I sent him a private email, but I want to take this opportunity to thank Los Angeles Times jazz writer Don Heckman publicly for the tone and direction he set when moderating the “Jazz L.A.: The View from the West Coast” panel at the National Critics Conference. It is so easy to succumb to the lure of carping about the downside – whether about the lack of jazz in LA, or the lack of jazz coverage in the media, or even the diminishment of critical thought in the media – but he took the high road and enabled us all to focus on the positives. AllAboutJazz Editor Fred Jung spoke of the terrific mentoring that Los Angeles artists are doing with aspiring musicians. (By the way, this is something that the Jazz Journalists Association has recently begun doing with aspiring jazz writers). Titus Levi, a jazz economist* working at the Center for Cultural Innovation, pointed out that the isolationism caused by the geographic spread of Los Angeles has an upside – it breeds heightened identity and stronger networking. Another often lamented issue is the relative non-existence of jazz icons today; if that is true, Don suggested viewing it as an opportunity rather than a problem. His message (not verbatim) was clear: jazz is in a period of great opportunity – we should have an upbeat attitude and encourage our audiences.
*I’ve never heard of, let alone met, a jazz economist? I plan to talk more with Titus later this summer, and will report back.