - past, present and
> future.  Also, if he had spoken directly with the jazz publicity folks,
> he'd find that their suggestions and pitches are rejected at an
> uncomfortably high rate, for various reasons including space and
> relevance.  For the record, we solicited the cover stories on each of
> those artists.  And in fact the piece on Spalding was about the
> machinery of hype.  Finally, if we did these covers for advertising, as
> is commonly charged, then we really messed up because you won't see many
> ads for releases from those artists.
> For the record, I believe firmly that JazzTimes and Downbeat are much
> better magazines than most people in the jazz community realize.  Are
> there comparably strong publications in other roots music niches, such
> as blues, bluegrass, reggae, Latin and world music?  I don't think so.
> And that nostalgia for the magazines of the past is something I've
> experienced myself, but then I went through the archives of Metronome
> and old issues of Downbeat, Musician and other publications and realized
> that the level of professionalism in contemporary magazines like
> JazzTimes and Downbeat is so much higher today in every aspect.  I miss
> my old baseball glove, but my catcher's mitt back then was more like a
> stiff throw pillow, hardly comparable to the flexible and durable gloves
> of today.
> And calling our writers mediocre seems nearly insane.  I would not use
> that word to describe Gary Giddins, Nat Hentoff, Nate Chinen, Don
> Heckman, David R. Adler, Geoffrey Himes, Larry Appelbaum, George Varga,
> Marc Hopkins, Ashley Kahn, Mike Joyce, Josef Woodard, Laurel Gross,
> Steve Greenlee, Rebeca Mauleon and many other regular contributors.  If
> anything, we have benefited from the unfortunate purging of daily and
> weekly newspapers' newsrooms.  Our next issue features a great column by
> K. Leander Williams, a longtime weekly vet.  Hardly mediocre stuff.
> Regarding his valuation of the editors, I'm cool with being called
> "mediocre," or to paraphrase Stanley Crouch, "a minor man," but our
> managing editor Evan Haga and associate editor Jeff Tamarkin are
> first-class editors and I feel lucky to be able to work with them.
> Mediocre they're not.   I can't speak for Jason at Downbeat, but I'd
> have to think he feels the same way about his editors. It looked to me
> like the blogger could have used a bit of editing, mediocre or
> otherwise.
> With the major newspapers cutting back on arts and jazz coverage, we all
> should appreciate any print media outlets paying close attention to this
> music, much less the ones who are doing it very well.
> Honestly, I can take criticism pretty well, but what stung the most is
> the blogger's thesis that we're bad for jazz and that we don't care
> about the music.  As my teenaged daughter would say, "whatever."  Or, as
> stated in a quote often attributed to LBJ, "Any jackass can burn down a
> barn, but it takes a hellluva carpenter to build one."
> Thanks for listening.
> ________________________________
> Lee Mergner
> Editor-in-Chief
> JazzTimes
> 8737 Colesville Road, Ninth Floor
> Silver Spring, MD 20910
> www.jazztimes.com <http://www.jazztimes.com/>
> (301) 588-4114, ext. 513
> Fax: (301) 588-5531
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