"Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen; we'd like to remind you that we don't applaud here at this old place where we're workin', so restrain your applause, and if you must applaud wait till the end of the set - and it won't even matter then. The reason is that we are interrupted by your noise. In fact, don't even take any drinks, or no cash registers ringin', et cetera.
I'd like to introduce you to the Jazz Workshop."*
I love jazz. I've always liked it, but loving it, that's a relatively recent development. For this I thank Jim Steele, the radio personality at WFDD (the NPR affiliate) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, whose program Jazz Place was my doorway into this universe; and Louis Matza, a dear friend, jazz guitarist, and former teacher who ordered me ten years ago to get Kind of Blue and whatever disc I could find that contained Louis Armstrong's "West End Blues." These, he explained, were the foundations.
A decade and a lot of records and shows later, and I've suddenly become a jazz critic. A real, live, professional jazz critic, with bylines and connections and clips. And opinions. Lots and lots of opinions, some of which are highly unconventional.
It seems a little strange to say something like that. Unconventional opinions? Why should opinions have conventions? Everybody's got different ears, and if you know your way around the music, what your ears tell you shouldn't be measured against what everybody else's ears tell them. But it doesn't work that way. Too often, would-be critics' opinions stem as much from reading others' opinions as they do from trusting their own ears. (Reading other critics is great, and it's necessary; it lets you consider aspects of the music you hadn't previously noticed. But it's not uncommon for that to cross over into "It's not right", it's not fair to themselves, and it's egregiously unfair to the music.
With all of this in mind, I welcome you to the Jazz Workshop.
The Jazz Workshop is Blogcritics' new jazz column, hosted by yours truly. Because I have lots of opinions, on albums, on people, on the place of both of those elements in jazz history, and on a ton of other tangential matters, I'll be expressing them in this space. Although the column is named for the band led by my favorite composer, Charles Mingus, this Jazz Workshop is a different sort. It's a workshop of ideas about jazz. And there are never enough of those to go around, believe it or not.