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JT Notes: First Words on Last Words

What does it say about me that I enjoy putting together this issue with its tributes to those important figures who died during the past year? Call me morbid or, better yet, respectful, but this annual issue with its Farewells has been a great source of pride for me. Over the years, we’ve struggled to deal appropriately with deaths in the jazz world. Who gets a mention or obituary? Who gets a longer tribute? And what should that tribute consist of?

Honestly, we’ve never known if we’ve answered those questions correctly. And running lengthy obit tributes in issue after issue seemed like a concession to the old “jazz is dead” slur. I’d like to say that the idea of putting all of the tributes into one issue was an original one all my own, but it wasn’t. Publications like Entertainment Weekly and The New York Times Magazine have been doing it for years. My contribution has solely been to play matchmaker and find interesting eulogists who can speak from the heart with distinction. In fact, one of the surprising benefits of this section has been the discovery of rich new voices outside the general realm of jazz journalism. Artists like Branford Marsalis, Charlie Haden, Christian McBride, Dianne Reeves and Joe Lovano have shown themselves to be as articulate on paper as they are on their respective instruments.

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