[Dixielandjazz] New York Times Obit - Famous Jazz CXritic

Ron L'Herault lherault@bu.edu
Wed, 28 Aug 2002 09:42:35 -0400

Wilson had very nice things to say about the New Black Eagle Jazz Band, a
number of years ago.

Ron L
----- Original Message -----
From: "Stephen Barbone" <barbonestreet@earthlink.net>
To: "Dixieland Jazz Mailing List" <dixielandjazz@ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Wednesday, August 28, 2002 9:35 AM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] New York Times Obit - Famous Jazz CXritic

> Having lived in New York City and a fan of John Wilson for many years, I
> am saddened to forward this report on his passing.
> Steve Barbone
> August 28, 2002 - New York Times
> John Wilson, Jazz Critic, Dies at 89
> John S. Wilson, the first critic to write regularly about jazz and
> popular music in The New York Times, died yesterday at a nursing home in
> Princeton, N.J. He was 89 and lived in Princeton.
> Mr. Wilson contributed to The Times for four decades and was a widely
> heard jazz radio host. He wrote about cabaret, pop, Latin music, comedy,
> the folk revival and early rock 'n' roll, but he was best known as a
> jazz critic. While his favorite music was the swing and traditional jazz
> he had grown up on, he listened to and wrote about a broad spectrum of
> popular music.
> When Mr. Wilson began writing about jazz, clubs lined 52nd Street and
> the bebop revolution was under way. He spent five nights a week at clubs
> and concert halls, on a beat that stretched from Greenwich Village to
> Harlem. In clubs like Basin Street East and Cafe Society he listened to
> stars from the big-band era and rising young boppers, satirists and
> chanteuses. His writing conveyed a genial connoisseurship of the music
> and a quiet authority that made him widely respected among both
> musicians and listeners. The saxophonist Sonny Rollins named "John S.,"
> a tune on one of his most important albums, "The Bridge," after Mr.
> Wilson.
> In a review of one of his favorite pianists, Ellis Larkins, Mr. Wilson
> wrote: "His playing is the epitome of effortlessness. His fingers seem
> barely to make contact with the keys, yet as he brushes by them with the
> flip of a finger, the music emerges with simplicity and clarity."
> Writing about the style of a Chicago jazz clarinetist named Frank
> Teschemacher, Mr. Wilson observed, "He played with wild swoops and
> headlong daring that led him into theoretically wrong notes that he
> turned into triumphs."
> John Steuart Wilson was born in Elizabeth, N.J., and attended the Newark
> Academy High School and then Wesleyan University. He earned his master's
> degree in journalism at Columbia University. During World War II he
> served in the Army and edited the base newspaper at Fort Dix, N.J., and
> later a military women's journal in Paris. After the war he returned to
> New York, where he was an entertainment editor, sports editor and
> columnist for the newspaper PM and the New York editor of Down Beat.
> He came to The New York Times in 1952 and was the newspaper's first
> critic covering popular music. In the 1950's and early 1960's he wrote
> about scenes as diverse as the mambo explosion at the Palladium and the
> folk coffeehouses of Greenwich Village. Later, as other popular-music
> critics joined him at The Times,he concentrated on jazz and cabaret. He
> appeared regularly in the newspaper until 1994.
> Mr. Wilson was married three times: to Catherine Beecher, briefly in the
> 1930's; to Susan Barnes, from 1950 until her death in 1981; and to Mary
> Moris Schmidt, whom he wed in 1983. She survives him, as do two sons
> from his second marriage, Gordon Barnes Wilson of North Adams, Mass.,
> and Duncan Hoke Wilson of Eaton, N.H. Also surviving are Ms. Schmidt's
> sons, Eric M. Schmidt of New York City and Aaron M. Schmidt of Boston
> and two grandchildren.
> Mr. Wilson wrote books on his favorite jazz eras. They include "The
> Collector's Jazz: Traditional and Swing" (J. B. Lippincott, 1958); "The
> Collector's Jazz: Modern" (J. B. Lippincott, 1959); and "Jazz: The
> Transition Years, 1940-1960" (Irvington, 1966). He wrote regularly for
> High Fidelity magazine and Video Review.
> Mr. Wilson also brought his fondness for jazz to radio listeners. He was
> a commentator on "The World of Jazz," a radio series on WQXR in New
> York, from 1954 to 1970. His program "Jazz Today" was broadcast on the
> Voice of America from 1971-89, and he was the host of "The Manhattan
> Jazz Hour" on American Public Radio in 1985-86. "John Wilson's Classic
> Jazz" was broadcast weekly on WQXR, from 1986 to 1993.
> Through his decades with The Times Mr. Wilson remained a freelancer. He
> said that he turned down offers of a staff position because it would
> mean having to attend meetings.
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