Are jazz critics too kind?

Peter Bacon of The Jazz Breakfast potentially provokes a very interesting debate with his post, ‘Are jazz critics too kind’? He notes that it is rare to read outright criticism of jazz musicians in any industry publication, known blog or website. He also admits that he prefers to refer to himself as a jazz ‘reviewer’ as oppose to a ‘critic’.

Most jazz commentators write because they love the genre and feel honour bound to promote it. That is certainly the reason I write about jazz and I feel privileged to have an outlet to do so.

The majority of gigs I have been to this year have been awesome. So much so that I would struggle to pick out my top five. But one does come across gigs that are at best, mediocre and at worst, a bit rubbish. To my mind, rather than lambast poor or mediocre performances, I would prefer simply not to write about them and it seems that Peter Bacon agrees with that sentiment. I personally don’t feel I have any right to dismiss musicians or their music off hand. I would rather spend my time promoting the music I love.

Sebastian’s thoughts on the matter mainly emphasise the contemporary interaction of the 21st century reader:

“…in 2010 we receive comments. Yes, they can be simple, from the hip, inane, whatever. But they do bring diversity of perspective. The single-voiced review without the comments can even seem incomplete now. George Bernard Shaw’s time has gone.

Check out a recent review I did of Richard Godwin. It was the first time I had heard him: I was kind, constructive.

The first commenter took out the slagging sledging heavy hammer, and applied it both to the performance and to my review. But what gradually emerged, as the comments accumulated, was a fair perspective.

And what’s wrong with that?”

Take a read of Peter’s article and see where your opinion lies.

Categories: miscellaneous

2 replies »

  1. Blogging makes critics and commentators of us all: most bloggers, I hope, are writing about their passion, and are working to share their excitement and enthuse others with the same.

    That said, there's little point in heaping praise on the most meagre of gigs or the most dire of discs: as you say, it's preferable not to write about them, but to focus instead on sharing positive criticism and comment. And if others disagree, then blogging does what it does best: fomenting debate.

  2. As a blogger, I don't think I of myself as a critic – reviewer seems more appropriate.

    I go to – and often review – gigs that I want to see: so I approach them with a positive viewpoint: as a I punter, I want to enjoy the gigs I go to.

    “Critics” have a more objective viewpoint: they have greater experience and knowledge, and can take a broader perspective. It is their job, not something they do for pleasure (like most bloggers).

    I also tend not to write about the gigs I don't enjoy – without enough time to write about what I do enjoy, it seems pointless to write about something I don't. As a blogger, I don't feel I have a duty to write about everything – clearly critics can't cover everything, as well, but they do have a greater responsibility.

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