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As much as I love jazz, not even with the rosiest of rose-colored glasses could I delude myself into believing that Chicago bears the remotest resemblance to the city Keller imagines. She goes on to explain that she loves the idea of jazz, and you could be forgiven for thinking she wrote the passage in question 60 years ago: “I love the image of hip, swinging, subversive people who live by their own rules, who revel in melancholy, who blow sexy, dangerous notes in out-of-the-way places.”
Like I said, some people don’t like jazz, and that’s fine. But it’s astonishing that a Pulitzer Prize winner who calls herself a “cultural critic” would display an ignorance bordering on willful disregard for one of the country’s most important art forms. I can’t decide which makes her sound more inane and out of it: her belief that Chicago is fueled by jazz or her image of “sexy, dangerous notes.” As I read the review, I started to wonder where she’d work in the obligatory mention of smoky clubs—which no longer exist, of course, thanks to the smoking ban—and it pops up right on cue in the final paragraph. Jazz, now personified, “drains a shot glass, grinds out a cigarette, stands up and mutters: ‘Your loss, kid. You don't know what you're missing.’” Sadly, that “kid” could be her. She has no idea what she’s talking about.
Andrew Hill, Smoke Stack (Blue Note)
Robert Henke, Atom/Document (Imbalance Computer Music)
Charlie Parker, Washington D.C., 1948 (Uptown)
Savath & Savalas, La Llama (Stones Throw)
Oscar Peterson, Plays the Jerome Kern Song Book (Verve)