Sonny Rollins Talks Jazz Criticism: “It’s important to be written about”

Arts critics and journalists on occasion are maligned by artists, who might be bristling at negative reviews or complaining about what’s been written — often times journalists’ work is fair, if sometimes it’s ill-informed. At any rate, it’s refreshing to hear a great artist offer words of appreciation for those whose job it is to write about and review music and other forms of performing and visual arts.

Sonny Rollins recently provided just that type of feedback for Bret Primack, aka the Jazz Video Guy, in an interview conducted for the Jazz Journalists Association. Rollins was recently named “Emeritus Jazz Artist: Beyond Voting” in the 2013 JJA Awards.

“Critics and journalists sometimes, depending on the level of the critics, they say things which are instructive, Rollins says. “Sometimes … (they) might just say things that you might know better than they do. Is it a knowledgeable journalist? Is it a knowledgeable critic?

“It’s important to be written about … They may be good, they just need a few words in the New York Times or NPR. So they (critics) have a tremendous amount of power … I feel that jazz needs to be propped up and there’s many jazz artists who need to be extolled, their artistry. Jazz needs to be held up. It’s not revered in our society like it should be. I have learned from critiques, perhaps though not what the critic was intending.

Rollins goes on to sing the praises of jazz critics, living and dead, including Leonard Feather, Whitney Balliett, Ralph J. Gleason, and Marc Myers.

The full clip is here:

For more information on the Jazz Journalists Association (I’m a member), visit

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