Back in July 2007, Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout, a longtime friend and jazz-listening pal, urged me to start a blog. We both share a passionate interest in the music of the 1940s and 1950s, and Terry thought I should share my enthusiasm online. So in the weeks following Terry's challenge, I noodled around with a name, registered a URL, chose a blog service (SixApart.com) and developed a look for the blog. I wanted to keep the type narrow so readers' eyes wouldn't have to work too hard and a color scheme that would make the words and artwork pop.
On August 3, 2007, I hit the "return" key and posted my first essay. In subsequent months, what began simply as a place online to share my love of jazz has become an obsession for me (Terry warned me) and a popular destination for global readers. On Friday alone, JazzWax was read by jazz-lovers in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, France, Sweden, Japan, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. Jazz legends frequently email or call to say hi and offer encouragement. Jazz album photographers I've long admired email to say how much they enjoy how blog posts are packaged with art. And readers complain lovingly that I'm costing them a fortune in downloads and CDs.
All in all, I feel like a kid at the ballpark who reached for a foul ball and wound up tumbling out of the stands and into the dugout, where he finds himself surrounded by the 1951 Yankees (I'm a New Yorker, so insert any great team of your liking). What's more, the team turns out to be quite friendly. An artist friend asked recently why I love writing about jazz so much. "Imagine being able to talk to Monet, Michelangelo and Leonardo," I said. "That's who these people are to jazz, except they're alive and you can get to know them personally. I'll never get a chance like this again." [Pictured: Yankee catcher Yogi Berra accepts a light from shortstop Phil Rizzuto in September 1951 after the birth of Berra's son. Photo by AP]
Another friend asked if it's exciting having personal conversations with Sonny Rollins, Yusef Lateef, Creed Taylor, Hal McKusick, Chris Connor, George Wein and so many jazz legends. "Beyond belief," I said. "It's as though the albums I've loved for years have jumped off the shelf and are running around talking to me, like in the cartoons. I sometimes can't believe it." Jazz legends have always been my heroes, more so than Yankees, painters or rock musicians. The gift jazz legends have given us is enormous; in addition to producing timeless art that stirs our moods, jazz motivates us to take creative risks and respect beauty, no matter what we do.
The sad truth is that jazz isn't coming back, at least not at the level of popularity it once enjoyed. So I'm on a mission to make sure the stories
of jazz greats are preserved in as intimate a format as possible. And I want readers to know which jazz recordings are most exciting and why—at least to me. And if readers already know the albums I write about, hopefully my posts will bring a new dimension to the recordings and encourage them to take a fresh listen. [Pictured: Girls screaming at a 1951 jazz concert in Los Angeles. Photo by Bob Willoughby]
More JazzWax interviews are coming in the months ahead. More news. More history. More exceptional albums. And more visibility. In the coming week, I will have an exciting announcement about JazzWax's expansion to Canada. In September, Jazziz magazine will feature two articles by me—an appraisal of Kind of Blue and a personal essay on blogging. So stick around.
On JazzWax's first birthday, a big thanks to the dozens of people and jazz legends who helped me get started and continue to offer their support—passing along tips, paving the way for interviews, catching my typos, and telling me how much they enjoyed a particular post. You all know who you are. Your love and assistance have helped make JazzWax one of the web's most popular daily jazz blogs. Hopefully we've done our part to make jazz exciting once again.