Friday, October 21, 2005

There are three major jazz magazines: Down Beat, JazzTimes, and Jazziz. I read the first two. Kerrie asked me tonight why I don't read Jazziz.

Frankly, it's a lousy magazine. They focus too much on slick advertising; they eschew journalism and insightful criticism in favor of unabashed publicity; and they lean heavily on commercial pop-jazz instead of the real thing. But they occasionally print a worthwhile interview, so I used to flip through each issue and buy two or three a year. I stopped in May 2001.

That month, Jazziz published a caricature of Kenny G on its cover accompanied by a four-page cover story devoted to mocking the man and his music. The premise was that critic Michael Roberts would spend a day listening to all of Kenny G's records, one after another, and journal his experience like a diary. If you think that sounds childish, these excerpts are unlikely to change your mind:
10:17 a.m.: I don't know if it's meaningful, but the gaps between the songs seem longer than they once did. Everything's slowing down for me; my fingers moving on the keyboard seem to leave behind a ghost image of themselves, like something out of The Matrix.

1:44 p.m.: "Always." I swear I've already heard this song five or six times today.

4:33 p.m.: In the tiny sliver of silence prior to the beginning of what's supposed to be the album's last song, "Over the Rainbow," I predict what Kenny will do to it... Suddenly, I realize that I've accomplished my purpose. In a very real way, I've entered the mind of Kenny G -- and it terrifies me. I'm terrified. I'm confused. I'm exhausted.
Keep in mind: This wasn't scrawled inside a bathroom stall at a YMCA. This was the cover story in a national magazine with a circulation above 100,000. This story was approved by an editor, his managing editor, and the editor-in-chief.

I don't like Kenny G. His music stinks and he doesn't seem interested in improving. But the publication of this issue coincided with new releases that included Columbia's boxed set of the complete Miles Davis & John Coltrane recordings, a new Chick Corea trio, a solo album from David S. Ware, a sequel from the legendary Maneri/Morris/Maneri, and a Paris concert recorded shortly before Bill Evans died.

I know these records well. And the thought that, instead of writing about this amazing music, a major publication instead dedicated a cover article to a mean-spirited, childish jeer... I didn't want anything to do with these people. I didn't want to read their opinions. I don't waste time on Kenny G because he appeals to the lowest denominator rather than trying to contribute something worthwhile. The only thing Michael Roberts and Jazziz proved is that they were no different.


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