One of my favorite movies is D.O.A., a superb film noir from 1949. It includes a priceless jazz-ploitation scene with uncredited appearances by James Van Streeter and Teddy Buckner, but that’s not why I’m recalling it in this space.
The film’s ingenious premise involves a man named Frank Bigelow, played by Edmond O’Brien, who gets poisoned and has 24 hours to find his own killer. In its best-remembered line, a doctor tells Bigelow, “You’ve been murdered.” At that point the protagonist becomes, surreally and literally, the walking dead.
My health is just fine, but I’ve been reminded of this plotline several times in past weeks, thanks to some changes in JazzTimes’ tiny but tight-knit publishing community. Very sadly, HARP Magazine, JT’s sister rock publication, shuttered its doors mid-March, due to a lack of incoming revenue and increased production costs. Unless you’re as savvy a rock fan as you are a jazz follower, you might not be familiar with HARP, but it was-and I’m not saying this just because my byline was in it-the best American rock mag going for much of its seven-year run. More writerly than its competitors and with a tastemaking voice at once discerning and eclectic, it better resembled a hyper-literate U.K. rag like Mojo than the pop tabloids that crowd its market Stateside.
But thanks to the rumor mill and the fact that JT and HARP shared some contributors and office space-despite being separate companies-many people have inquired about the livelihood of the mighty JT.
The answer is that all is well. JazzTimes has 38 years’ worth of readers to support it and some related business ventures to subsidize it. And if you want proof of the magazine’s good form, just dig this issue. In addition to coverage of Dianne Reeves and Stanley Jordan, there’s an international bent here that reflects jazz’s newly emerging global diaspora: Andrew Gilbert investigates the slew of Israeli transplants currently making a go of the NYC scene; archival photos show jazz icons visiting foreign lands as cultural ambassadors; and Geoffrey Himes-who’s been writing some of the best profiles on jazz musicians this side of Francis Davis-chats up the inimitable West African guitarist Lionel Loueke. Herbie Hancock made jazz a popular music again for however many minutes his Grammy acceptance speech lasted, but we’ll continue listening and reporting for as long as we can, regardless of what records make it into Wal-Mart.
But still, after being asked several times if JT would soon follow HARP, I started to think it might, and I felt like an indifferent variation on O’Brien’s doomed hero in D.O.A.-I was still treading water but knew the end was near. So one morning, instead of reaching for my monocle to line-edit copy, I kicked back, poured four shots of Jameson in my coffee, and cued up YouTube clips of heyday Steely Dan performances. After three hours I contemplated either building a fort using unwanted promo CDs or scaling the building with a ladder I made from Dizzy Gillespie T-shirts. But wait, I thought, this is what I do every day, even on deadline. It’s great work if you can get it.Originally Published