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Mark Stryker

Ira Gitler, R.I.P.

83 posts in this topic

RIP.  One of my influences with writing!

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Sad news- enjoyed his writing. Although not known to me personally all accounts I've come across suggest that he was someone of integrity.

 

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I am very sorry to hear this sad news. Ira Gitler was a huge influence on my  jazz development.  Initially I read his many liner notes on the LP's I would buy. His time at Down Beat was when that magazine was at its peak. It is the usual thing to find that the jazz writers we like the most are those with whom we share a  similar taste. Ira was one of the very few where our taste in jazz is almost identical.

I only met Ira once very briefly. As one of my major influences, I was impressed that Ira knew my name as a jazz record reviewer for the now defunct CODA magazine. Ira even quoted one of my reviews in a liner note he wrote.

Edited by Peter Friedman

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1 hour ago, sgcim said:

Someone posted this in reply to Ira Gitler's death announcement on another board. Note the recognition of Michael Weiss' work:

https://jazztimes.com/features/whos-overrated-whos-underrated/

Eye opening article. He was not a big fan of Ornette. Interesting how many other commentators considered Keith Jarrett overrated. 

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25 minutes ago, Brad said:

Eye opening article. He was not a big fan of Ornette. Interesting how many other commentators considered Keith Jarrett overrated. 

"Anthony Braxton

"He built his reputation with a height-of-pretension recording-solo alto saxophone on both sides of a 12-inch LP. It won a Prix du Disque but, after all, the French also think Jerry Lewis is a genius."

LOL!!!!!

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6 minutes ago, mjzee said:

"Anthony Braxton

"He built his reputation with a height-of-pretension recording-solo alto saxophone on both sides of a 12-inch LP. It won a Prix du Disque but, after all, the French also think Jerry Lewis is a genius."

LOL!!!!!

Not pulling any punches, that’s for sure. 

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And that's one of the many reasons I stopped reading JazzTimes more than a decade ago.

Overrated?

Critics' bombastic pronouncements, usually based in whatever bundle of personal resentments and phobias  (or their percieved refutations) we all carry around.

Underrated?

People who actually know how music works past their initial emotional reaction.

Silly?

"ratings" in lieu of evaluations

Ira Gitler?

Significant contributor for a good while, but he himself passed long after his real critical relevance did. RIP for real, but I loved Swing To Bop as much as anybody, but the way it ended left a sour-ish taste in my mouth, the way that one minute we're around everybody and then all of a sudden we're in his neighborhood talking just all about his people, and I'm like, ok, next time I read this thing, I'll know when and where to stop.

Still, his firsthand accounts of some of the earlier Prestige sides (he WAS there, literally!) are priceless and imo more than earned him the right to stay in one place for the rest of his life. It was a helluva place when it was there.

 

 

 

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I had a friendly relationship with Ira in spite of the music I advocated. 

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Ira G. loved ice hockey. That counts for a lot in my book. (Hey, I'm Canadian). I didn't know him at all (though I'm quite aware of his tastes in jazz and his writings).  But we could have had a great evening together, watching a Leafs /Rangers game and listening to some bop sides. Would have been really good if the Leafs had won!  

Here's Ira's beer league hockey team, Gitler's Gorillas. He played on the team for years, and then managed it for years. 

http://www.hometeamsonline.com/teams/?u=GITLERSGORILLAS&s=hockey

Edited by John Tapscott

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I’m happy Jim wrote/posted above what he did. I loved the liners from the old jazz classics from the 50’s & early 60’s when I was getting and buying all those great classic recordings via CD back in the early 90’s. When I evolved in my jazz listening I ran into his “critical” comments regarding much of the newer or more abstract or challenging music I was discovering and those “critical” comments came across to me as ignorant and close-minded more than anything else. He didn’t like it so therefore he made silly value judgements against all of it. He (and many others) were so SURE that they were correct as they had SEEN and heard the guys who really “swung” and none of these guys blah fucking blah....

 

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From that rather silly list, I would like to point out Stanley Dance's rationales, which are at once infuriating and concisely incisive. He's the one guy who will piss off anybody who enjoys anything "modern" of any era, but when he says that Ornette Coleman is overrated by saying (and I hope my memory is getting it right) that "the language invented by Louis Armstrong did not need Ebonics", geez, that tells me that he GETS Ornette & Ebonics both in an organic way that many "approvers" of each do not, but he approves of neither, for whatever reasons he has. Fair enough. I don't mind some guy being wrong if he can make his case like that.

