Posts Tagged ‘Jazziz’

Jazz Times: They Are A Changin’

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Jazz Times magazine, considered, in many quarters, to be the jazz magazine “of record” for over 30 years, has temporarily suspended publication, according to a notice posted on its web site,

The owners are reportedly speaking to a potential buyer interested in taking over publishing reigns.

Rumors have been rampant about this for some months, with some unnamed staffers and contributors saying they haven’t been paid since March.

Jazz Times began its life in Washington, D.C. in 1970 under publisher Ira Sabin, an ex-drummer and former owner of a popular, D.C. record store. Originally called “Radio Free Jazz,” it was initially a free publication printed on newsprint. It’s first paid advertisers, according to Sabin? None other than pianist Kenny Drew and the one and only Dizzy Gillespie.

“Radio Free Jazz” morphed into the slick known as Jazz Times in 1980, and through the years, attracted the most renowned writers, critics, historians and musicologists jazz has ever known, including Martin Williams, Leonard Feather, Stanley Dance, Ira Gitler, Doug Ramsey, Nat Hentoff, Gary Giddins, Howard Mandel and Nate Chinen.

While there are two other jazz-oriented publications out there–the venerable, 75-year old Down Beat and the smooth jazz-geared Jazziz, now age 25–none has the credibility or the quality of writing that Jazz Times had. For too long, Down Beat has attempted to be “all things to all readers,” with a below-the-title catchline that reads “Jazz, Blues and Beyond.”

Jazziz, a slicker-than-slick product that may have set the record for cover stories devoted to Steely Dan, may be facing some print problems as well. Jazziz has recently announced that it’s switching from monthly to quarterly publication–with each magazine containing two CDs–and that the print “slack” will be taken up by the web site, which promises daily updates, a monthly online version of the mag, and all kinds of downloads, including music, video and ability to read back issues. For, presumably, a price.

Curiously, although advertising revenues were down, Jazz Times outdistanced the competition in terms of subscribers, boasting a 100,000-plus readership.

Both Jazz Times and Down Beat have had web sites for some time, but none as sophisticated or as inclusive as what Jazziz promises. There is no word on whether or not the Jazz Times site and its newly introduced “community pages” will continue to be updated.

The past few years have seen the demise of other, traditionally oriented operations devoted to jazz, including the International Association of Jazz Educators, Coda Magazine (the jazz magazine of Canada) , and that bible of traditional jazz, the Mississippi Rag.

Still, online sites about jazz, its players and its genres, are growing in number each day. Indeed, the U.K.-based “Jazz Greats Online” offers a monthly magazine and downloadable CD each and every month, delivered to subscribers online.

And, with the end of Tower Records, there may be few real “record stores” out there anymore, but, aficionados can purchase anything imaginable on CD, DVD or otherwise, via web sites like, and dozens of others.

Then there is the singular case of the eight-year-old print upstart, Jazz Improv, put together by publisher/vibist/entrepreneur Eric Neymeyer. This quarterly magazine, which also includes a CD, seems to grow heftier with each issue, and their New York city-based “Jazz Improv Convention” is now looked upon as the replacement for the annual confab put on by the defunct International Association of Jazz Educators.

JI publishes a good mix of reviews, interviews, solo transcriptions, stylistic analysis and motivational pieces. Though things seem to be improving in terms of editorial professionalism–and it’s very, very pleasing to note that the deservedly famed writer, Ira Gitler, is contributing–there are still problems with their reviews. By and large, they are amateurish and clearly the work of the publisher and/or a staffer writing under pseudonyms like “Curtis Davenport.”

Their editorial policy, as set forth on the site, unfortunately does not allow room for unsolicited manuscripts. Nemeyer, understandably, runs a tight ship in that area.

It is also clear that, in terms of ad revenues, the magazine operates on a rather strange barter and vanity system, i.e., “take an ad and Jazz Improv will write about you, your CD, your book or your whatever.” The positive side of this is that JI’s ad-to-editorial ratio is lower–at around 15 percent–than the others.

Not that there’s anything wrong with all of this, but given what appears to be their method of operating, it is just not possible to take everything within their pages seriously.

Nemeyer isn’t selling credibility. He’s selling exposure, and to his credit, Jazz Improv has given international publicity to hundreds of artists–self-produced and otherwise–who likely wouldn’t get ink anywhere else.

The downside to this is that the serious journalists devoted to improvisational music and its history–i.e. the many writers, past and present, who contributed to Jazz Times–have seemingly been edged out by the “Curtis Davenports” who, too often, highly rate anything arriving on the desk.

This is not to suggest that anyone be negative. The jazz community is too small for that–and constructive criticism need not be destructive–but when too many self-produced CDs by anonymous singers are given rave reviews by a writer who may or may not exist, then it becomes difficult to take anything on any other page as the truth.

But again, that’s not what Jazz Improv is selling, and the suspicion is that serious, credible writing and constructive criticism–be it about jazz or otherwise–will mainly exist on blogs and web sites, rather than in print

There is not a publication, about anything, that has not, in one way or another, been touched by the economy and the increased competition of the web, where surfers can now get what they used to have to pay for, for free.

Hopefully, Jazz Times will continue to exist in some way, shape or form, free or otherwise, as for more than 30 years, that publication–like Zildjian Cymbals in the world of percussion–has been “the only serious choice.”


Saturday, January 5th, 2008

The death of Oscar Peterson is a major blow to the jazz world. Like Buddy Rich, OP was so professionally and personally powerful that you got the sense he would always be around.

