relyles

Minimum Qualifications for Jazz Writer?

121 posts in this topic

No writer is flawless, but artists, liner note writers and record labels should be 100% sure that the titles and composers/lyricists are correct before they print the CD booklet and tray card. I check them as soon as I get an advance CD, while I'm listening to it for the first time.

The reviewer ought to know the music. If you don't know Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" by its composer's recording, how will you recognize it on someone else's CD? I'm not talking about obscurities, like when Marcus Roberts recorded Duke Ellington's "Shout 'Em, Aunt Tillie," but compositions that should be in a well-rounded writer's jazz collection.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The reviewer ought to know the music. If you don't know Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" by its composer's recording, how will you recognize it on someone else's CD? I'm not talking about obscurities, like when Marcus Roberts recorded Duke Ellington's "Shout 'Em, Aunt Tillie," but compositions that should be in a well-rounded writer's jazz collection.

So returning to the original question it appears that you are saying that one of the qualifications of a competent writer is the ability to recognize the significant compositions from the jazz canon? Is there any room for allowance for possibly recognizing a tune as for a example a Wayne Shorter composition, but not necessarily knowing the title without looking it up?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The reviewer ought to know the music. If you don't know Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" by its composer's recording, how will you recognize it on someone else's CD? I'm not talking about obscurities, like when Marcus Roberts recorded Duke Ellington's "Shout 'Em, Aunt Tillie," but compositions that should be in a well-rounded writer's jazz collection.

So returning to the original question it appears that you are saying that one of the qualifications of a competent writer is the ability to recognize the significant compositions from the jazz canon? Is there any room for allowance for possibly recognizing a tune as for a example a Wayne Shorter composition, but not necessarily knowing the title without looking it up?

An ability to recognize significant compositions certainly seems to me to be pretty important. Even more important is resisting the temptation to "fake it" in hopes of sounding authoritative. If you're unsure of something, just don't go there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hell, if you know it's a Wayne Shorter tune but just can't remember the title, you're already ahead of most people's curve, it seems to me.

And don't be afraid to "look it up". No harm, shame, or real investment of time there. We all forget tune names, album facts, etc. & need to make a quick trip to the shelves to confirm what we think we know (and usually do). And after a while, yeah, certain "basics" just take root. I mean, if you don't know "Footprints" or "Infant Eyes" right off the bat, wellsir, might be time to tighten up. But if you know it's either "Witch Hunt" or "Speak No Evil" and just can't remember which (as happened to me recently, one of an increasing # of embarrassing "senior moments") , go ahead and look it up. Shit happens to everybody, right?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is kind of interesting, because what you're all saying is that you should actually try to remember these things and, OK, you might fail sometimes, but this is what's good.

I try NOT to remember things. It's not QUITE like listening for the first time, but I get a lot more surprises than you all do, I bet :D

MG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dude, if I'm on a gig, I better remember some basic shit or else I'm going home early, and w/o my money. :rmad: :rmad: :rmad:

Otherwise, the whole "tabula rasa" thing is better as a notion than as a reality. If you spend enough time doing anything and don't absorb some fair amount of basic informations, that's like....fucked up! :g

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No writer is flawless, but artists, liner note writers and record labels should be 100% sure that the titles and composers/lyricists are correct before they print the CD booklet and tray card. I check them as soon as I get an advance CD, while I'm listening to it for the first time.

Right, like when I was contracted to do the Norman Howard liner notes by ESP, and they gave me an advance pressing with no titles. I had to work from the titles on an old cassette of the master!

I won't even get into the jumble that their copyeditor made of the handed-in document...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dude, if I'm on a gig, I better remember some basic shit or else I'm going home early, and w/o my money. :rmad: :rmad: :rmad:

Oh yes, of course...

Otherwise, the whole "tabula rasa" thing is better as a notion than as a reality. If you spend enough time doing anything and don't absorb some fair amount of basic informations, that's like....fucked up! :g

Well, that's true, as well. It's unavoidable unless one is truly obtuse. But while I may recognise, say, "Scrapple from the Apple" when I hear it, I may not always be able to identify it as "Scrapple from the Apple"; is it necessary for me to get any closer than "an early Charlie Parker tune he recorded for Dial", since in most cases I can look it up if I want to? For me, the answer's "no", so I make no effort to remember things like that. And as for remembering someone's solos... again, sometimes you can't help it but I try not to do that, since I don't have a positive reason to do so, in the way that you obviously must.

