In Honor of Christopher Loudon: A Soldier of Songs

In an introduction to the December 2017 issue, JT's editor pays tribute to one of the magazine’s most valuable contributors

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Cover of December 2017 issue of JazzTimes

I was single, childless and 25 years old in the summer of 2009, but I don’t remember being carefree. I had been an editor at JazzTimes since the spring of 2006, but the magazine was between owners, so I was unemployed. Contributors hadn’t been paid for their hard work, and they were rightfully furious. Petitions were received; livid phone calls and emails from writers I considered my heroes were fielded; inquiries from NPR and the New York Times were deflected. At some point a sale of the magazine began to seem imminent, so JT publisher Lee Mergner and I opened up shop again, pro bono, to make the transition possible.

Christopher Loudon, our longtime vocal-jazz critic and invaluable editorial utility man, was one of a very few writers and photographers I recall reaching out to ask how we were handling our involuntary vacation. More important, there was pluck in his message that we were in dire need of. How can we get this thing back together? was the gist of it. And how can I help? Of course, I wasn’t surprised in the least by Chris’ response; he’s always been among the most generous employees I’ve ever worked with, in any capacity. Which is why it pains me to announce that he’ll be curtailing his JT activities for personal reasons, beginning next month. While his byline will continue to show up in these pages now and then, this issue marks the end of his VOX column’s 16-year run. As for future vocal-jazz coverage in JT, the question isn’t who will replace him but how many different writers it will require.

As kind as he is, it’s essential to note that you don’t become possibly the most frequent contributor to “America’s Jazz Magazine” by being a swell guy, or even by hitting all of your deadlines, which he did—a miraculous feat for any moonlighter, even more so one working fulltime at various high-profile magazine gigs. Bottom line: Other than Will Friedwald and James Gavin, his colleagues whose work he reveres, no one knows more about jazz singers, or appreciates them with more unflagging enthusiasm, than Chris. Even more enlightening, few critics know as much about the songs these singers curate. Indeed, for decades he’s been an ardent defender of the geniuses who crafted the Great American Songbook and of the savvy tunesmiths who continue to shape the vocal-jazz canon—their lyrical and musical intentions, and the slight yet profound inflections deployed by their greatest interpreters. But don’t take my word for it. This issue, Chris’ grand finale of sorts—and, serendipitously, our annual singers-themed edition—contains an abundance of his beautiful writing.

Read the profile of Tony Bennett by Christopher Loudon from the December 2008 issue of JazzTimes.