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JT Editor Evan Haga Introduces the March 2015 Issue

Life cycle

To keep JazzTimes from reading like an unending obituaries section, we forgo tributes to departed musicians throughout our annual schedule. Instead, we include in each March book “In Memory Of,” a lengthy feature wherein jazz notables remember their deceased colleagues and mentors. Of course we can’t cover every notable musician who passed away during the prior year, but I believe we assemble an homage that hits the most notable figures while respecting jazz’s stylistic range, from the mainstream to fusion to the avant-garde to vocal-jazz. And some tributes you don’t find here, like those to honor Jackie Cain, Lionel Ferbos and Herb Jeffries, will be posted prominently at JazzTimes.com.

If it sounds like depressing work to think so hard about all the great musicians and people we’ve lost, it absolutely can be. Fortunately, I complete this issue to the backdrop of two events that prove how jazz talent and the community that surrounds it never truly leave us, they only regenerate. The first is the two-day Jazz Connect conference, a collaboration between this magazine and an organization called the Jazz Forward Coalition. It began in 2012 and moved this year to a new location, Saint Peter’s Church in Midtown Manhattan, that turned out to be ideal. A series of panel sessions, forums and workshops, it aims to unite the scores of enthusiastic musicians, concert producers, label owners, journalists, broadcasters and other professionals whose network has been broken apart by a struggling music industry and the absence of a proper yearly tradeshow. The second fete is NYC Winter Jazzfest, which is always in flux but was as fun and inspiring as ever throughout its 11th edition.

For an expert, detailed take, see Aidan Levy’s festival report beginning on p. 16. But I look forward to this festival like children anticipate Christmas, so I’ll toss my two cents in as well. Essentially, every clueless, utterly false notion you’ve read or heard about jazz being stagnant or marginalized or unlikable to a larger audience can be put to rest after an hour of making the rounds at Winter Jazzfest. I absorb jazz for a living, but I can still count on a grip of discoveries over these long nights. Here I’ll mention just one, more of a rediscovery: baritone José James, whose Billie Holiday program thrilled me. He’s a new favorite-a hip, arty dark horse occupying a welcome niche among current male soul and jazz singers, somewhere between the quirks of Bilal and the big heart of Gregory Porter. Like so much else happening in jazz in 2015, he was marvelous.

Originally Published