We’re a small but dedicated group of writers and editors who bring you JT each month, but often we feel like morticians. Instead of formaldehyde and makeup, we arrange the use of hyperbole and half-remembered anecdotes to dress up our departed, ignoring their embarrassments and failures-like all respectful eulogizers-and sending them off into the annals of jazz history with legacies grossly overstated or, in the case of cover subject Max Roach, hopelessly undefined, even with huge-hearted efforts made by men like the superb drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts (see page 44). Max’s influence outshines words, and the only truly fitting homage I can imagine would be one of his own hi-hat recitals, during which he proved it’s possible to define jazz by swing and swing alone. To be sure, perhaps until Roy Haynes or Tain nods to Max as Max did to Papa Jo, that’s a road we’ll never have the joy of traversing again.
Face it: In a century-old art form, especially one once defined by hard living, its players are going to pass away in droves. And pass they do, so much so that I wince when I open my e-mail account each morning. I’ve joked, in questionable taste, that our Web site, JazzTimes.com, should change its slogan from “…more than a magazine” to “keeping jazz alive, one obituary at a time.”