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Final Chorus: Unsung Jazz Messengers

When I heard, in Nov. 2005, that Concord Records had bought Fantasy Records, I called Concord’s owner, Norman Lear (creator of All in the Family and other television breakthroughs). Since we’re both civil libertarians, Lear and I had spoken before in connection with people for the American Way (which he founded) and his tour of the nation a few years ago with a very rare contemporary copy of the Declaration of Independence.

This time I called to urge Lear to keep the Fantasy catalog intact, with its extensive treasures of timeless jazz recordings on Riverside, Prestige, Milestone, Norman Granz’s Pablo, Les Koenig’s Contemporary, Charles Mingus’ Debut, et al. The music, I told him, embodied the very spirit of the Declaration of Independence.

I also urged Norman Lear to make sure that Terri Hinte-not only the publicist but also the very soul of Fantasy-be retained. There are many unsung jazz messengers on the staffs of jazz record labels and clubs, as well as some representing individual musicians, who are invaluable to writers on the music, the musicians, and thereby the listener.

The legendary and still very active publicist Virginia Wicks, for example, could write a classic inside history of jazz-and a book publisher should ask her to. Terri Hinte was-and is-of that stature. The list of musicians she worked with while at Fantasy would take up many pages in a jazz encyclopedia-from Cannonball Adderley to Phil Woods.

In June, the Jazz Journalists Association, of which I’m a member, held its annual awards event, a “Celebration of Excellence in Music and Journalism.” Among those recognitions are “The A Team Awards”-comprising “activists who are neither jazz musicians, strictly or solely, nor jazz journalists, but without whom the jazz world would be much poorer,” for they raise “the profile and effectiveness of jazz.”

The A Team is one of the best ideas the Jazz Journalists Association has ever had. Included on the A Team are “educators, fundraisers, health care providers, innovators of techniques and inventors of equipment, organizers and even philanthropists, promoters or publicists…” If you want to suggest other nominees for the A Team Awards, write me c/o JazzTimes and I’ll pass them along.

Among those celebrated this year was Terri Hinte, who started with Fantasy in 1973-“promoting [hundreds of musicians’] recordings, careers and professional endeavors…[She] has consistently demonstrated an astute and productive understanding of the significance of the press in promoting jazz – and she has made a practice of engaging jazz journalists with sensitivity and genuine interest in their specific interests and preferences.”

Further, I can attest that Terri has enlarged their knowledge of musicians and thereby enhanced their preferences.

Terri had told executives at Concord of her selection for the A Team and on the eve of the awards ceremony, Terri Hinte was fired by Concord Records. As the headline in Dan Ouellette’s “Jazz Notes” column in Billboard declared resoundingly: “Fantasy Diminished by Hinte’s Departure.” In that column, Concord president Glen Barros-sounding like an oleaginous White House press secretary putting a false face on a president who had just summarily shown the door to a cabinet member-crooned his “tremendous respect” for Terri as “a great caretaker, proponent and spokesperson” for jazz.

But, reminding me of the scene in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass-when the Walrus invited the oysters for a walk along the briny beach and then, as he ate them, sobbed in sympathy-Glen Barros somberly intoned: “When companies merge, there are unfortunate consequences.”

I first heard of this incomprehensible dismissal of Terri from Doug Ramsey’s continually illuminating Web site “Rifftides: Doug Ramsey on Jazz and Other Matters” (www.artsjournal.com/rifftides): “Her newsletters and advisories,” Doug wrote, “were light years beyond the puffery that passes for publicity in too many precincts of the music business…Her phone calls often brought writers valuable story ideas.”

Terri will still be involved with Fantasy/Concord on a project-by-project basis, but she’ll now have a much broader impact on the music business. In addition to continuing, as she has since 1978, as Sonny Rollins’ sole publicist, Terri will be expanding her skills as a writer, editor and publicist. Her e-mail address is [email protected]

I hope that, in addition, Terri will start writing a book on her adventures in the world of jazz, as well as on her other wide-ranging musical interests.

During a recording session I produced in 1958 for Les Koenig’s Contemporary label (now available on Good Time Jazz in the Fantasy catalog)-Luckey Roberts & Willie “the Lion” Smith-those mentors of James P. Johnson and Duke Ellington showed the orchestral scope of the Harlem piano style as it evolved from ragtime.

Terri Hinte is an orchestral publicist, writer and editor. Willie “the Lion” became one of my mentors as a writer on this music, when I came to New York. Thereafter, whatever the changing enthusiasms of the times, Willie survived, standing out from the crowd. So does Terri. 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.