Eight years ago today, this humble blog entered the world, with a tribute to Whitney Balliett, New Yorker jazz critic and a guiding light of-sorts to this site. Balliett’s fleet-fingered, quick-witted prose continues to amaze and inspire me in equal measures.
I’d like to think that Big Sid Catlett, Balliett’s favorite drummer–and perhaps favorite jazz musician, period–inspired the critic’s style. Certainly, both were fast and sharp, though Catlett’s fills were brasher and more abrupt than Balliett’s genteel, elegant style ever allowed itself to be. Catlett’s rhythms swagger, even in ballads. Balliett displayed confidence in his style by suggestion, sly asides, and subtle glances. It’s odd, come to think of it, that Balliett spent so much of his working life in nightclubs and backstages, among musicians and fellow night travelers, but I can’t recall a single instance of Balliett using a curse word in his prose.
That’s not to say he didn’t get the point across. Balliett’s prose is sexy and slinky; the raunch and fervor hide in plain sight. Catlett puts all that out front–it’s not that he can’t be subtle but that subtlety is beside the point. Maybe Balliett’s love of Catlett reveals something about the critic’s psyche. Maybe not.
Anyway, just as 28 March 2005 inaugurated a new beginning for me, so does the launch of Quiet Bubble’s ninth year. By this time next week, I’ll be living in Athens, Georgia, as I’ve taken an editorial position at the University of Georgia Press. I’ve spent 13 years–wonderful, infuriating, bittersweet, gracious years–in Jackson, Mississippi. And now it is time for a change, and a lovely, surprising one at that. Someone once called jazz the “sound of surprise.” The same could be said of life itself.