The Magazine

All That Jazz

Why Nat Hentoff remains a great critic.

May 17, 2004, Vol. 9, No. 34 • By TED GIOIA
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But the timing of this collection couldn't be better. Hentoff recently earned the rare distinction of being named a "Jazz Master" by the National Endowment for the Arts--the first critic to garner this honor. Readers doubting that a journalist could merit such an award can take this volume as evidence for the defense. I now possess half a shelf of Nat Hentoff's books. Each one has its merits. But for those unfamiliar with this uncompromising critic and his prescient views, American Music Is may be the best place to start. If the divide between music critics and the players themselves can ever be bridged, it will be through works such as this.

Ted Gioia is a jazz pianist and historian. His books include The History of Jazz and West Coast Jazz.