I think sometimes that becoming a complete human being requires immense daily practice in the art of saying goodbye.
Our emails (and perhaps the morning paper) tell us all about the deaths of people we love and know, or perhaps have never met. Jazz blogs like this one have to resist very strongly the urge to turn into the Daily Necrology.
And we say goodbye to things and situations that are meaningful to us — and I don’t just mean the lost iPod or the very sweet person who used to work at the grocery store who has moved away.
For the jazz devotee, loss is tangible all around us. We awaken into this music with the sharp mournful awareness of the people we will never get to encounter in person. My readers can compile their own list of names.
Places, too. Think of all the concerts we never got to, the clubs closed, the record stores now turned into banks and forgettable restaurants. Nick’s, the Commodore Music Shop, Swing Street, 47 West Third . . . and so on.
The past few years have been especially hard on print journalism, not simply for jazz periodicals, although in my own experience CODA and THE MISSISSIPPI RAG have both ended fruitful existences; JAZZ JOURNAL died and was reborn.
About a week ago I got an email from CADENCE, which opened (after a polite salutation): By now you have heard that Cadence will stop publishing at the end of this year unless other arrangements come forth. (Any of you want to be a publisher?)
I sidestepped the parenthetical question, but I read the announcement with sorrow and inevitability. In this century, any periodical that publishes with a minimum of advertising and a commitment to candor is remarkable. To do it for what will be thirty-six years at the end of 2011 (if my math is correct) is remarkable . . . and when you consider that the subject of CADENCE is and has been Creative Improvised Music, its continued stamina is an accomplishment to be celebrated at the same time we mourn the announced end of their epoch.
I can’t speak for the world of, say, opera journalism or that of hip-hop. But about jazz publishing I do know something.
And because it is a particularly cloistered world, with a smaller (sometimes more intense) audience than many other arts, it has certain inescapable qualities, one of them often a certain slyness.
In this world, candor is particularly rare: when the business end of a magazine must keep its advertising income up, the possibility of true assessments narrows.
I have been told, explicitly, by two editors that writing negative reviews did jazz harm; their journals were there to encourage the music. So if I wrote that the Great Neck Jalapeno Boys were out of tune, my words did jazz an injustice.
I was younger and more eager for an outlet, so I subsumed my criticisms in my reviews . . . and, to be fair, I was being asked to write about music I liked, for the most part. But I continue to see “reviews” (in quotations) and advertisements on adjacent pages in journals other than CADENCE.
Which came first, the chicken-journalism or the egg-money for the ads?
CADENCE has been different. I confess that my first experience with the magazine goes a long way back — the Eighties — when Tower Records carried it, and I would stand in their magazine racks and skim it, looking for the names of people I recognized. My horizons were much narrower, and often I went away from my quick and selfishly unpaid-for reading thinking that it was full of discs by people I didn’t know and whose music I wouldn’t like if I did know.
That changed after I got a chance to write about some CDs that were more to my taste and after I spoke on the telephone to its editor, Bob Rusch (or RDR). He was imposing on the phone, but we got along fine — he only needled me that I was slow in sending reviews.
And as our friendship deepened, I had — and have — the deepest respect for him as a person of feeling and perception, someone willing to commit himself to an ideal. The ideal had a hard time making money, and it would have been so much easier to be polite, take the ad money, make the deals. But Bob and the Crew are stubborn: their stubbornness coming from ethics and a love for the music.
When, at the end of 2011, CADENCE might call it quits, I will have writen for it for about six years. They have been a rewarding experience. I haven’t liked all of what I’ve been asked to review, but I have been exposed to music and musicians — deeply gratifying — I never would have encountered otherwise. And Bob’s guidance has made me a better writer, a deeper thinker, a better listener. Hilariously, he’s only chided me when he thought I was being slippery-tactful, and he’s never asked me to change a word, even if I disliked music he thought was fine.
I gather that even after CADENCE ceases to publish as a print journal, its other enterprises — creating CDs by worthy artists who aren’t well-represented in the mainstream, and promoting top-flight audio products by way of North County Audio — will continue. And there may be more, although I don’t know the details.
I will be very sad when it all comes to a close — no more cardboard boxes of surprises! — but I salute Bob and the Crew for their wonderful example of loving fortitude. And if a publisher were willing to take over the magazine, I could certainly continue to do my bit . . . there is a small mound of CDs on the coffee table near me that I have to write about, now!
REMEMBER: ALL MONEY COLLECTED BELOW GOES TO THE MUSICIANS! OH, CLICK THAT LINK!