PortFolio Weekly

PortFolio Weekly
January 6, 2004

Jazz Scene: Hentoff's Hats-off to Port Folio

by Jim Newsom

The January/February issue of JazzTimes arrived in my mail two days before Christmas. Like many publications this time of year, it’s the “Year in Review” issue, with picks for the top jazz CDs of 2003 and highlights of the year in music.

Every edition of JazzTimes closes with a “Final Chorus” column by Nat Hentoff, the father of jazz journalism, who’s written about the music for fifty years in Downbeat, the Village Voice, the New Yorker and many other publications. He’s also recognized as the foremost authority on the First Amendment and is a nationally renowned voice on the entire Bill of Rights, the judicial system and individual civil rights and freedoms. Hentoff writes a weekly syndicated column that is carried by 250 newspapers and alternative magazines including Port Folio Weekly.

In this month’s Final Chorus, headlined “Bringing Newspapers Into Jazz,” he begins by noting that “jazz does not appear to be covered regularly, if at all” in the publications that run his syndicated column. But, he says in the second paragraph, “in one of them, the Port Folio Weekly in Virginia Beach, Va. ---among its lively reporting and commentary on local and national politics and the arts---there is jazz reportage, about the area and beyond.”

He then spends the rest of his JazzTimes column talking about our little magazine and editor Tom Robotham. He quotes at length from the “Editor’s Notebook” that appeared in the August 12th Jazz Norfolk issue, in which Tom talked of his love for jazz and laid out his editorial philosophy in general: “It’s always been my belief that a good publication doesn’t simply give readers what they want, it brings readers into new worlds.”

Hentoff builds upon quotes from the column, then says, “I have to ask myself how many newspaper editors in the whole country are that hip?”

I happen to know that Nat Hentoff is one of Tom Robotham’s journalistic heroes. So, imagine how cool it is for one of your role models to quote you and tell the world to pay attention to what you have to say:

“This is Robotham’s credo: ‘My primary goals as a writer and editor are to heighten my own awareness of that richness---the music in ordinary life---and then pass on to you what I’ve witnessed. With that in mind, I hope you’ll continue to share your own insights.’

“It’s been my experience as a journalist,” Hentoff continues, “that editors are at least as competitive as reporters, and I would suggest to readers of this particular Final Chorus---who are in towns or cities where the newspapers hardly cover jazz---that they send to those in charge what the editor of Port Folio in Virginia Beach says about this role of an editor. And you might underline what Robotham says about jazz.”

As the guy who writes about jazz for this magazine, I want to say thanks to Nat Hentoff for recognizing what Tom and the rest of us are trying to do here. And as a new year dawns filled with opportunities for fresh starts and recommitments, let us do our damnedest to avoid becoming, in Tom’s words, “too distracted to fully immerse ourselves in new experiences and take the time to listen.”


Speaking of listening and experiencing, the Chrysler Museum continues to be the main venue in this region presenting live jazz in a listening environment on a regular basis. This month’s Wednesday Night Jazz lineup includes some heavy hitters of the local scene, with the Jim Newsom Quartet on January 14th, vocalist Charles Darden on the 21st, and the Jimmy Masters Trio on the 28th. The music runs from 6:15 until 8:45 every Wednesday in the Museum’s Huber Court.

Jimmy Masters also appears at the beautiful American Theatre in Phoebus on Saturday, January 17th, with a genre-hopping band called Orpheus, a group that includes amazing harp guitarist Stephen Bennett, folkie stringmaster Bill Gurley, pianist Jim Bennett and percussionist Larry Emanuel. It’s a benefit for Big Brothers/Big Sisters and gets underway at 8:00 pm.

The following week, Jimmy reunites with old pals John Toomey, Eddie Williams and Howard Curtis to resurrect Co-op Venture, a quartet that recorded a fine CD back in 1997. They’ll be gigging with this lineup for the first time in several years at the Williamsburg Regional Library on the 24th.

Russell Scarborough extends his Sunday night trio residency at Central 111 in Virginia Beach this month, and Woody Beckner will be at Kincaid’s each Friday and Brutti’s each Saturday in January.

Have a wonderful 2004, and don’t forget to support your local jazz musicians!

copyright © 2004 Port Folio Weekly. Used by Permission.