I have never read a jazz writer with a more assured command of the English language. It’s a testimony to his precision of expression that the Merriam-Webster dictionary changed its definition of that ineffable jazz word “swing,” based on Balliett’s feedback. But you didn’t need to be a lexicographer to appreciate his virtuosity. Oral historian Studs Terkel, another master of the journalistic profile, lauded him as “one of our most trustworthy guides.” Taking a different tack, poet extraordinaire (and fellow jazz critic) Philip Larkin declared that “Balliett is a master of language” who brought “jazz journalism to the verge of poetry.” In fact, the surest way to assess Balliett’s stature was to gauge the stature of those who praised his work. He was the artisan whom other artisans admired.
Tuesday, October 06, 2020
… Discovering Whitney Balliett, the True Poet of Jazz | City Journal. (Hat tp, Dave Lull.)