I’ll never forget the first time Chris Loudon called me to arrange an interview for JazzTimes. It was 2011, and I was not only releasing a new CD but also debuting my off-Broadway jazz musical Play It Cool, and Chris thought it would make a good story. I told him I was surprised that he wanted to interview me, and Chris said something like, “Why should you be surprised? You are at the level of …,” and then he dropped the name of one of the best writers of the Great American Songbook, that I’m too embarrassed to mention, and I remember thinking that it doesn’t get better than this.
His words meant so much to me, because I had been an avid reader of his Vox column in JazzTimes for years and knew that he was no slouch when it came to songwriting. He lauded a lot of my favorite singers, like Kurt Elling and Claire Martin and Lorraine Feather, and when he praised them, his writing was beautiful. This quality only means more to me now, when the reviews I get from some blog writers today are so badly written as to be almost indecipherable.
In 2013, I teamed up with Cheryl Bentyne for a mini-tour to promote our CD West Coast Cool, and Chris got us a gig at Hugh’s Room in his hometown, Toronto. He was in the front row at the concert, beaming. The next night, Chris took Cheryl and me to his favorite seafood restaurant. I asked him why he didn’t write many bad reviews and he said, “Jazz singers have it hard enough in this world without me making their life harder.”
He loved jazz singers, and the night was filled with his recommendations of new vocalists I should listen to—I remember Amy London was one. He actually gave me a list. I listened to most of them, and of course they were great.
During the last 20 years, I’ve had my ups and downs—I am in show business, after all. At those times when I’ve only made it to the bottom rungs of the jazz chart, or when I’ve gotten passed over for a New York gig, I’ve often said to myself, “Well, Chris Loudon thinks I’m good,” and most of the time that was good enough for me. And the nice thing is, I’m just one of the multitudes of singers Chris has championed through the years. He will be missed.