Of course, he's still wrong. :g

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19 minutes ago, JSngry said:

From that rather silly list, I would like to point out Stanley Dance's rationales, which are at once infuriating and concisely incisive. He's the one guy who will piss off anybody who enjoys anything "modern" of any era, but when he says that Ornette Coleman is overrated by saying (and I hope my memory is getting it right) that "the language invented by Louis Armstrong did not need Ebonics", geez, that tells me that he GETS Ornette & Ebonics both in an organic way that many "approvers" of each do not, but he approves of neither, for whatever reasons he has. Fair enough. I don't mind some guy being wrong if he can make his case like that.

Of course, he's still wrong. :g

What about his Kenton diss?


I liked Stan Kenton personally, but invariably found his music too grandiose and heavy to swing. It was no surprise when he made a Wagner album. Teutonic ambitions having cost me friends and relatives in two world wars, I was doubly prejudiced against such contra-jazz ventures.

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Again, totally cogent. I am in more (but nowhere near complete) agreement about Kenton than about Ornette, but again, they guy makes his point in such a way that all you can do is say, ok, I get why you feel that, can't argue with that.

I have always enjoyed reading Stanley Dance because you know what he means and why he says it, agree or not, he's consistent within himself. And btw, he gave ALL kinds of props to the Harlem organ groups back in the day and was totally drug with Gene Lees for his "middle class" orientations. He was a trip, Stanley Dance was, ignore his perspectives at your own peril, there is real learning to be had.

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I find it amusing how many people are getting upset about a 22 year old article. Even if it was a relatively recent article, it’s the reviewer’s opinion, not fact. There are a lot of op eds or other opinion pieces I read that I don’t agree with but don’t get upset with the person’s opinion. As the old saw goes, opinions are like assholes, everybody has one. 

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I always thought of Ira Gitler as a very articulate bebop "superfan", not really a critic.  He loved this music and it came through in his writing, and made it a pleasure to read.  I'd much rather read his liner notes than those by some of his more polished contemporaries.  If I had to analogize, he reminds me of Bill Simmons.

I think when he shifted into "critic" mode he was on much shakier ground but, who cares.

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35 minutes ago, Brad said:

I find it amusing how many people are getting upset about a 22 year old article.

The article is 22 years old. The notion of ranking and pitting "one against the other" is older than that (at least as old as Leonard Feather!), and is perhaps eternal (on both ends). It should never be encouraged, although it's impossible to not step in it every so often.

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18 hours ago, John Tapscott said:

Ira G. loved ice hockey. That counts for a lot in my book. (Hey, I'm Canadian). I didn't know him at all (though I'm quite aware of his tastes in jazz and his writings).  But we could have had a great evening together, watching a Leafs /Rangers game and listening to some bop sides. Would have been really good if the Leafs had won!  

Here's Ira's beer league hockey team, Gitler's Gorillas. He played on the team for years, and then managed it for years. 

http://www.hometeamsonline.com/teams/?u=GITLERSGORILLAS&s=hockey

Thanks for posting that link, John. I played a lot of rec league hockey in Westchester County in the '90s. Had to wonder if I ever encountered IG's team, but no. I never played in Manhattan (where his team's leagues were located), and I surely would have remembered those jerseys and team name.

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In a thread or an article about someone who has passed away, nice things are normally said about the deceased and negative aspects mentioned but softened or glossed over. This thread  seems to run counter to that, unfortunately. 

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3 hours ago, Brad said:

As the old saw goes, opinions are like assholes, everybody has one. 

...and they all stink.

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2 hours ago, AllenLowe said:

In practical terms, I am sure he did a lot of good for the music; intellectually he was frequently far out of his death. Zev Feldman recently posted an interview Zev did with Gitler about Red Garland, and it was clear from the interview that Ira hadn't a musical clue about how to describe music. But that's Gitler; even 'sheets of sound' is bullshit as a description and just another way of his saying he didn't understand Trane. His dismissal of Ornette is equally dumb. And Swing to Bop is excellent, but then, that's other people talking. Even Jazz Masters of the '40s is filled with extensive quotes from others, and Dick Katz should have been given co-authorship, given how much Gitler used his direct quotes.

Yes, and/but I give him credit, a lot of credit, for paying attention when he was there, and for listening to what was said around him. I've never heard accusations about him misquoting or mis-contextualizing or outright fabricating anything, which puts him in a distinct upper percentile of people who put their name on stuff.

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Ira disliked most/all of my work, but in the 40 years I knew him we were friendly. Some here might remember when I emailed him about the "no show" on the Dameron "Mating Call" date. 

Whatever some view as failures are overshadowed by his accomplishments.

Edited by Chuck Nessa

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