December 15, 2003


Flee as a Bird: Envoi; Aloha, Au Revoir, Auf Wiedersehen; Adiós Amigos; I'm Checkin' Out, Goombye (Gary Giddins, 12/15/03, Village Voice)

As Groucho Marx used to sing, "Hello, I must be going." It's time to move on when you begin to calculate a job's duration the way children identify their ages. Whereas I used to think in round numbers, lately I found myself muttering, "29 and a half years," "30 years and two
months," "30 years, seven months, two weeks, five days"‹which is correct as of my pub date. Or am I confusing children with convicts? This was the hardest decision I've ever made, and like Artie Shaw, who has a different answer every time he's asked about quitting clarinet, I'm not sure
why‹except that I want to focus on books, I don't like writing short, and it's time. In jazz, time is all.

Gary Giddins is the best jazz critic writing today; and, based on his Bing Crosby biography and other writings, he might be the best critic of popular culture (movies; books; rock, jazz, blues and folk music) period. His knowledge is truly encyclopedic, but what sets Giddins apart are 2 things.
First, in a field (jazz criticism) which is either overly technical (discussing substituted chords or the inticacies of African rhythms), Giddins can explain musical concepts in a manner which doesn't require formal education: all you need to follow his analysis is the recording he's writing about and a set of ears. Second, whether he's writing about Sonny Rollins or Raymond Chandler, he transmits a sense of his enthusiasm for the topic and the joy he received from listening or reading or watching. We'll miss his regular columns, but eagerly await his books.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at December 15, 2003 7:20 PM

Giddins was one of the more enjoyable presences in Wynton Marsalis'...oops, Ken Burns' "Jazz." I second the endorsement here; a man who comes as close as possible to "dancing about architecture."

Posted by: M. Bulger at December 16, 2003 4:42 PM