Sunday, September 13, 2009


Foto - esq/dir - Robert Goffin, Benny Carter, Louis Armstrong, Leonard Feather
British pianist,composer,producer and jazz critic Leonard Geoffrey Feather was born on Setptember 13,1914 ,in London,England, was best known for his music journalism and other writing.
His family was a strictly conformist upper-middle-class Jewish family. He learnt to play the piano and clarinet (though was not formally trained), and had started writing about jazz and film by his late teens.

At the age of twenty-one Feather made his first visit to the United States, and after working in the U.K. and the U.S. as a record producer finally settled in New York City in 1939, where he lived until moving to Los Angeles in 1960. Feather served as chief jazz critic for the Los Angeles Times until his death.

Feather's compositions have been widely recorded, including "Evil Gal Blues" and "Blowtop Blues" by Dinah Washington, and what is possibly his biggest hit, "How Blue Can You Get?" by blues artists Louis Jordan and B.B. King, and some of his own recordings as a bandleader are still available.

But it was as a writer on jazz (as a journalist, critic, historian, and campaigner) that he made his biggest mark: "Feather was for a long time the most widely read and most influential writer on jazz." Even jazz enthusiasts who didn't read his books and articles would have known him from the liner notes that he wrote for hundreds of jazz albums.

Leonard , always insisted that John Hammond was the most important of all jazz critics. That's not surprising if you recall that Feather, who was Hammond's junior by only four years, first made his way through the British jazz world in the early 1930s, when Hammond's articles in The Gramophone and Melody Maker were stirring the jazz waters as no English-speaking critic had or would again until Feather himself took up the sword for modern jazz in New York a decade later. Hammond encouraged him to make the move, in 1935; 20 years later, he helped midwife publication of Feather's Encyclopedia of Jazz. Yet it was also Hammond with whom Feather conducted the most vitriolic of several public feuds.

Feather invented the "blindfold test," originally for Metronome and then Down Beat, which copyrighted it - a sore point for him - and continues to publish it. Eventually, he took a revised and renamed version with him when he joined the staff of JazzTimes. The significance of the blindfold test greatly exceeds its entertainment value. It added a phrase to the language and a new dimension to the issue of critical authority, demonstrating that people often judged a work of art differently when they didn't know who signed it.

Over the decades, Feather embarrassed scores of musicians who thought that race and gender were audible, or that studio men can't improvise, or that big names are invariably identifiable. His test occasionally made news (one with Monk and several with Miles Davis leap to mind), or had a political edge, as when mainstreamers dumped on or defended the avant-garde. Which of us hasn't run the test on ourselves or friends?

Leonard Feather passed away on September 22,1994, nine days after his 80th birthday.

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