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The To-Listen List

Editor Evan Haga introduces the October 2017 issue of JazzTimes

October 2017 issue of JT with poll of musicians on "Essential Solos"
Cover of October 2017 issue of JazzTimes

There’s a point of near-madness that occurs when I undertake one of our articles, like this month’s cover story, based on a comprehensive poll of musicians and JT contributors. It usually occurs on a sunny Sunday afternoon, when I’m holed up inside counting votes for “Ko Ko,” then I realize that some voters have spelled it “Ko-Ko,” with a hyphen, which throws a wrench into my search-and-tally method. I recount. Uh-oh. Others have opted to list it as a single word. Re-recount. So which one should be printed? My Real Book says no hyphen, yet this nearby reissue LP is pro-hyphen. Also, what the hell am I doing with my life?

Arduous as they may be, I feel immense gratification after they’re completed, whether year-end critics’ polls or roundups of classic tenor LPs. On an editorial level they’re fun to read and they disseminate useful insights culled from experts; on a commercial level they tend to do well at the newsstand. Long before BuzzFeed began its inanity, list-based articles were a coup for magazine publishers. We can put sexy sell lines on the cover—with words like “special” and “collectible” and, in this case, “essential.” And a number! Media consultants tell us you love numbers. Anyway, my sense of satisfaction is at once superficial, like I’ve finished cleaning out a storage unit or filing a tax return, and near-spiritual, like I’ve made meaning out of something vast and uncontrollable. Writing should always create that sensation, but in these instances the feeling is less self-serving, as if I’ve worked for the greater good.

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