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Michael C. Heller

(Mitchell )

(b Brooklyn, NY, March 21, 1948). American jazz and film critic and historian. After studying English at Grinnell College (BA 1972), he returned to New York and began writing on film for the Hollywood Reporter (1972) and on jazz for Down Beat (1972–3). Citing influence from the writers Martin Williams and Dan Morgenstern, he decided to focus his efforts exclusively on jazz and in 1973 was hired as a music critic by the Village Voice. His regular column “Weather Bird” became highly influential during the next three decades. Unlike critics who concentrated primarily on recent performances, Giddins wrote on a range of topics, including the legacies of historical figures, contemporary developments, and issues relating to jazz advocacy and education. From the 1980s he began publishing collections of his essays as well as book-length monographs, including biographies of Charlie Parker (1987), Louis Armstrong (...

Article

Daniel Zager

[Leonard S. ]

(b Albany, NY, July 24, 1942). American writer. He studied philosophy at the University of Rochester (BA 1964) and Brown University (MA 1966, PhD 1969) and from 1969 taught philosophy at the University of Santa Clara; he also studied piano with Lennie Tristano. Among his published writings are The Great Jazz Pianists (1983), a collection of interviews with 27 jazz pianists that includes biographical material and discographies, and articles for Down Beat, Keyboard, and Guitar Player. He received the first Ralph J. Gleason Memorial Fund Award for Jazz Criticism at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1976. In the early 1980s he moved from Berkeley, California, to Lexington, Massachusetts.

(selective list)

The 101 Best Jazz Albums: a History of Jazz on Records (New York, 1980) [listeners’ guide] The Great Jazz Pianists, Speaking of their Lives and Music (New York, 1983) with D. Perlo: Jazz Portraits: the Lives and Music of the Jazz Masters...

Article

Michael C. Heller

(b Cardiff, UK, Jan 8, 1948). British jazz journalist and historian. He studied music theory and clarinet at the Welsh College of Music and Drama (1967–71), followed by ten years leading a jazz-rock band under the stage name Nick Stewart. In the early 1980s he began writing on jazz for various magazines and newspapers in the UK. Since then his pieces have appeared in a range of publications in Europe and the United States, including The Western Mail, Gramophone, The Observer, Jazzwise, Jazz Times, and The Wire. His writing expanded to book-length studies in the 1990s, including highly regarded biographies of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Duke Ellington, as well as broader surveys of jazz in the 1980s and jazz-rock. Since the early 2000s Nicholson has been a key chronicler of the European scene, especially movements blending jazz with local folkloric forms, classical music, and electronica. His controversial ...

Article

John Chilton

[Hans Georg ]

(b Brugg, Switzerland, April 7, 1918). Swiss writer. His numerous articles have appeared in magazines published in Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, the UK, and Canada, and he has given lectures on jazz in several countries. One of the most knowledgeable jazz writers, he specializes in musicians of the pre-bop era and writes with a deep understanding of the improviser’s craft; his biographical features clearly indicate the trust and confidence that his subjects, who are usually veteran musicians, place in him. Although Simmen studied piano for seven years he never played professionally, but his knowledge of keyboard technique makes his articles on jazz pianists particularly incisive. His extraordinarily acute musical ear allows him to recognize jazz soloists with ease, and his lectures on individual musicians are models of learned enthusiasm.

(selective list)

“Carnet de notes, xvii: Mrs. Emily Kraft-Banga and Mr. Kaiser Marshall,” BHcF, no.208 (1971), 4; no.209 (1971), 7; rev. Eng. trans. in ...

Article

Daniel Zager

revised by Barry Kernfeld

(b Cambridge, MA, Oct 18, 1908; d Key West, FL, Dec 18, 1966). American writer. He learned to play drums before attending Harvard University as an undergraduate (BS 1931) and law student (1932–4), then studied medieval English literature at Yale University (PhD 1942); at graduate school he was a founder of the United Hot Clubs of America, a jazz appreciation society. While pursuing a career as a professor in English literature at several universities he served as a columnist on jazz for Variety and Saturday Review, contributed to Down Beat, Record Changer, Esquire, Harper’s, and Life, and edited articles on jazz for Musical America. In 1950 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship to begin work on The Story of Jazz (1956), a historical survey that became widely used. He developed a course on jazz at New York University in 1950 and another at Hunter College, where he settled the following year. Stearns founded the ...