The things I want to remember are not the music itself but the things around it, in particular, the way it feels. I don't have any trouble with that :)

MG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To respond to the original question: Breathing in and breathing out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And don't forget to use a Neti pot every day.

Re: tunes, I have so many jumbled in my head now that I do sometimes have difficulty immediately recalling a title... I'll "recognize" it when I hear the head, and I'll often even remember the composer, but sometimes it feels as if several thousand jazz standards or so have melted themselves into one single musical entity in my brain.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And don't forget to use a Neti pot every day.

Re: tunes, I have so many jumbled in my head now that I do sometimes have difficulty immediately recalling a title... I'll "recognize" it when I hear the head, and I'll often even remember the composer, but sometimes it feels as if several thousand jazz standards or so have melted themselves into one single musical entity in my brain.

Pleased you're also having this problem, ghost. I had thought it was a sort of "senior moment" which only affected people of my age!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought the answer to the thread question was simply: "yes."

;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The past year I have been writing CD reviews for a print publication and I recently came to the conclusion that I will likely never be anywhere near as good at it as I would like to be. Primarily because I do a lot of writing in my profession (attorney), I have always thought I was a decent writer, but when it comes to jazz writing my self realization is that I am not much more than a fan or possibly even as I once read someone describe some writers - a hobbyist.

So, I was just wondering what anyone thinks are the minimum qualifications, or knowledge that is necessary for credible writing about the music. Although I do not think it is necessary to be a musician or at least have some musical understanding, I think my lack of an understanding of the basic technical aspects of the music worked as a disadvantage in my efforts to write thoughtful and helpful reviews. I am missing big chunks of the vocabulary which would enable me to put into words what I hear so that the reader could get an accurate idea of what to expect from the music.

Any thoughts?

I, too, write alot of reviews. I've written around 200 of them, but let me preface that writing a review is an opinion, it should always be about what you really think. I've written alot of bad reviews and the reason I write more bad ones then I do good ones is because it gives people a chance to read a different perspective. If all I did was write good reviews, then there would be something wrong, then you're writing wouldn't be taken so seriously, because the reader will think "Oh, here we go again...." that's certainly not the mentality you want people to have when they read your reviews.

I think in order to write a review you have to listen to an album several times to fully absorb it. In my reviews, I don't talk to much about the music, because quite frankly, words can't describe music, instead, I talk about what I liked/disliked about the recording, the players, the improvisations, the interplay between the musicians, the chemistry the players have, etc. Audiophiles, like myself, like to know where the music was recorded, the year, who produced it, who enigineered it, etc.

I honestly think you have to kind of have an "insider's perspective" of the music. Learn as much as you can about the recording. Refrain from using colorful verbs, because this too me comes across very unrealistic and not very personal. Keep your reviews short and to the point. Nobody wants to read the Declaration of Independence when they read a review. I know I certainly don't.

Also, another point to mention, when many people write, they write they're reading something to you. Write a review, or in fact anything for that matter, like you're talking to someone, instead of trying to sound like an intellectual, sound like a normal everyday person. Be yourself.

I hope some of these points help.

Edited by bluenote82

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't buy the idea that one must listen to a CD several times to review it. Great and awful CDs tend to reveal themselves quickly to me, it's the ones in the middle that are toughest. If I am very familiar with the artist and the songs performed, it is not going to take me as long to write a review as with a CD by musicians new to me playing originals.

While I am not opposed to negative reviews, I usually find myself writing them only when I've pitched a review to a media outlet before I hear it. If I just don't like the performer, what's the point of covering him or her? The review isn't going to be of service to most of those who might read it. If I've written a strongly negative review of someone, I am unlikely to cover them again.

In addition to the performances, arrangements and compositions, discussing of engineering, editing, liner notes, packaging are all fair game for criticism, assuming space is available. Misspelled names and incorrect song titles/composer credits are a huge pet peeve to me.

