Editor Evan Haga Introduces the March Issue

Moments of truth

There are many small and large moments of truth that come with assembling each issue of JazzTimes—those instants in which I receive a finished assignment, open the file and either smile or sigh. Trusted contributors like Nate Chinen, who pays tribute to Pete La Roca Sims in his Gig column, and newer go-to guy Giovanni Russonello, who offers an in-depth look at the current state of jazz radio beginning on p. 28, fall squarely into the “smiles” category.

Much of the rest of this book was trickier. March brings “In Memory Of,” our yearly roundup of written and spoken homages to jazz greats who passed during the prior 12 months. And because the authors are expertly trained players or singers but not necessarily skilled writers or orators, you can never really predict what you’re going to get. I’ve seen and heard it all, from artists including inappropriate or unflattering stories in their submissions, to those who see a eulogy as an opportunity to plug their own recent projects. My sincerest gratitude to those busy musicians who volunteer their abilities and memories, but whipping these pieces into shape can be a backbreaker. This year, however, my job was easier. Our guest contributors took my advice to keep their pieces colloquial and personal, and the result is a packed, heartfelt, highly readable section featuring input from Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, Clark Terry and other luminaries.

This issue’s cover story, a conversation with the Wayne Shorter Quartet moderated by pianist Renee Rosnes, constituted another of those moments of truth. That panel-style interview was recorded at the 2012 Detroit Jazz Festival last September, and I heard nothing but good things in its wake—that the band was forthcoming and full of insight, that Rosnes asked all the right questions. When I scanned the transcript, however—and if you’ve heard or read an interview with Shorter, you know exactly where this is going—I became worried about how the saxophonist’s brilliant-mystic vibe would translate to the printed page. Shorter shrouds his genuine profundity in anecdotes and non sequiturs that are revealing, or nonsensical, or simply hilarious—it’s not always easy to tell which. In interests of space and clarity I had to separate out some of the chaff, but feel I retained enough of the abstraction to communicate Shorter’s legendarily singular persona. (I imagine the folks at Blue Note faced a somewhat related task in editing down the Shorter Quartet’s imposingly good new live release, Without a Net.)

Let me know what you think.

Originally published in March 2013

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