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Final Chorus: The Life Force of New Orleans

From when I was too young to be allowed into Boston jazz clubs, there’s an enduring memory of sneaking into Downtown at the Ken and marveling at Sidney Bechet joyously overpowering even Wild Bill Davison. Ever since, Bechet, whom I got to know when he played in Boston, has been the embodiment for me of the indomitable spirit of New Orleans jazz.

I often turn again to his masterful autobiography, Treat it Gentle (Da Capo Press), for such passages as, “That music was like waking up in the morning and eating; it was that regular in your life. It was natural to the way you lived and the way you died.”

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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.