Capturing the moving target of jazz and its artists, one at a time: Ron Netsky's Jazz Snapshots
November 20, 2022
In the years since I moved to Rochester from Chicago, I've enjoyed reading (and often linking to) Ron Netsky's articles in Rochester's City Newspaper profiling the jazz musicians or groups playing at the Rochester International Jazz Festival, various programs at the Eastman School of Music, The Bop Shop, the former Exodus to Jazz series of concerts, and other venues around Rochester. So, it was great to receive a copy of Ron's new book, Jazz Snapshots, which assembles over 150 of those articles behind a cool cover by Rochester artist David Cowles, whose work you'll recognize from RIJF posters. As Ron describes the thought behind the title in the Introduction to the book:
The title is based on the premise that I wrote about these musicians at particular points in their careers and short articles are far from complete pictures. They are, rather, snapshots of moving targets. Every life is full of twists and turns; jazz musicians don't even know where their next solo is going.
The profiles and interviews in Jazz Snapshots include giants of jazz, major U.S. and international jazz artists from ragtime to straight-ahead to avant-garde who have played in Rochester over the years (some of whom have ties to Rochester), and some of the local jazz musicians who you love to go out to hear throughout the year. These thoughtful "snapshots" are not "so-and-so has played with X, Y, and Z" profiles, but rather dig much deeper into the artists to reveal more about who they are and and their craft. Ron sets out a few examples from the book of these revelations in the sheet he included with the book, like Ron Carter talking about his delight in making saxophonists inhale, McCoy Tyner recalling the moment John Coltrane decided to record My Favorite Things, and Cécile McLorin Salvant explaining why she doesn't mind making audiences squirm. There are many more.
The nearly 500 pages of articles are mostly arranged by instrument (you all have your favorites...) and then chronologically once you are in a category, noting where they were playing at the time. Ron also provides a few miscellaneous articles on artists who don't quite fit the other categories (like Tom Lehrer) and from genres that have always had a close association with jazz like blues, R&B, and soul. After publishing JazzRochester for so many years, it reminded me that Rochester had provided me the opportunity to hear so many (if not most) of these artists play. I'm looking forward to re-reading many of these articles. If you have a favorite article (either from the book or City), leave a comment on this post.
You can buy Jazz Snapshots and check out some of the book in print or Kindle by selecting the Amazon links underneath the cover image in this post. Full disclosure, if you choose to purchase the book after clicking the "Buy" link, JazzRochester may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you or the author.
Ron Netsky is currently a Professor and the Director of the Studio Art Undergraduate Program at Nazareth College (or should I say "University"?) and still writes occasionally for City about music.