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Memorial Celebrates Storied Jazz Writer Nat Hentoff

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Nat Hentoff photo by Jemal Countess and WireImage
Dana Gioia, Chairman of the NEA with Jazz Masters Nancy Wilson, Tony Bennet, Geral Wilson, Ahmad Jamal, Roy Haynes, Curtis Fuller; Front Row Jimmy Heath, Toshiko Akiyoshi,George Wein, James Moody,Nat Hentoff, Jimmy Scott and Frank Wess; Back Rows: John Levy, Slide Hampton, David Baker, Phil Woods, Ramsey Lewis, Chico Hamilton, Billy Taylor, Buddy DeFranco, Dan Morganstern, Ornette Coleman, Barry Harris, and Frank Wess. Photo: Jemal Countess/WireImage

The life and work of the great jazz critic Nat Hentoff, who died in January, was celebrated in a memorial service on 24 February in New York, at St. Peter’s Church on Manhattan’s East Side.

The service included a performance of ‘Berkshire Blues’ by 90-year-old jazz pianist Randy Weston, who commented that the pair became friends in the Berkshires. There was also a rendition by young jazz piano player Joe Alterman of Errol Garner’s ‘Gaslight.’ During a panel discussion after the service, Alterman, who met Hentoff while the younger man was studying at NYU, said that the writer had told him that jazz “was the perfect representation of democracy.”

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The service had begun with a performance by Hentoff’s daughter Miranda and granddaughter Ruby of a song about a series of dreams that he had repeatedly as his health was failing last autumn. There were also addresses by free speech activists, reflecting Hentoff’s writing about politics.

As well as authoring many books about both jazz and politics, Hentoff wrote for the Village Voice in New York for more than 50 years. Anong his numerous achievements, he also produced records for such artists as Clark Terry and Charles Mingus and wrote the sleeve notes for 1963’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.

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