Whitney Balliett, Jazz Poet

We’ve had many great jazz critics and writers, but perhaps no one whose work rose to the literary, and even poetic, reaches of Whitney Balliett’s. Dan Morgenstern once called him “the greatest prose stylist to ever apply his writing skills to jazz.” In this podcast, we sample some of Balliett’s unique descriptions of the music of a handful of jazz masters.


“Blue Again” Louis Armstrong
“West End Blues” Louis Armstrong
“In a Mellow Tone” Ben Webster
“Fine & Mellow” Doc Cheatham
“Surrey With the Fringe on Top” Blossom Dearie
“Summertime” Sidney Bechet
“These Foolish Things” Lester Young
“Off Minor” Thelonious Monk
“Parker’s Mood” Charlie Parker

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Published December 29th, 2018 by Bob Hecht

One thought on “Whitney Balliett, Jazz Poet”

  1. I read a very thick collection of Whitney Balliet’s Jazz musings and reviews. It was a fascinating and evocative time capsule of music – reading about now established superstars when they were just arriving on the scene, following notable newcomers who made a big splash and then for whatever reason left much too soon, getting a sense of the electricity of the festivals and the folks who provide the juice. Balliet’s prose stems from a man who is truly in love with music and with words.

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