11/17/09

Ted Gioia, President and Editor of Jazz.com, Steps Down

Ted Gioia, longtime president and editor of jazz.com, confirmed today that he will be stepping down as editor of the Web site in a few weeks. Gioia refused to comment on the future of the site, for which he not only assigned pieces, but also wrote a considerable amount. Among the regular contributors to jazz.com are a number of JazzTimes writers including Nat Hentoff, Chris Kelsey and Larry Appelbaum, as well as other notable jazz writers such as Stuart Nicholson and Ted Panken.

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Ted Gioia by Kent Barker

When contacted by JT about the future of the site, Gioia simply stated that he had “no comment.” He also declined to refer us to any other staff or contact at jazz.com for comment. JT contacted several contributors about Gioia, the site and its future. “In Ted Panken, Stuart Nicholson, and its many other contributors, Jazz.com employs some of the best interviewers in the business,” wrote Chris Kelsey, who also edits material for jazz.com. “These guys are indefatigable in the way they get and write-up interviews, and once they get them, they display a rare depth of knowledge. We've gotten so many superb interviews with some of greatest jazz musicians now active. And they keep coming and coming. The encyclopedia gives in-depth info on a huge number of players, many of whom are not much documented elsewhere. The track reviews are a big innovation. Speaking for myself, I love being able to write three or four hundred words about a single performance, as opposed to being limited to many fewer while covering an entire album. The reviews are generally of a high quality, especially when you consider the volume of reviews the site turns out. New stuff is published every day of the week. I think it's very well edited, also. Ted Gioia sets the standard, but the other editors (including myself, I say in all modesty) do an excellent job, as well, especially when it comes to utilizing the Web's unique qualities.”

Larry Appelbaum added that, “[Gioia] is an insightful historian and I think he's also a good editor. The site is one that I looked at even before I became a contributor. I especially liked the interviews and the columns occasionally written by musicians. For example, Steve Coleman wrote an interesting analysis of key recordings by Charlie Parker. Perhaps because there was no advertising on the site, the content has not always been tied to promoting new releases, which is refreshing. Don't know what the business model is now, but they built something from nothing and I hope it will grow.”

In fact, the business model for the site has long perplexed jazz media people because, as Appelbaum noted, the site has no visible advertising nor does it charge users to view its content. In addition, the jazz.com URL has always been one of the most prized and valuable addresses since the Internet came into general use in the ‘90s. The jazz.com site was launched in December 2007, after over two years of preparation. Among its unique features is the review of single tracks, as opposed to the usual album focus. In addition, the site includes Lewis Porter’s Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians, with well over 1,000 entries.

A noted author himself, Gioia has written several books, including The Delta Blues, The History of Jazz, West Coast Jazz and, most recently, The Birth (and Death) of Cool. According to the bio on his Web site, Gioia has written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Salon, American Scholar, Hudson Review and the San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications. Gioia is also an accomplished jazz pianist; his recordings include The End of the Open Road (1988), Tango Cool (1990) and The City Is a Chinese Vase (1998). His brother, Dana Gioia, is the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and himself a lifelong advocate for jazz.

2 Comments

  • Nov 17, 2009 at 08:25PM Alan Kurtz

    For two years, preceding and following its launch, I was privileged to help grow jazz.com from within. Under Ted Gioia's aegis, I contributed 650 track reviews, articles and guest blogs, and during 14 months as the site's principal track review editor, edited and posted 2,500 reviews by other writers. After retiring from these roles last spring, I watched with satisfaction as the site continued to grow. Yet, while I have no inside information, I can't say I'm surprised that Ted is stepping down.

    In his recently published book 'The Birth {and Death} of the Cool,' Ted identifies snark as "the de facto tone of Web interactivity," adding: "I found this out firsthand, to my amazement and dismay, after launching a jazz website in 2007. I had looked forward to forging a Web community of music fans who would share their enthusiasm for songs and artists, and talk about the music they loved. Instead, a strange crew of nasty, angry people showed up, and their bitterness seemed to spread like wildfire, often chasing away the peaceful music lovers." It got so bad that 18 months after launch, Ted shut down comments on all articles.

    In retrospect, his expectations may seem naïve. By 2007, the Internet was probably the last place anyone ought to have hoped to establish a utopia of peaceful music lovers sharing their enthusiasms in an idyllic virtual landscape. Moreover, I am partly to blame, since my contrarian articles and reviews generated a disproportionate share of vitriolic responses.

    Yet even more telling, I think, is the dearth of positive feedback. The remarks in your article by Chris Kelsey and Larry Appelbaum extol the merits of jazz.com, but you identify them as "regular contributors" to that site. What portion of the jazz community who've never been paid contributors to jazz.com share those sentiments? If there are any, they've kept a damned low profile over the past two years.

  • Jul 25, 2010 at 12:10PM Warren Clark

    I just read Ted's enlightening article on Dupree Bolten. In 1963, while living in Los Angeles at the age of sixteen, I heard the LP "Katanga" being played on radio station KBCA. I was totally 'knocked out' with Dupree's playing. He was his "own man". A unique beautiful sound along with very innovative playing and technique. I guess you could even say he had a new style of playing jazz trumpet. Anyway, I bought the LP and fairly recently acquired the CD version from Mosaic. Thanks for the brilliant article, Ted Gioia!

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