Saturday, March 10, 2012

Staying Current: Jazz Periodicals

Featured ImageGrowing up I still remember being glued to my radio to hear the latest songs from my favorite groups, or to hear the latest new groups, and then getting down to Cutler's Record Shop in New Haven CT (still in business) to buy the album. I remember spending hours at Cutler's browsing records, and even listening to them in small booths at the front of the store. I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard "Marekesh Express and the first time I saw "Surrealistic Pillow" in the window at Cutler's. I was still a few years away from jazz, but I am sure that finding new jazz then was also a lot different than today.

Things are really different today:
  • It isn't easy to hear a lot of jazz, let alone new jazz, in the car or at home on the radio these days. Local stations are basically gone, and Sirius radio is limited to a couple of stations if you have it at all. Some stations broadcast over the internet, but I believe the number of listener's to that mode of listening is limited.
  • It isn't easy to browse CDs in a record store, since there are not a lot of music stores left. Those that are left do not necessarily feature a jazz section, and if they do it is not usually very comprehensive. 
  • On-line sites for music are good, but tough to navigate if you are looking for new items that are not being heavily promoted.
  • Blogs follow new releases, but for the most part in small doses. They are a rich source of information, but just like my blog, the information is directed by the tastes of the blogger. And they are a lot harder to flip through than the bins at a record store. A list of blogs I follow appears with my profile, and I encourage you to thumb through them as a rich source of materials. But this entry is about magazines.
All of this comes to mind today because I got a windfall this week of my monthly jazz magazines, and therefore got a lot of information on new releases from articles, advertisements, and reviews of both new recordings and reissues. For many new recordings I got two or more viewpoints, helpful when trying to create an aural image of the music. Herein then is a list of my regular readings, again not including blogs: 
  • Downbeat - The oldest and probably most familiar of all the U.S. jazz magazines, Downbeat was founded in 1934 and has been in continuous publication since. It bills itself as providing "Jazz, Blues and Beyond." Downbeat's reeviews are excellent and they use a grading system of from one to five stars. They feature profiles on established and new performers, have their blindfold tests, and conduct reader and critic polls annually.
  • Jazz Times - "America's Jazz Magazine" according to the cover, Jazz Times is the second of the big two magazines in the U.S. It dates back to Radio Free Jazz, a publication founded in 1970 in Washington D.C. by a local record store owner, and was it was originally designed to update shoppers on the latest releases, which it still does today. It became JazzTimes around 1980, and except for about a year around 2010 has been in print ever since. Its review section is extensive and it to provides articles on a range of players and performances each month.  
  • Jazzwise - Jazzwise is a British publication that I receive on my iPad each month, and basically looks like, and has content like, the two U.S. magazines above. It covers the British Isles scene in depth, but also runs articles about international jazz stars from the U.S. and the rest of Europe, and has an extensive reviews section. Jazzwise provides a good look at music abroad, as well as hitting upon the U.S. releases. Its breadth of coverage of the new recordings is in many ways better from that perspective than either of the two U.S. magazines.  Jazzwise is currently celebrating its 15th anniversary.
  • Jazz Journal JJ OFC 0312 - A UK magazine, this is another great resource for the interested jazz fan. It is a bit skinnier than the others, but packs in a lot of good information about players, and of course about new music in its review section. It was founded in 1947 and tagged itself "the greatest jazz magazine in the world". It almost disappeared in 2009 but was revived with a merger with another publication and is still around today. 
Another publication, this one a newsprint freebie if you are around the New York area, is the "New York City Jazz Record", formerly "All About Jazz New York." While it features artists who are playing in New York each month, it is chock full of information on new recordings, has a section that profiles new artists each month, and lists all the shows around New York for the month. Its review section is extensive, and leans much further toward free jazz and the avante-garde than the other four magazines above. And the best news for those outside the area is that the publication is on line and is free. So if you cannot get a print copy of this excellent journal, read it on-line.

Another on-line publication, this time doing for the UK what the "New York City Jazz Record" does for New York, is "JazzUK", which discusses shows areound the British Isles, profiles some of the players, and has a small review section.

For those who lean more towards the smooth side of jazz, Jazziz magazine (US) may be your thing. 

So that's it, some fodder for you to consider in your quest for good music. Enjoy the journey!

JazzTimes CoverSubscribe to Jazzwise magazine


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