Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Drummer Leonard KingW. Kim Heron my editor at the Metrotimes, a weekly newspaper in Detroit, MI, forwarded me a nasty email drummer Leonard King wrote me. The drummer was upset about a blog I posted, criticizing organist Lyman Woodard's album release party, which King organized and hosted.

The blog hurt the drummers feelings. In retaliation, King has banned me from his future concerts. His reaction shocked me. Most Detroit jazz musicians have thick skin, but apparently, the drummer is sensitive.

Normally, I ignore unconstructive remarks about my blogs. I Dig Jazz reader's are entitled to their opinions, and I standby what I post. In 2007, when I began I Dig Jazz blog page, I vowed to be forthright. If a musician makes a great album or gives an amazing concert I'll praise him; if a musician plays terribly I'll report that.

I replied to King's remarks. I tried to convince him because I gave the Lyman Woodard album release together thumbs down, and thrashed a date he did with saxophonist James Carter, two years ago, at the Detroit Institute of the Arts weren't personal attacks. I hope someday King will understand that, and lift the band he imposed. Those readers who're interested in Kings remarks and my reply, I've posted the exchange for your consumption.

Dear Charles,

Please do not attend more live performance's of mine, especially when I am the bandleader. The recent CD release party Cliff Bell's (November 22) was MY production--not YOURS. All of the musicians were in harmony with each other that evening and we weren't there to satisfy the type of evening YOU felt it should have been. It was exactly the kind of evening I wanted it to be, you dig? Don't proclaim yourself to be a lover of music--jazz or otherwise, because you're too damn cynical to understand what it means to be a musician. As I enter my 49th year as a professional musician--starting at age 12--and less than 45 days shy of my 61st birthday, my suggestion to you is to learn how to play an instrument--WELL--then get on the bandstand with me so I can MUSICALLY kick your sorry ass.

Dear Leonard,

You are a jazz musician. I am a jazz journalist. It's your job to make music, and it's my obligation to tell my readers why I love or dislike what you create. Being a critic is an ugly occupation. I'm not trying to solicit sympathy. It's the path a chose. I expected flak from the musicians I've criticized.

You're right, Leonard. I'm cynical. You're not the first to recognized that. Cynicism is a characteristic, unfortunately, I can't change. Believe me. I've tried.

Occasionally, Leonard, I must write unflattering blogs about jazz musicians I genuinely respect. You're one of them. If a musician had an off night, I'll report that. If he had a great set, I'll praise him.

I've hit you and organist Gerard Gibbs belong the belt. Gibbs is a competent organist a la Dr. Lonnie Smith and Richard "Groove" Holmes. I dislike Gibbs when he plays the piano because he squanders a lot of energy trying to emulate pianists Craig Taborn and DD Jackson. You may wonder what qualifies me to conclude that. After all, you and Gibbs are accomplished.

I love jazz unconditionally, Leonard. Over the years, I've interviewed plenty A-list swingers such as Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Horace Silver, Branford Marsalis, Kenny Garrett, Regina Carter, Rene' Marie, Joe Lovano, Joshua Redman and James Carter. I'm not just name dropping. I've actually learned the trade interviewing and writing about those jazz musicians. I'm comfortable informing the people who read my blogs.

Leonard, I've only criticized you twice. Once when you performed with saxophonist James Carter at the Detroit Institute of the Arts in 2007. In December, I wrote a harsh blog about organist Lyman Woodard album release party organized, and hosted. During the first set, Woodard only played once.

You never explained why. I had high expectations. You hogged the spotlight and wasted too much time reminiscing. The gig seemed like a benefit.

Yes, my reviews were harsh. I wasn't picking on you. Honestly, I think you're a topnotch jazz drummer, and I like your albums. I understand if you find that hard to believe.

Your OOPAPDA albums are divine, and "Extending the Language" is a sweet and listenable free-jazz date. I enjoyed your solos. At the 2005 Detroit International Jazz Festival, I chatted with Gibbs. I praised each player on James Carter's live offering Out of Nowhere. The albums is impeccable.

Leonard, I'll never grant immunity to a jazz musician because he's from Detroit, and has an impressive resume'. I know the obstacles you face trying to make ends meet playing the drums. As a music journalist I face similar challenges.

I hate you've banned. Critics often alienate, and are unjustly punished. Fashion designer Giorgio Armani, for instance, banned Cathy Horyn, the New York Times' fashion critic, from his runway shows because Horyn once wrote Armani showed a sub-par collection. Critics aren't obligated to turn the other cheek.

Leonard, I've never derived any pleasure criticizing. I've a job to perform, and my reader's expect me to be candid and honest. Maybe one day soon we'll put the bad blood behind us, and make amends.

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