by Bert Vuijsje
Factual Accuracy in Jazz Interviews
from Jazz Notes 9/1 1997Copyright © 1997, Bert Vuijsje
In a recent issue of the British magazine Rubberneck (about improvised music and contemporary literature) I read the following editorial statement: "If you find mistakes in this magazine, please remember that they are there for a purpose. We try to publish something for everyone, and some people are always looking for mistakes."
As a jazz trivia fanatic I plead guilty on the last count, and my wishes were promptly satisfied by the latest issue of Hennessy Jazz Notes (Winter 1996). In the "Gimme Five. . . ." section, editor Michael Bourne asks Benny Golson which five records he would take along to the proverbial desert island. For Golson, one album would do: Blue 'n' Boogie and Walkin' by Miles Davis, with Thelonious Monk playing piano. It was a 10-inch LP, one track each side. "That was epochal for me. I told my wife to play that at my funeral."
In that case, the mourners will wait in vain for a Monk solo. On the Prestige LP182 - Walkin' and Blue 'n' Boogie by the Miles Davis sextet, recorded April 29, 1954 - it's Horace Silver playing the piano, not Thelonious Monk.
It's a problem as old as the craft of jazz interviewing: what to do when a musician is wrong about the facts? From reading Michael Bourne's work, I know him as a knowledgeable jazz journalist. So it's hard for me to believe that he never realized, during or after the interview, that Golson must have confused Walkin' and Blue 'n' Boogie with the Bags Groove session (Miles, Monk & Milt) that was recorded for Prestige eight months later. Bourne probably decided to let the authenticity of his Golson quote stand. As a Dutch jazz journalist who has done, over the years, interviews with such historical figures as Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Gil Evans, Bill Evans, Charles Mingus and Sun Ra, I still adhere to the puritanical school: never knowingly publish factual inaccuracies. Otherwise, you run the risk that they will go on to lead a life of their own. The jazz literature of the past century contains too much misinformation already.
But that's just my view. How do other JJA members feel about this?