Ask any jazz critic, or jazz fan for that manner if they’re biased. If they say no they’re straight up bullshitting you. Even my man Leonard Feather (if I had a dime for every time someone asked me “so when are you going to write that Feather bio?” I’d be a rich man) had biases, oh good Lord did he have biases, no matter how impartial he tried to present himself as. And unless you’re Immanuel Kant, it’s impossible to judge anything disinterestedly.
So that’s why I like Jazziz‘s short “Personal Taste” boxes that they include in some of their pieces. It lets the reader know right where the writer is coming from so that you might be able to see the writer’s taste and how that may affect their writing. For example, take the Traditions section by Bob Weinberg on drummer Han Bennink in the Spring 2010 issue, which is the first time I’ve read Jazziz, btw. In terms of instrumentalists, Weinberg has somewhat Catholic tastes. His short list of albums range from Clifford Brown/Max Roach, to Lockjaw, to Art Pepper, Mostly Other People do the Killing, and William Parker/Giorgio Dini. Two pages later, Jonathan Widran lists Harry Connick Jr., Linda Eder, and Ramsey Lewis among his current favorites; quite a different group of folks. These are neat features that gives insight into the diverse taste of two of the magazines writers, and it’s something that I wish the magazine incorporated into their feature stories as well.
It would great to have a similar list next to the names of each critic who writes for any jazz magazine. One reason is that every once in a while it’s pretty obvious that the critic has absolutely no knowledge of a particular style or for whatever reason just doesn’t like it, and the musician being reviewed suffers for it. That’s not a knock of the critic, because I’ve certainly been assigned reviews of discs that I had a hard time reviewing, but the inclusion of some kind of list that runs off what critic’s are into would add further transparency in jazz criticism.
Critics are biased just like everybody else, and although it would be hard to justify the added room in magazines to accomodate such a list, especially given the tough economic situation for print music magazines, it would, I think, be beneficial for the particular magazine, their writers, the musicians they review, the magazine’s readers and jazz discourse in general.