Like others who have received the rarity of popular success in this business — think Dave Brubeck, Ramsey Lewis, Maynard Fergusion, Eddie Harris, Louis Armstrong and many more– Peterson got more than his share of criticism in the press. For his time, he was likely second only to Art Tatum in terms of technique, and negative comments usually had to do with his over-abundance of chops. The critics said the same thing about Buddy Rich, so the important factors in jazz, according to the scribes are: Don’t be too popular and don’t have too much technique. And, darn it, don’t swing too much.

The various Oscar Peterson trios were legendary and super-charged, and no one could out-swing them. Many of learned the vocabulary of jazz from Oscar, Ray Brown and Herb Ellis, and many of us learned taste from the drumming of Ed Thigpen. It has been said more than once that, if there is anything close to a “perfect” piano/bass/drums recording, it would have to be the Oscar Peterson Trio’s version of “West Side Story.” There were more classics as well, including the original “Very Tall” with Milt Jackson and the exquisite solo sides he made for the BASF/Saba labels in Europe.

The late Norman Granz, who brought Peterson to the United States from Canada and served as his personal manager from the early 1950s, loved the man and his playing and just could not record enough of him on his Clef, Norgran and Verve labels in the 1950s and early 1960s, and on his Pablo label in the 1970s and 1980s. There were those who also said Peterson was over-recorded. Bet they’re not saying it now.

There were jazz pianists and there were jazz pianists, and perhaps some of them had Oscar’s technique, most notably the late and troubled Phineas Newborn, Jr. But they were not Oscar Peterson.


While we’re on the subject of the jazz press, it is important to remember that there are three monthly publications devoted to covering jazz in this country. They are, of course, Jazz Times, Down Beat, and a rather under-rated publication called Jazziz. My brother, the musicologist Joel Klauber, along with yours truly, were regular contributors to Jazziz when the publication was relatively new (it is now close to 25 years old, I believe). Like the others, Jazziz has its areas of specialization, mainly in the area of what is known as “smooth jazz.” Maybe Jazziz has not been taken seriously enough because smooth jazz has not been taken seriously enough. No matter. Things are changing, and the early results are impressive. New Executive Editor Fernando Gonzalez has a great piece devoted to Nat Cole in the December issue, and I urge all of you to check it out, and/or visit them on the web at I have recently contacted my old colleague there, founder/editor/publisher Michael Fagien, about returning to the Jazziz fold as columnist. Stay tuned.

Super-drummer Steve Smith has just finished work on another Hudson Music DVD, entitled “Steve Smith’s Jazz Legacy.” That’s also the name of Steve’s band, which is an outgrowth of his Buddy Rich tribute group, “Buddy’s Buddies.” The Legacy grouping gives Smith and his band the flexibility to highlight compositions by other great drummers, and songs that great drummers made famous. This upcoming Hudson release features the Jazz Legacy in performance, paying tribute to artists like Max Roach, Joe Dukes, Elvin Jones, Art Blakey and Philly Joe Jones, breaking down the elements of their drumming technique, explaining his own philosophy about just how he is paying tribute to these percussive giants, and much, much more. I cannot say enough about this project, or about Steve Smith. As a drummer and as a tireless and incisive educator, there is no better. Currently in release and just as essential is Hudson’s “The Art of Playing Brushes,” presented by Steve and Adam Nussbaum and featuring Charli Persip, Joe Morello, Eddie Locke, Billy Hart and Ben Riley. This project represents essential viewing for anyone who ever picked up a pair of brushes…or wanted to. The amount of work that goes into these productions is absolutely staggering, and believe me, I know. What is so wonderful about these titles is that the “work,” if you want to call it that, is evident on the screen. Both projects, by the way, have plenty of clips and photos of the vintage variety, including newly-discovered film of Philly Joe Jones. My good friends Rob Wallis, Paul Siegel and editor Phil Fallo deserve all the kudos all of us can muster for these titles. For more information, visit


For reasons of time and scheduling, I have had to drop out of consulting for the proposed Gene Krupa “Broadway” show and possible band tour. Watch this space for updates, which will be printed as we get them from Arthor Von Blomberg and his very talented group of associates. As previously mentioned, if anyone can get something like this off the ground, it would be Arthor.


We are getting some great, great comments and feedback on the new design of the site. Keep the comments and suggestions coming in, and watch for more web site evolution.


Writer Burt Korall, author of the definitive books on drummers of the swing and bop era and good friend of Gene, Buddy and many others, passed away not too long ago. On a topic detailed here previously, Korall was among several writers and critics who, for whatever reason, refused to acknowledge my work and my existence. To this day, I have never figured this out. Believe me, I am not in this business–if this is a business at all–for credit, money or good reviews. I only continue to try to contribute something to jazz scholarship and education. But for a guy like Korall to go out of his way to NOT include any mention of the existence of “Gene Krupa: Jazz Legend,” “Buddy Rich: Jazz Legend,” “Legends of Jazz Drumming,” etc., in books that COVERED these things, was and is an absolute disgrace. That’s why there are supposed to be editors, but the editors missed the boat on this as well. I often wonder what someone like Korall got — or John McDonough gets — out of behavior like this. Is it jealousy? A sense of power? The jazz community is small enough as it is for us to be criticizing or panning or ignoring our fellow artists. Saxophonist Sam Butera, long-time leader of Louis Prima’s back-up group, The Witnesses, used to end his own shows with the following: “Remember,” he would say to the audience, it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”

Corny? Maybe, but how about resolving to live that, and live up to it, for the year 2008 and beyond.

Bruce Klauber, January, 2008.