Some gigs seem almost too good to be true: I’ve been covering music for the Tribune for 35 years, since I started freelancing in 1977 and joined the staff in ’83.
I sometimes get emails from great musicians traveling the world who tell me they’ve been reading my stuff since they were 8 years old!
I do believe that in arts criticism, longevity is a huge advantage, because after awhile, you’ve heard and interviewed just about everyone.
For me, that means I covered the last decade of Frank Sinatra’s career and got to meet and speak with him; followed Wynton Marsalis’ rise almost from the beginning and served on the jury that recommended him for the Pulitzer Prize in Music (he wrote the first jazz composition to win it).
Though I majored in piano performance at Northwestern University, I realize that I’ve learned at least as much by talking music with Delta blues pioneers David “Honeyboy” Edwards and Pinetop Perkins; with jazz giants Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Dave Brubeck, Artie Shaw, Cab Calloway and Lionel Hampton; with classical masters Jean-Pierre Rampal, Van Cliburn and Rudolph Serkin; with tango maestro Astor Piazzolla; and with literally hundreds more.
Jazz has been at the center of it all, and to this day Chicago remains one of the key cities in the world for this music. Just recently, for instance, I’ve written about the death of Chicago jazz icon Von Freeman, the fits and starts of the Chicago Jazz Festival and the latest farewell of singer-pianist Judy Roberts. I’ve been covering all these subjects for more than three decades, which provides a long-range perspective.
Most amazing in this constant swirl of activity is the new talent that keeps springing up. Chicago artists such as cellist Tomeka Reid, vibist Jason Adasiewicz, drummer Mike Reed, cornetist Josh Berman, saxophonist Ken Vandermark and scores more are rewriting the rules for the way jazz is played, composed, improvised and defined.
And it’s happening right here.
-- Howard Reich
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