Meet Carl L. Hager
How does writing about jazz contribute to the music itself?
Writing about jazz can help solve the biggest problem jazz has, which is that people haven't been exposed to it, or they don't really know what it is. They don't know that much of the music they hum along with as they watch televisionthe theme on sitcoms like Barney Miller in the 1970s or Moonlighting in the 1980s, or Two And A Half Men right now, is jazz, written and performed by jazz musicians. A little on the smooth side, true, made for television, but that's what it is. When jazz writing is done well, it opens doors and makes connections for people by encouraging the reader to listen to music he or she might not otherwise have heard. When it falls short and becomes a humorless search for adjectives that describe some intellectual abstraction, it's an annoying waste of timeexcept for those three or four devoted readers. Jazz appreciation has suffered from a clubbish eletism from the beginning. When a jazz musician has to support himself by driving a cab, there's a problem. My thought is that really good jazz writing ultimately serves the music and musicians by getting people to go out and hear it, or buy the CDs, and listen to it.
What do you like most about All About Jazz?
The wide range of material. It feels more like entertainment than some other publications. I don't know any other magazines that publish humor, for example, which was part of the tradition in the beginning at publications like Esquire and Playboy, bastions of jazz writing back in the day. Jazz is serious enough. Reading about it shouldn't feel like a homework assignment.
What positives have come from your association with All About Jazz?
As an editor, I've enjoyed supporting the open-door approach to publishing a large range of writers, and as a writer I've enjoyed being supported. For me as a reader, AAJ has meant exposure to music I never would have heard before. Invariably I find myself reading coverage of up-and-comers in a small festival around New York, or a CD by soon-to-be-legendary improvisational luthiers recorded in a Finnish train station. Working with AAJ has some nice perks, toointroducing yourself to a musician as a contributing writer or editor for AAJ will often get you backstage where you can talk some real music and learn something. More and more record labels send me CD promo copies as they get to know me, which I appreciate, and press credentials are nice for getting ticket comps if I need them. But probably the biggest positive is that I'm starting to really learn how to effectively support the music I love. It is a very competitive arena. Due to the relative ease nowadays of digital recording, the sheer numbers of people involved have increased dramatically. So the music industry has become more and more dependent on writers, publicists, web designers, media consultants, etc. for the exposure they need in order to compete for attention in the marketplace. Musicians all want 5-star reviews, certainly, but sometimes a critical review from someone who knows what he's talking about is more valuableto both the musician and readers alikethan a complimentary review from someone who doesn't. Like the saying goes about opinions and alimentary orifices, everybody has at least one. Realizing this, the musicians I know don't concern themselves very much with a writer's piece, one way or the other, unless it contains some insight and strikes a chord. I'm learning to concentrate more on researching the music, and less on finding the perfect adjective or synonym to describe it. A writer needs to first have something useful to say.
(with Lenny White) Mike Rubio/Bluebird Imaging