I don’t hang out with musicians, not because I don’t like them, but because I do. When you want to ethically edit a music publication, having fond personal relationships with artists presents a liability. It’s more difficult to assign or write genuine criticism and probing features when you know that the musician in question is a kind, thoughtful person, as most jazz players tend to be. That said, it can be journalistically beneficial to entertain a choice friendship or two, in order to better experience how these folks whose work you obsess over actually live. And other musicians have such outsized personalities they can’t be avoided or ignored. One of those was the multi-hyphenate jazzman Bob Belden, who died in May at age 58, following a heart attack he’d suffered a few days earlier. After reading the beautiful tribute piece that appears in this issue’s “In Memory Of” feature, by Bob’s longtime neighbor and collaborator Tim Ries, I wouldn’t dare say I was “friends” with Bob. But we certainly were friend-ly, and I enjoyed seeing and chatting with him whenever I got the chance. A lot of people did, because Bob was an absolute character, and there aren’t too many of those left in jazz culture, where politeness and bookishness currently rule.
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