Sunday, January 25, 2009

'I'M NOT JUDGING YOU'

I promised to stop the exchange of dissenting opinions with drummer Leonard King, but a few days ago, I received a lengthy comment from Annette Wecker LeDuff about a blog I posted titled “Hitting After The Bell”. The post was my final response to King, who accepted the truce I proposed, but thought it necessary to call me a coward. In the comment, LeDuff, who sounds as if she an intelligent person defended Leonard and sort of tacitly criticized me for posting an unflattering review of the Lyman Woodard album release party. I’ve posted LeDuff’s comments chastising me, and my response.

Charles L. Latimer


Hello Charles,

I want to comment on the continuing blogs between you and Leonard King.
Since I’ve read your brief bio, it’s fair that I share a short summation of mine with you. I am a self-employed artist, gemologist, and jewelry designer and sales rep in telecommunications and IT. I have a Bachelor of Studio Arts from Oakland University and a Master of Fine Arts from Cranbrook Academy of Art. I like diversity, enjoy learning and sharing. I really do like people and culture.I happened across your blog while doing an image search of Detroit musicians.

You’ve posted some terrific photos. I didn’t notice any photographic credits, however. Did I miss a citation reference on your site? If so, please tell me. Certainly as a professional, you understand the need to cite sources. Photographs aside, I have a different motivation for writing today.

I am writing in reference to your blog entitled “Lyman’s Huge Organ” (11-23-2008) and subsequent postings between you and Leonard King on the subjects of music and music criticism. Note plurality and the separation of the words by “and”: they are not the same thing, not even close.

Critiques were an integral part of my formal education in the arts, so I enjoy participation in a critique. Many people may not understand this because the meaning of the word "critique" has become misunderstood. Let me explain: A critique (from the original French and Greek, prior) is a skilled critical analysis of a work, performance, craft etc. Here the use of “crit” emphasizes the level of skill deployed in understanding, discussing and possibly providing a review of the work.

This terminology never demands a narrow or selective valuation of the work, and does not imply that the reviewer or participants in a critique must find fault in the work. The burden of quality lies on the shoulders of the critic, not the presenter. Thus, the role of the critic should demand a great (possibly greater) knowledge of what is needed for a successful presentation.

Understanding this, Leonard King was not out of place when he suggested that you study and play music. He was telling you that you should consider the original intent of the production (CD release party) which was conceived, developed and produced by Leonard King. You never conceded that you overlooked the original intent of the production. By doing this, you invalidated your critique.You argued that you did not need to be a musician because you are a critic. The

Online Etymology Dictionary has a wonderful quotation supporting their definition of the word critic:"A perfect judge will read each work of witWith the same spirit that its author writ;"[Pope, "An Essay on Criticism," 1709]Summation: A critic employs his/her skills of observation and understanding of a craft, work or art, always keeping in mind the ORIGINAL INTENT of creation in order to provide a valuable analysis of that which was presented.

A valuable critique should provide the one whose work was criticized with options or suggestions for improving the presented work without significantly changing his/her original intent. If there is no consideration for the original intent, it is not a critique, but merely a suggestion of an alternative choice. There is quite a difference.

I think it was unnecessary for you to discuss Leonard’s spelling or grammar mistakes in his email to you. You did comprehend what was intended in his email, didn’t you? He does not claim to be a writer or critic. Fair Warning! My husband jokes that I must be a reincarnated English teacher. I did happen to notice that there were significantly more spelling and grammar mistakes in your blogs than Leonard’s, but I wasn’t counting.

They were simply more apparent and significant since writing is your profession. Example: ban NOT band; banned NOT banded. Just as you believe that open criticism is fair when applied to professional musicians, grammatical criticism is fair when applied to professional writers.You do have a right to call yourself a critic and I support your right.

There are no legal or educational requirements in our society to prevent this. One may state critic as a vocation or avocation without the need for proof. Is “critic” ever listed in a checklist of hobbies? A lot of people could check that box and some really enjoy it. That should qualify. After all, music is listed as a hobby in checklists.I know that you write that you “love jazz”, but that is not necessary for you to establish yourself as a critic of jazz. After all, there are many people employed in occupations that they simply don’t like. Who would question it? My point is that a good writer should be able to write about anything, even if he/she doesn’t like it.

Quality is only limited by the writer’s skill level, not his emotional involvement. You don't have to "love" to clean to do a good job scrubbing the floor.All We Need is LoveI am not a critic, and I am not judging you. You've convinced me that you ARE really interested in jazz. I think that you are sincere.

I have a little trouble with the “I Love Jazz” statement though. Many people state their "Love" for a person, an activity or a thing. “Love” is meant to be a positive emotion, but “Love” is often misunderstood and “Love” can be very damaging. Too much “Love” could smother or kill that thing that you “Love.” Couples fall in “Love” but a few years later, divorce. I just don’t think that “Loving” something justifies anything including criticism of that object of affection. These are not semantics, just truths. Now pull up a chair and get comfortable.Let’s discuss your blog “Lyman’s Huge Organ” which takes the form of a letter written to Lyman Woodard, whose CD release party did not meet your expectations.

I did not appreciate the title you selected for your blog: “Lyman’s Huge Organ”. (Yes, I know you wrote "Gibbs' Big Organ" prior to this.) Just as I am not a critic, I am not a psychiatrist, so I won’t presume your intent in selecting the title. A good writer selects a title with a specific intent. Please tell us, what did you intend when you selected these titles?The letter format seems inappropriate (I know it's your theme throughout your blog), as I didn’t see any evidence that you actually emailed Lyman Woodard, providing him an opportunity to reply.

