Music: Memoirs

I found myself thinking about this tonight and I suppose it must have been about 17 years, from 1985 to 2002, that I consciously sought out Mark Miller’s coverage of Canadian jazz festivals — always Montreal, usually one or two others — in the Globe each summer. He’d already been the Globe‘s jazz writer for nearly a decade by the time I twigged. There was nobody writing about jazz with more knowledge of the field or a more graceful prose style.

Relax, he’s fine. Mark and the Globe parted ways in 2002, or rather he kept going the way he’d always been, the Globe went somewhere else, and he found he no longer needed to be in it. Graham Fraser, Susan Delacourt, Bruce Little and others could tell similar tales. It happens. These days Miller writes books, obviously likely to find only a small audience, but carefully researched and judiciously written. Here are the latest several. A Certain Respect for Tradition collects much of his Globe writing and it is a marvel. Most of the others are histories of the smaller moments and the less cocky characters in the music, subjects with which Miller, who can be ornery but who never raises his voice, may feel a kindred spirit.

Anyway, festivals in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver begin this week. Music fans in Calgary are improvising after that city’s festival was canceled on two days’ notice. Today Miller’s old paper features an interview with 16-year-old Nikki Yanofsky in which she is asked her opinion of the paper’s review of her last album and then invited to debate the meaning of Billie Holiday’s lyrics. So today I miss having Mark Miller in my morning paper. I suppose people who used to read Bruce Little on public finances every morning sometimes feel something similar.