Any time I read someone else's review, after I've gotten familiar with his or her writing style and taste, I want to know whether or not the CD/DVD/Book is worth purchasing. Most reviews can say enough to tell me that information within 300 words or less, unless it is a boxed set with many artists or multiple CD collection.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Since this thread seems to have a little life left in it, I feel obligated to disclose that I did make the decision to stop writing reviews for Jazz Improv at this time. I made the decision for a number of reasons. The primary reason was a time management issue, but I also had some doubts about my own effectiveness. So it is probably a good idea for me to do a little woodshedding - get more technical knowledge, broaden my reading just to enhance my general writing and maybe try again later on when life's responsibilities will allow me the time to devote to becoming as provocative a writer as I would like to be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

hey - I know the answer to the question asked by this thread - there are no minimum qualifications to be a jazz writer (might even be an oxymoron) -

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The past year I have been writing CD reviews for a print publication and I recently came to the conclusion that I will likely never be anywhere near as good at it as I would like to be. Primarily because I do a lot of writing in my profession (attorney), I have always thought I was a decent writer, but when it comes to jazz writing my self realization is that I am not much more than a fan or possibly even as I once read someone describe some writers - a hobbyist.

So, I was just wondering what anyone thinks are the minimum qualifications, or knowledge that is necessary for credible writing about the music. Although I do not think it is necessary to be a musician or at least have some musical understanding, I think my lack of an understanding of the basic technical aspects of the music worked as a disadvantage in my efforts to write thoughtful and helpful reviews. I am missing big chunks of the vocabulary which would enable me to put into words what I hear so that the reader could get an accurate idea of what to expect from the music.

Any thoughts?

I, too, write alot of reviews. I've written around 200 of them, but let me preface that writing a review is an opinion, it should always be about what you really think. I've written alot of bad reviews and the reason I write more bad ones then I do good ones is because it gives people a chance to read a different perspective. If all I did was write good reviews, then there would be something wrong, then you're writing wouldn't be taken so seriously, because the reader will think "Oh, here we go again...." that's certainly not the mentality you want people to have when they read your reviews.

I think in order to write a review you have to listen to an album several times to fully absorb it. In my reviews, I don't talk to much about the music, because quite frankly, words can't describe music, instead, I talk about what I liked/disliked about the recording, the players, the improvisations, the interplay between the musicians, the chemistry the players have, etc. Audiophiles, like myself, like to know where the music was recorded, the year, who produced it, who enigineered it, etc.

I honestly think you have to kind of have an "insider's perspective" of the music. Learn as much as you can about the recording. Refrain from using colorful verbs, because this too me comes across very unrealistic and not very personal. Keep your reviews short and to the point. Nobody wants to read the Declaration of Independence when they read a review. I know I certainly don't.

Also, another point to mention, when many people write, they write they're reading something to you. Write a review, or in fact anything for that matter, like you're talking to someone, instead of trying to sound like an intellectual, sound like a normal everyday person. Be yourself.

I hope some of these points help.

I like the last point you made here. When push comes to shove, good writing hinges on the same concept as good radio: having imaginary "eye contact" with one person, a conversation rather than a monologue.

I don't buy the idea that one must listen to a CD several times to review it. Great and awful CDs tend to reveal themselves quickly to me, it's the ones in the middle that are toughest. If I am very familiar with the artist and the songs performed, it is not going to take me as long to write a review as with a CD by musicians new to me playing originals.

While I am not opposed to negative reviews, I usually find myself writing them only when I've pitched a review to a media outlet before I hear it. If I just don't like the performer, what's the point of covering him or her? The review isn't going to be of service to most of those who might read it. If I've written a strongly negative review of someone, I am unlikely to cover them again.

In addition to the performances, arrangements and compositions, discussing of engineering, editing, liner notes, packaging are all fair game for criticism, assuming space is available. Misspelled names and incorrect song titles/composer credits are a huge pet peeve to me.

Any time I read someone else's review, after I've gotten familiar with his or her writing style and taste, I want to know whether or not the CD/DVD/Book is worth purchasing. Most reviews can say enough to tell me that information within 300 words or less, unless it is a boxed set with many artists or multiple CD collection.

I agree with Ken when it comes to first impressions. There is such a thing as obsessing over a recording and listening it to death. My recent CODA review of The Jack and Jim Show could serve as a (bad) example of this. I wanted to like this CD and listened over and over thinking I was missing something. In the end, it turned out to be a somewhat negative review. And I also agree that negative reviews per se are a bit of a waste of time.

