Nat Hentoff R.I.P

When I was a teenager starting to buy my own jazz records, rather than borrowing my parents LPs or making cassette tapes of my siblings, my father took note and bought me a copy of Nat Hentoff’s Jazz Is. I read it and reread it almost immediately. He was capable of lionizing jazz greats *and* analyzing them. I was fascinated as previously I had thought that the act of scrutiny inherently reduced the subject. It made me want to write like that too.
About 25 years later, I began writing for the Wall Street Journal, I knew that Hentoff wrote for the same section of the paper but I couldn’t imagine that he might read my pieces. Then about two years into my time there, my editor emailed me the day a review of mine ran, and I cringed. I feared I’d botched a detail. Nope, my editor was writing to convey Hentoff’s praise. Then about a year later, it happened again, and a couple of years later, again.

Each instance put me on cloud nine for weeks, but what also impressed me was which articles he commented upon. The stories about Sonny Rollins or Duke Ellington, artists that Hentoff had written beautifully about, weren’t the ones that impressed him. He was a big fan of the 2004 story about the then up-and-coming Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa. He liked the 2009 article about Mary Halvorson, Taylor Ho Bynum, Jessica Pavone and Tomas Fujiwara. In other words, his ears were still open and eager for information on new music. It made me that much more interested in finding new and exciting musicians. Impressing my editors wasn’t easy, but impressing Nat, now that was the gold standard.
Nat’s gone now, but I’m not going to stop trying to impress him. That’s what Jazz Is, right? He taught me with his words and his actions.




About jmartin437

I've worked in and around the world of high end cheese for 27 years. I've been everything from a department manager who hired and fired and trained staffs to a weekend warrior who shows up ties on an apron the middle of a rush and talks to customers and cleans up the place. I enjoy it all, and I especially like my current situation conducting informal seminars about cheese at area bars and in class at the 92nd St. Y. The current schedule is always up at In addition I conduct private events that are perfect to lead off birthday parties for foodies and sommeliers and also they make great entertainment for corporate team building events and associates meetings at law firms. In addition, I've been a freelance journalist for 27 years. Currently my profiles of leading musicians and filmmakers appear in the Wall Street Journal and I also wrote about sports for the Root, and for five loooong years, which included the entirety of the Isiah Thomas Knicks era, I wrote about the NBA for the New York Sun. I enjoyed writing about basketball so much that I now do it here at rotations for free.
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