Bill Milkowski is the author of "Jaco: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Jaco Pastorius"
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One of the most widely published jazz critics on the East Coast, Bill Milkowski has been covering jazz extensively since the '70s. The New York City resident has, over the years, acquired a reputation for being one of the more broad-minded critics in jazz journalism. Far from a purist or a bop snob, Milkowski is considered a major authority on jazz-rock fusion--in fact, one of his greatest accomplishments was a 1995 book on the late electric bass virtuoso Jaco Pastorius (who he knew personally). Fusion, however, is only one of the many styles of jazz that Milkowski has covered; he has also given extensive coverage to everything from post-bop, hard bop, soul-jazz and swing to avant-garde jazz. The long list of jazz artists Milkowski has written liner notes about is quite diverse and ranges from Weather Report, the Yellowjackets and Al DiMeola to John Coltrane, Joe Pass, Hank Crawford and Gato Barbieri. And even though jazz is Milkowski's primary focus as a journalist, he is not a jazz snob who hates all other forms of music--his early heroes included rock guitarists like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck as well as blues icons such as Albert King and B.B. King. Milkowski is not a native New Yorker; he was born in Milwaukee, WI on September 26, 1954 and grew up in that Midwestern city (where he began playing the guitar at the age of 12). Milkowski, whose first article was published in 1974, graduated from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee with a journalism degree in 1977. It was also in 1977 that Milkowski co-founded Cityside, an alternative tabloid that envisioned itself as a Milwaukee equivalent of the Village Voice or the Chicago Reader. Cityside lasted until 1979, and the following year, Milkowski moved to New York City to accept a position as managing editor of the Long Island weekly Good Times. In 1982, he left Good Times to become a full-time freelancer, and the long list of newspapers and magazines that have published his work since then includes JazzTimes, Downbeat, Jazziz, Guitar Player and Modern Drummer (among many others). In 1987, a 32-year-old Milkowski was diagnosed with testicular cancer, and a benefit concert was held in a Manhattan club to help him with the costs of the treatment; the event was hosted by fellow jazz critic Howard Mandel and boasted well-known improvisers like Michael Brecker, Danny Gottlieb, John Scofield and Mike Stern. In 1993, Milkowski seemingly needed a break from New York and moved to New Orleans, but three years later, he ended up moving back to the Big Apple--and by that time, he had written Jaco: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Jaco Pastorius (an excellent book that acknowledged Pastorius as a musical genius but didn't shy away from the dark and tragic aspects of the bassist's life--such as his well-documented substance abuse). Milkowski's other books have included Rockers, Jazzbos and Visionaries and Swing It! An Annotated History of Jive. ~ Alex Henderson, All Music Guide