Since this thread seems to have a little life left in it, I feel obligated to disclose that I did make the decision to stop writing reviews for Jazz Improv at this time. I made the decision for a number of reasons. The primary reason was a time management issue, but I also had some doubts about my own effectiveness. So it is probably a good idea for me to do a little woodshedding - get more technical knowledge, broaden my reading just to enhance my general writing and maybe try again later on when life's responsibilities will allow me the time to devote to becoming as provocative a writer as I would like to be.

How you find time for all of the things you're involved in, Ronald, amazes me and I certainly wish you all the best. Time management aside, I think that you have some valuable insights to share.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with Ken when it comes to first impressions. There is such a thing as obsessing over a recording and listening it to death. My recent CODA review of The Jack and Jim Show could serve as a (bad) example of this. I wanted to like this CD and listened over and over thinking I was missing something. In the end, it turned out to be a somewhat negative review. And I also agree that negative reviews per se are a bit of a waste of time.

Why would anyone "want" to like a Eugene Chadbourne recording? It's not like they're rare birds. Half of them seem to be issued with an audience of one in mind (his name starts with "Ben"). It's the rare exception to encounter an E.C. disc actually worth spinning twice, & sometimes you could cut that down to "once" or less. There's about two or three good tracks on the one you mention (the Iraqi rewrite of "The Girl from Ipanema" is a classic), but he deserves to be hanged for what he does to the Marvin Gaye tune.

"Be yourself": classic useless advice. Maybe you're a boring, tin-eared person: I'd rather you pretended to be Larry Kart instead. Go ahead & fake it! -- The best advice is "write something that you'd enjoy reading".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with Ken when it comes to first impressions. There is such a thing as obsessing over a recording and listening it to death. My recent CODA review of The Jack and Jim Show could serve as a (bad) example of this. I wanted to like this CD and listened over and over thinking I was missing something. In the end, it turned out to be a somewhat negative review. And I also agree that negative reviews per se are a bit of a waste of time.

Why would anyone "want" to like a Eugene Chadbourne recording? It's not like they're rare birds. Half of them seem to be issued with an audience of one in mind (his name starts with "Ben"). It's the rare exception to encounter an E.C. disc actually worth spinning twice, & sometimes you could cut that down to "once" or less. There's about two or three good tracks on the one you mention (the Iraqi rewrite of "The Girl from Ipanema" is a classic), but he deserves to be hanged for what he does to the Marvin Gaye tune...

:rofl:

Maybe I'm just too "nice" a guy sometimes, Nate. By the way, I traded that J&J disc for a Tina Brooks! That was a pretty sweet deal :excited:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"pretend to be Larry Kart"

if you don't mind all the paternity suits -

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with Ken when it comes to first impressions. There is such a thing as obsessing over a recording and listening it to death. My recent CODA review of The Jack and Jim Show could serve as a (bad) example of this. I wanted to like this CD and listened over and over thinking I was missing something. In the end, it turned out to be a somewhat negative review. And I also agree that negative reviews per se are a bit of a waste of time.

Why would anyone "want" to like a Eugene Chadbourne recording? It's not like they're rare birds. Half of them seem to be issued with an audience of one in mind (his name starts with "Ben"). It's the rare exception to encounter an E.C. disc actually worth spinning twice, & sometimes you could cut that down to "once" or less. There's about two or three good tracks on the one you mention (the Iraqi rewrite of "The Girl from Ipanema" is a classic), but he deserves to be hanged for what he does to the Marvin Gaye tune.

"Be yourself": classic useless advice. Maybe you're a boring, tin-eared person: I'd rather you pretended to be Larry Kart instead. Go ahead & fake it! -- The best advice is "write something that you'd enjoy reading".

What I meant by "be yourself" is simply don't try and act like somebody you're not. Don't be afraid to take a different approach with a review, simply offer a different perspective.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Help -- let me out of here! I'm innocent, I tell you, innocent...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Apparently innocence doesn't cut the mustard with this crowd. Tough room...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"I'm innocent, I tell you, innocent..."

tell that to the twins - and don't forget next month's check - I'm not made out of money

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

actually to get serious here briefly, I think they should listen to CDs at least twice; not only that but I'm convinced that few listen to the entire CD even once - there's too much stuff, and the same is true of book reviewers; I continue to read letters to the editor in which it is obvious that the reviewer, having missed essential info, skimmed -

as a matter of fact, I have a feeling that one of the reasons I'm having trouble getting my current CD reviewed is that it is actually 2 CDs and requires some actual concentration -

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.