Nat Hentoff

Nat’s Contributions

March 2008    Final Chorus

The Life Force of New Orleans

From when I was too young to be allowed into Boston jazz clubs, there’s an enduring memory of sneaking into Downtown at the Ken and marveling at Sidney Bechet joyously overpowering even Wild Bill Davison. Ever since, Bechet, whom I got to know when he played...

January/February 2008    Final Chorus

My Love Affair With the Clarinet

During the so-called Great Depression, aware of my immersion in music, my father bought a small soprano saxophone for me in a pawnshop when I was 10. When I heard Sidney Bechet, I put it away in despair. I turned to the clarinet, starting a lifelong love...

December 2007    Final Chorus

Satchmo’s Rap Sheet

The FBI is proposing a new computer-profiling system, STAR (the System to Assess Risk), that, as National Public Radio reported on July 17, will be sifting through some six billion pieces of data by 2012, “about 20 records for every man, woman and child...

November 2007    Final Chorus

The Thoreau of Jazz

As a teenager in Boston, one of my heroes—after Duke Ellington—was a fellow New Englander, Henry David Thoreau, who, as an unyielding abolitionist and opponent of the Mexican-American war, went to jail rather than pay six years of back taxes. Years later...

October 2007    Final Chorus

Expanding the Map

I am grateful for the considerable response from readers to my June column, “Uncovering Jazz Trails.” My hope is that as local newspapers, radio and television stations, and Web sites discover the depth of their cities’ and regions’ jazz roots, there will...

September 2007    Final Chorus

Bridging Generations

Having known jazz musicians off the stand from my teens on, I was struck—contrasting with most of the adults I knew—by their dedication to their life’s work. Louis Armstrong, for example, distilled how he and the music were one in an interview long ago with...

July/August 2007    Final Chorus

Born in Israel

Randy Weston can’t be mistaken for anyone else. As he once said, “I don’t like the electric piano because my sound is my voice, and my voice is what makes me unique. A personal sound is the most difficult thing to achieve—it’s an extension of yourself.”...

June 2007    Final Chorus

Uncovering Jazz Trails

The headline in Allegro, the newspaper of New York’s Local 802, American Federation of Musicians, heralded the presence of the jazz tribe: “over 8,000 educators, musicians, industry executives, media and students from 45 countries,” attending the 34th annual...

May 2007    Final Chorus

He Made Festivals Happen

I first met George Wein in 1949, when he was a pianist working with the renowned Edmond Hall at the Savoy Café, Boston’s “Home of Hot Rhythm.” In 2005, the National Endowment for the Arts designated Wein a Jazz Master (Jazz Advocate Division) “for dedication...

April 2007    Final Chorus

Playing Changes on Jazz Interviews

I expect that if anything I’ve written about this music lasts, it will be the interviews I’ve done with the musicians for more than 50 years. My books on jazz consist mainly of interviews, as do the liner notes I’ve written. My hope is that some of them...

March 2007    Final Chorus

A Complete Jazzman

I am greatly indebted to Thomas Bellino, whose Planet Arts—a not-for-profit company involved in a network of educational and culturally awakening projects—includes Planet Arts Recordings. His latest release, Turn Up the Heath by the Jimmy Heath Big Band...

January/February 2007    Final Chorus

The Newest Jazz Generation

Jazz has given me many unexpected startling pleasures. Years ago, at Basin Street East in New York, Sonny Stitt suddenly broke into a stop-time chorus, without the rhythm section, and all conversation stopped. It was as if time itself had stopped, but was...

December 2006    Final Chorus

Louis Armstrong: Music Heals

“Throughout history,” Dr. Jacek Mostwin of Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions notes, “music has played an important role in healing. The ancient Greeks often played music to restore health to a person whose mental and physical harmony were out of tune.”...

November 2006    Final Chorus

Unsung Jazz Messengers

When I heard, in Nov. 2005, that Concord Records had bought Fantasy Records, I called Concord’s owner, Norman Lear (creator of All in the Family and other television breakthroughs). Since we’re both civil libertarians, Lear and I had spoken before in connection...

October 2006    Final Chorus

Inside the Ellington Band

Ruby Braff used to say that when he was very young, he entered the Louis Armstrong University, an educational institution from which you could never graduate because there was so much to learn. Duke Ellington’s sidemen—those who stayed and those who left—felt...

September 2006    Final Chorus

Kurt Elling: Being Fully in the Moment

Watching and listening to Kurt Elling on the “Jazz Singers” session in PBS’s “Legends of Jazz.” I remembered what Cecil Taylor said of his life’s vocation: “This music is about magic and capturing spirits.” And Duke Ellington explored its religious dimensions...

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About Nat Hentoff