The Literary City

Finding The Bebop With Jazz Writer Scott Yanow

June 01, 2022 Explocity Podcasts Season 1 Episode 23
The Literary City
Finding The Bebop With Jazz Writer Scott Yanow
Show Notes Chapter Markers

My guest today is Scott Yanow—one of the best known and most prolific jazz reviewers.

Writing about jazz is special, because of the dynamic and fluid nature of the music. There is a basic melody in jazz…but only to begin with. The musicians, in their solos, interpret that melody and its underlying harmonic structure.

And always, and without exception, that interpretation is different every time a jazz soloist plays.

Here’s an analogy for jazz beginners.

Classical music, for instance, is like a play. The lines are written for the actors, who must use their skill to bring out the drama in the lines. But it’s always the same lines, the same words.

Jazz is like scintillating conversation. You don’t say the same thing twice—for the sake of your friends I hope you don’t. And how interesting you are depends on how much you know, and how well you say it.

So, you see what I mean when I say that writing jazz reviews merits its own skill.

Speaking of skill, Scott Yanow has authored 12 books, written over 20,000 recording reviews and over 900 liner notes. (Liner notes are those descriptive passages that accompany an album.)

He has also written artist biographies and press releases for record labels, public relations firms and individual artists. And most easily accessible, he has written hundreds of summaries for

Scott doesn’t tire easily. And simply listening to him describe a typical day is enough to make most of us pine for a vacation.

As I said earlier, it’s all about how much you know and how well you say it. Scott Yanow knows a lot and says it in an unpretentious, direct and honest writing style.

And now he joins us from his home near Los Angeles.

Scott Yanow was born in New York and grew up near Los Angeles. He became the jazz editor for Record Review, a now-legendary music magazine. Yanow has written for Jazz Times, Cadence, Coda, The Mississippi Rag, Jazz Forum, Jazz News, The Jazz Report, Planet Jazz, Jazz Now, Jazz Improv and other significant jazz magazines. He contributors to seven magazines: Downbeat, Jazziz, the NYC Jazz Record, the Los Angeles Jazz Scene, Jazz Artistry Now, the Jazz Rag and Syncopated Times.

Yanow has written 12 books on jazz: The Jazz Singers, The Great Jazz Guitarists, Jazz On Film  Duke Ellington, Swing, Bebop, Afro-Cuban Jazz, Classic Jazz, Trumpet Kings, Jazz: A Regional Exploration,  the massive Jazz On Record 1917-76 and most recently Jazz Through The Eyes Of A Jazz Journalist (My Jazz Memoirs).

Jazz Through The Eyes Of A Jazz Journalist:

Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in the segment "What's That Word?", where they discuss the origins of "jazz" and tell jazz jokes.

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