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Time After Time

Niche magazines are strange creatures. JazzTimes, as we must begrudgingly admit, falls into that category. The music and culture we cover, like any insular art form tucked away from mass media and able to transcend politics, often seems perennially unchanged. With its profound respect for the past, jazz is especially susceptible to a kind of aesthetic stasis. I swear, whenever I leaf through back issues lying around the office, I see features I could slip into the current issue without anyone but our diehard readers noticing. Some of my favorite books are anthologies of definitive jazz journalism, such as that of Gary Giddins, Nat Hentoff, Dan Morgenstern and Whitney Balliett, and I’m continually amazed at how relevant the writing remains decades after the fact: a credit to both the prose and a music worth lifetimes of re-examination.

Of course, there are other instances that negate my theory, when jazz seems absolutely timely. One is when we assemble the issue you hold in your hands, the annual Year in Review edition. This is where we reflect on the victories, foibles, tragedies, oddities and funny stuff that bookmark time far better than retrospectives on Trane or Chet Baker. I just put down the 2003 Jan./Feb. issue, which tracked the happenings of 2002, and I was suddenly reminded of what a big deal the arrival of Norah Jones was for folks in and out of jazz. Also in that issue, former JT editor Christopher Porter makes a prediction that a little piano trio known as The Bad Plus will turn heads in the coming months with its Columbia debut. Good call.

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