Introduction

What is The New Yorker? I know it’s a great magazine and that it’s a tremendous source of pleasure in my life. But what exactly is it? This blog’s premise is that The New Yorker is a work of art, as worthy of comment and analysis as, say, Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” Each week I review one or more aspects of the magazine’s latest issue. I suppose it’s possible to describe and analyze an entire issue, but I prefer to keep my reviews brief, and so I usually focus on just one or two pieces, to explore in each the signature style of its author. A piece by Ben McGrath is not like a piece by Jill Lepore, and neither is like a piece by Ian Frazier. One could not mistake Finnegan for Goodyear, or Filkins for Khatchadourian, or Bilger for Paumgarten. Each has found a style, and it is that style that I respond to as I read, and want to understand and describe.

Monday, May 29, 2017

May 22, 2017, Issue


Pick of the Issue this week is Fred Kaplan’s “Kind of New,” a profile of jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant. Reading it, I was astounded to learn that Salvant considers herself “not a natural performer.” For me, one of her most compelling qualities is her naturalness. I’m a huge fan of her singing, particularly her renditions of American Songbook classics like Richard Rodgers’ “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” and Henry Warren’s “I Only Have Eyes For You” (see my “Cécile McLorin Salvant: The Sound of Surprise,” March 10, 2013). In Kaplan’s piece, Salvant says of her brilliant accompanist, Aaron Diehl, “It was exciting to see somebody play Fats Waller with a fresh take yet very much in the spirit of the music. I’d been trying to do this for years—take something old and make it yours but still authentic—and here was someone who’d figured it out.” Take something old and make it yours but still authentic. That’s what Salvant does, too. Kaplan’s “Kind of New” is an arresting portrait of a truly original jazz artist. I devoured it.

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