Whitney Balliett was the longtime jazz critic for the New Yorker, and he is among the most lyrical of music writers ever. While he no longer has an office at the New Yorker, he still contributes on occasion as a freelancer; he also writes for The New York Review of Books. His new book, the almost 900-page Collected Works: A Journal of Jazz 1954-2000 (St. Martin’s Press), compiles pieces from his entire career.
JazzTimes: What was your job when you started at the New Yorker?
I was on the News Break desk. They were funny quotations that readers sent in; they were mistakes, generally, in newspapers. They would come in and we’d go through them and pick the best ones and they’d be sent up to E.B. White and he’d write the tag.