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Talking Jazz and Rock with Reuben Jackson

I had the (undeserved) privilege of being introduced to a poet and music lover who exceeds any ordinary music listener’s, and even most performer’s knowledge of groups, their influences, and their impact on music and life. Reuben Jackson is a curator, an archivist, and has long written and spoken about jazz. He was curator for the Smithsonian Jazz collection for 18 years, and so an invitation to speak to him was something not to pass up.

This year I’ve been teaching a new class (new to me) and naturally I’ve re-vamped it considerably from what I inherited. What does that mean? Homework for me. Research. Buckets of it. At least I can tell my students I’ve done at least 10 hours of homework a week. I hope they do too 😉

What you find below is the audio and the transcript of my talk with Reuben. Questions are in bold, so you can scroll through and pick the ones you are interested in. There are SO MANY names and references to people and works. I really do recommend you follow up on them and learn. Be a sponge. Challenge yourself – especially if you hadn’t considered crossing, and certainly not straddling the jazz / rock divide.

Enjoy! and huge thanks to Reuben for his generosity, both with his time and sharing his experiences and knowledge. For me it’s people and their living stories that make history come alive. (I also talked to Reuben about his upcoming book, and that segment will appear in another post)

Reuben Jackson Interview (with Laura Ritchie)

Tuesday 16, October, 2018


Good morning Felix Grant Jazz Archives.

-Hi, this is Laura Ritchie, I’m ringing for Reuben.

Yeah, hi, how are you?

-I’m very well. Thanks for making time to chat. And of course permission to share the call – I’m happy to transcribe it.

Oh absolutely. That’s fine.

-Thank you

Read More »Talking Jazz and Rock with Reuben Jackson

On being a Music Critic – Interview with Glenn Gamboa

I really like to learn and I really like to tell stories. Over the years I’ve learned to ask and to listen and more often than not, people are willing to tell you a bit of their story. Last night was no exception. I had the privilege of speaking with Glenn Gamboa, music critic for Newsday, a very well known paper based in New York. As a teacher at university, I lead a couple of classes that have to do either with popular music or with music criticism, and so this was a wonderful opportunity to gather real stories – the straight from the person evidence that supplements academic texts and historical documents.

Glenn chose the time and I stopped what I was doing to make the call. I happened to be by the seaside and if you listen closely, you can hear children playing behind the initial ringing sounds, and there is one moment when a runner and his dog go by. The evening bats overhead didn’t make a sound.

Both the interview and transcript are below. Glenn was incredibly generous with his time, and I know my students will be excited to listen and follow up by reading his work. After the recorded portion of the call, I asked for guidance as to which of his pieces my students should read (Glenn is a very  prolific writer). He suggested these for starters.

They represent a range of short and longer pieces. I am sure when you read them, you will notice the absolute breadth of knowledge, attention to detail, and sheer amount of careful craftsmanship that has gone into putting together each piece. Even though Glenn speaks with such openness and with easy-going fluidity about what he does, mastery takes thousands of hours of practice, as with any discipline. I was definitely aware that I was speaking to one of the masters of this craft. Thank you Glenn for sharing your time with us!

A telephone conversation between Newsday Music Critic Glenn Gamboa and Laura Ritchie, 5 October, 2018

[ringing sounds]

Newsday, this is Glenn.

-Hi ! This is Laura Ritchie in the UK

Hey Laura, how are you?

-I’m fantastic! So this is fantastic and thank you so much. First question before we say anything, can I record the call to share with my students?

Oh sure, definitely.

-Thank you! So, you’ve been a music critic for a very long time.

…a very long time [laughs]

-No but seriously- for years and years, you’ve seen change that’s been unprecedented actually- gosh, I can’t even imagine. Will you tell me a bit about some of it?

Sure- Should I talk about how things are different now than they were 5 years ago?

-Absolutely.Read More »On being a Music Critic – Interview with Glenn Gamboa

Connecting Classes

(3 min read) I have been preparing to participate in Jonathan Worth‘s initiative Connected Classes, or #CClasses on Twitter.

Wait, you say-

Laura, you’re not a photographer? What’s your music class doing connecting with Jonathan’s?

Let me explain…

Jonathan initially devised a way of teaching that allowed students to remain individuals, yet also be a part of a class group, and even a wider global community. He would record part of his #Phonar class content, like an interview with a practitioner in that field, and then when it came to the class everyone would listen to the interview. How does that broaden the learning horizon? It’s how Read More »Connecting Classes