Evan Haga Introduces the June 2013 Issue

Bass clarinetworking

Maceo Parker
Joshua Redman

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We spend a lot of time worrying about details at JT because you, our “average” reader, is anything but. I’ve met you at clubs and festivals, and you intimidate me sometimes-but in a good way. You’ve memorized the personnel on every essential Blue Note album; you’ve got a collection of jazz festival T-shirts worthy of a gallery showing; one or more of the Montgomery Brothers was a personal friend and/or godfather to your first-born child.

Assembling a magazine for an audience as knowledgeable as ours can be precarious, because there’s temptation to skew artily obtuse or fact-obsessed. But we don’t want to scare away the uninitiated, and even certified jazz experts should appreciate the tenets of effective cultural journalism outside of jazz-concepts like story and angle and readability. Accordingly, in this issue we have a terrific cover piece on saxophonist Joshua Redman that you’ll enjoy whether you’ve followed his ascent or not. And our excerpt from the recent autobiography by Maceo Parker, best known as James Brown’s right-hand sax-man, will be a fun, informative read for fans of jazz, or R&B, or just quality showbiz yarns.

It gets stickier when handling articles like Geoffrey Himes’ contribution, a look at the history and current state of the bass clarinet in jazz. Himes deftly chose his interviewees, coming up with a cross-generational, stylistically diverse set of voices to weave into a digestible narrative. Still, his thorough, finely crafted piece might not live up to the encyclopedic standards of some of our more demanding readers. “What about Rudi Mahall?” they’ll shout in between eBay bidding wars. Ken Vandermark, Michael Lowenstern, Oran Etkin, Mike McGinnis-these are all important musicians Himes would’ve spoken to had I assigned him a book, but alas I did not. So as a sign of solidarity, I’d like to cast the first stone on behalf of one of my favorite bass clarinet players who didn’t make the talking-head cut, Jason Stein.

Stein is a 36-year-old specialist based in Chicago, and that last bit of information is perhaps the largest part of why his music slays me, especially his 2011 release The Story This Time. The disc embodies the cogent sense of balance that marks the Windy City scene-a constant tug-of-war between harmonic consonance and dissonance, atop a rhythmic foundation that continues to relish swing. Balancing the inside and the outside so fluently is a worthwhile aspiration for any jazz musician-or, for that matter, any jazz magazine.