Monday, March 13, 2006

Jazz Man of Letters

Nat Hentoff has another worthy column in the latest issue of Jazz Times, starting with new Polish developments in jazz, and segue-waying into a historical discussion of Polish Klezmer music. As a fan of many Polish jazz artists, like Tomasz Stanko and Adam Mackowicz, I appreciate his coverage of the Polish scene.

Hentoff was the first non-musician to be awarded the title of NEA Jazz Master. While generally considered liberal when writing about politics for the Village Voice, Hentoff is actually difficult to pigeon-hole. He is steadfastly critical of the Castro-regime, going so far as to disavow his ALA Immroth Award for Intellectual Freedom, after the Library Association refused to approve a resolution critical of Cuban censorship, writing: "To me, it is no longer an honor." Hentoff was also a contrary voice in The Voice when writing on the Terry Schiavo case. He has even written favorably on Fox News, as one of the few media outlets regularly covering civil liberties issues. Hentoff is a true advocate of civil liberties, not a political partisan.

Hentoff also wrote a fantastic YA novel titled Jazz Country. Written during the 1960’s, Hentoff’s story of an aspiring jazz musician’s coming-of-age, deftly handles Civil Rights issues and what were then current jazz controversies. It’s a very satisfying read, one I wish I had found years before I started listening to jazz. It should still be in-print. At least Hentoff’s “Final Chorus” column is still available every month in Jazz Times.