It’s presumptuous to think that a person will read your blog about him/herself just because it is posted online.As to your displeasure of the CD Release Party, herein lies the problem: you came to Cliff Bell’s that night with a preconceived vision of jazz “a la Lyman Woodard” in the perfect, studious, purist jazz lover’s club paradise where all the audience quietly listens and the band features Lyman. You unfortunately gave yourself a handicap that affected the outcome. Your critique failed because you assigned your own values to the performance and the production. You were so displeased that you left after the first set, which was one-third, not one-half of the venue as you stated in your blog.

You elected to employ your critical experience and skill on a skewed, obscured and limited view of Leonard King’s production. On the positive side, I think it’s terrific that you have mellowed. I recall that you said you didn’t punch somebody out that night.(Do the math: one set of music = ?? OR three sets of music = full experience)I think that your decision to write your critique on one set is irresponsible. Even great “A List” musicians are known to “warm up” on the first set and really kick it after that. You should know this. In A Different WorldIf we knew each other, you could have called me the following day (after 11 a.m. because it was a late night for me!) I could then share my observations and impressions of the remaining two-thirds of the evening that you missed.

I am not a critic, but just imagine. Go with me on this, Charles. I was at Cliff Bell’s that night one hour earlier than the first set started, and I left one hour later than the last set ended. That call could have changed it all. You would have been appropriately equipped to skillfully employ your critic’s craft and finesse your analysis of the Lyman Woodard CD Release Party at Cliff Bell’s. Your blog would be the text version of my photos.

Cool!If you called, I would have emailed you some of the photos that I took that evening. I just looked at my folder entitled “Lyman Woodard Organization 11-22-2008”. After editing, the folder is pared down to 387 photos. I trashed the rest in editing. I’m an amateur photographer but I do have a Master in Fine Arts so I think some of my photos are pretty good. Fond memories do alter our perception and I have some good musical memories of the evening.

I will admit that perhaps not all 387 photos are good. I can accept that.I’ve decided to upload more of these photos onto my husband’s music myspace so that you, your readers and music lovers on the internet may enjoy them. (Link: Jerry LeDuff Music http://www.myspace.com/jerryleduffmusic)

I'll do this tonight, so look for them tomorrow.Perhaps my online pictorial documentation will outweigh the negativity of your blog. The photos provide truthful insight into the exciting, creative, wonderful and HISTORICALLY SIGNIFICANT evening at Cliff Bell’s. The place was packed, people were standing close together and the crowd was really pleasant. Sorry you couldn’t stay. You missed a great party and really great music.
“A picture’s worth a thousand words…”Sincerely, Annette Wecker LeDuff

Mrs. LeDuff,

Would I be wrong to assume you and Leonard King are friends, or you’re one of his admirers? I ask because you’ve taken his side. I’m glad Leonard has a fan willing to defend him. He can’t do so without name-calling. Yes, I love jazz music, and that’s partly why I'm qualified to write about jazz music and jazz musicians. During my career as a jazz journalist, I’ve interviewed and written articles about such jazz greats as Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Horace Silver, Kenny Garrett, Branford Marsalis and Regina Carter. Those accomplished musicians wouldn’t have given me the time of day if they suspected I didn’t love music just as much as they do.

Mrs. LeDuff, whenever I criticize a jazz musician their initial reaction is to question my credentials. Then they ask if I can play music. No I can't play an instrument, and it shouldn't be mandatory a jazz journalist or critic should know how. My stellar track record writing about the jazz greats I mentioned qualifies me to tell the reads of I Dig Jazz, and the people who read my articles in the Metrotimes why I like or dislike the music I’m invited to hear, or that I pay for. If I love a performance or an album, I explain why. If I hate a performance or an album, I'll say why. It’s that simple, and my readers trust I’ll give them an honest assessment of what I hear.

There’re a few things about my blog I should explain. The photos I used I normally upload from Google, Ask, and Yahoo. Most of the time, the photos I select don’t name the photographers. When I use a photo and I know the photographers’ name, I credit him or her. Lately, most of the blogs I write in the form of a letter because doing so is easier for me to express myself. I know some of my reader’s get it, and others don’t. Most of my blogs are positive. I’ve praised more albums and concerts than I’ve trashed. My blogs are honest, and I know I’ll hurt some musician's feelings although that’s never my intent. Also, Mrs. LeDuff, I try hard to make sure my blogs have no misspelled words, misspelled names, and any grammatical mistakes. Occasionally, a few mistakes slip by. Fortunately, I have grammar savvy readers who’re won’t hesitate to point out mistakes. I appreciate those readers.

You should know, I pointed out Leonard’s misspellings and grammatical errors because he lambasted me when I misidentified a jazz musician. Leonard tried to use the mistake as proof I’m ill equipped to write about jazz. I thought Leonard’s statement was ridiculous. That’s like me concluding Leonard is unqualified to be a jazz drummer because he played a wrong note.

Mrs. LeDuff, I standby my every blog I write, and I’ll fix any grammatical, spelling or factual mistakes. By the way, I fixed a handful of grammatical mistakes you made.( I’ve discovered It’s easier to catch other mistakes. Would you agree?). I’m sure you’ll welcome my help given how quickly you pointed out my typos.

I didn’t criticize the album release party because I dislike Leonard. He promoted the event as the Lyman Woodard album release party. I felt mislead because Woodard only played once, and Leonard hogged the spotlight. Yes the place was full, but I wondered how many people came to hear the music, and how many were there just hanging out. I stood near the bandstand. I was next to the woman selling Lyman’s albums. The crowd behind me, at the bar and in the adjoining room was loud and disinterested. I wasn’t the only person to split after the first set.

Charles
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