MUSIC: “Jazz doesn’t represent American culture today.”


The number of readers who complain that they don’t get enough to read about jazz here is… small. But if there are any of you out there, here’s a readers’ Q&A with New York Times jazz critic Ben Ratliff, who is so eerily free from the leaden orthodoxies of jazz writing as it’s been practised since the 1970s that the only way to demonstrate how independent-minded he is would be to make you sit through a lot of awful jazz criticism. And then I’d have no readers left at all. Instead, here‘s a pleasant hour with a modest and thoughtful music writer.

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MUSIC: “Jazz doesn’t represent American culture today.”

  1. A good read on Sunday afternoon while trying to avoid watching the Raptors be hospitable again. Thanks.

  2. Hi Paul,

    about a year ago or so you wrote a blog or article on a few different world war II movies coming out of Poland and Russia. If I remember correctly the Russian film was a series based on the divisions that were put together of political prisoners and were sent on suicide missions; the polish one was based on the murder of several thousand polish citizens by the Russian military. I’ve been looking for these films but can’t find them. Do you remember their titles?

    Thanks, and sorry for contacting you through your ‘comments’ section – I couldn’t find any other way of getting a hold of you.

    take care,

    • What an excellent memory for Inkless posts, Herb. The Russian film, actually a TV miniseries, is called Shtrafbat, or Penal Battalion, directed by Nikolai Dostal. I’m not aware of a version with English dubbing or subtitles, and for a while I was looking for one. The Polish film is Katyn, by Andrzej Wajda; it’ll be easier to find, in a format with English subtitles.

  3. Mr. Wells, you read my mind…:)

  4. Thanks for the outstanding link. There’s no end of jazz reviewing clichés that need to be laid to rest, so Ratliff may as well be the one to do it. And here’s one vote for more Wells-on-jazz, even if it is by link and proxy. I’m almost curious as to what your idea is of awful jazz criticism – specifically, how awful it can get – but I’m not sure I want to see it myself.