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Final Chorus: Playing Changes on Jazz Interviews

I expect that if anything I’ve written about this music lasts, it will be the interviews I’ve done with the musicians for more than 50 years. My books on jazz consist mainly of interviews, as do the liner notes I’ve written. My hope is that some of them become part of jazz histories. And I learn a great deal from interviews done by others-particularly by the actual makers of this music.

For example, the late Art Taylor, an extraordinary drummer, wrote a book: Notes and Tones: Musician-to-Musician Interviews (Da Capo). The late tenor saxophonist Don Byas (much underestimated these days) told Taylor of advice from his friend Art Tatum. Tatum said to Byas: “Just remember there is no such thing as a wrong note; what makes it wrong is when you don’t know where to go after that one.”

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Originally Published
Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

Over more than 60 years, Nat Hentoff (1925-2017) wrote about music, politics, and many other subjects for a variety of publications, including DownBeat (which he edited from 1953 to 1957), the Village Voice (where he was a weekly columnist from 1958 to 2009), the Wall Street Journal, and JazzTimes, to which he regularly contributed the Final Chorus column from 1998 to 2012. Of the 32 books that he wrote, co-wrote, or edited, 10 focus on jazz. In 2004, Hentoff became the first recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Jazz Masters award for jazz advocacy.