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Is it the “jazzless age” at the New York Times?

The scene inside New York’s Jazz Standard

 

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A must-read for those interested in the challenges facing contemporary music journalism is Max Cea’s February 23 Salon piece on the changing state of jazz coverage at the New York Times (on the heels of longtime writer Nate Chinen’s departure from the paper), and how those changes may impact jazz music…Perhaps the most chilling sentence in the piece (but hardly the only one): “… the current political situation makes devoting significant resources to increasingly esoteric arts coverage seem inessential.” 

 

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Given the typical adversarial rendering of critics by artists — pedantic, sadistic and envious of their victims — you might expect two New York Times music critics leaving the paper in the span of six months to be cause for celebration among the musicians they covered. But when Nate Chinen left his post as a New York Times contributing jazz and pop critic in January, just half a year after former fellow jazz and pop critic Ben Ratliff left the paper, the jazz community did not rejoice. It grew worried. 

For two decades, some combination of Ratliff, who was hired in 1996, and Chinen, who began writing for the paper in 2005, had provided much of the paper’s jazz coverage. Starting last year the Times’ coverage began to look different. In June the paper began employing fewer reviews of shows and records. And by December, the number of once ample weekly New York jazz listings were condensed to the single digits and lumped in with the paper’s pop and rock listings. (The editorial changes were not the reason Ratliff and Chinen left, but they contributed to their respective decisions.)

The combination of the departures and the change in coverage signaled an emerging vacuum and raised a fundamental question: Had the Times relegated jazz coverage in the interest ofcontinue reading