The Stay At Home Critic

As we all know, the focus of Stereophile's music section, and rightly so, is recorded music. But in my unsubtle opinion, music writers or just music fans who only listen to recorded music and never see anything performed live, are missing half the ballgame. If the only way you know a certain artist is through their records, then sorry to say, and yes, I know that not everyone lives in a city where they can see live music, you’re only getting half the story. I know critics who've been let go because they basically refused to go out to see live music. They were happy to stay home—hey, no traffic, no lines, no fighting the elements, sounds good to me—and listen to CDs or LPs. Unfortunately though, while they may have stayed comfy cozy at home, their opinions on music ended up having only a certain amount of value. The X factor about seeing music live versus hearing it on record is that often you have to see the music performed live to make any sense of the record. Though rare, it can also work in reverse as well: you have to listen to the record to make sense of a live show.

I say all this as a preface to reporting that I recently returned to what is perhaps the most beautiful live venue on earth: Dizzy's Club Coca Cola in the Lincoln Center Jazz complex on Columbus Circle in Manhattan. With a glass wall behind the length of the stage, the view of Central Park and the cityscape beyond is nothing short of awesome. The name of course is unfortunate. Poor Dizzy. His memory sullied by a sticky sweet caffeinated soda. Nothing against Coke but for God's sake Wynton, wasn't there a more tasteful way of naming the joint that wouldn't have precluded the sponsorship dollars rolling in?

Anyway, I went up to Dizzy's last week to see Jackie Ryan, an under the radar, sort of B team jazz singer from San Francisco. While she was okay, nothing special really, her band was a mass of firepower. Eric Alexander is one of the most underrated tenor players around. Then there's the strange case of Jeremy Pelt, a young New Yorker who's been crowned as the new jazz trumpeter to keep an eye on. While he's certainly got chops, they aren’t the kind you could readily distinguish with your eyes closed. Seems to me he needs to live a little more, pay some more dues before he really has something important to say through his horn. And he needs years more of playing and living to develop the kind of distinctive tone needed to really make him stand out.

Jeremy Pelt's picture

Couldn't agree with you more on all except for a couple of points, Rob... In regards to my paying dues, you really should do your homework. Certainly, if playing with the likes of Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster, Louis Hayes, Frank Wess, and Cedar Walton (to name a few) is any indication, combined with having moved here (NY) and scraping around to do $30 gigs for years (complete with day job)," I think I'm covered in the ""dues"" department. Other than that", all I can do is keep on living and developing. I have something to say, you've just got to develop the ears for it, though I never confessed to having my own sound (yet!). Speaking of distinctive tone and standing out, much props to Eric Alexander, but I KNOW you're not about to tell me that his tone and sound isn't comin' out of George for thought..