Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Giants may be forgotten in their lifetime

Nat Hentoff is largely unknown to UK music-lovers today, but he was once the most prolific writer of notes for jazz and related LPs in addition to his other journalism. I must admit that when news of his death came through, my first thought was: I hadn't heard that name in decades, so far had he (and the music he wrote about) slipped from the public consciousness.

There is a full appreciation from US dramatist and critic Terry Teachout, from which this serves as a summary:

Hentoff [was] a technological Luddite who never abandoned the typewriter and never established a social-media beachhead. He might also have been amused—if grimly so—by the fact that many of his obituaries devoted more space to his latter-day career as a civil libertarian than to the writings about jazz with which he made his journalistic name. Sad to say, that makes perfect sense. Not only had the music that Hentoff loved best (he died listening to the records of Billie Holiday) ceased to be central to the American cultural conversation by the time of his death, but he was a First Amendment absolutist who lived to see free speech under siege in his native land, which explains why his impassioned writings about it should now loom so large in memory. Still, few who know his work at all well are in doubt that he will be remembered longest as one of the foremost jazz commentators of the 20th century.

No comments: