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Dan Morgenstern Studies

Dan's Record Reviews while Senior Editor at DownBeat magazine offer an excellent chance to hear and read contemporary criticism about jazz recording artists in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. In addition, his Eight Grammys for jazz record album liner notes are the ultimate "Primary Source" for the study of Jazz Journalism and scholarship. He shaped the way we hear and think about Jazz, and mentored generations of writers, educators, and musicians,
"DAN MORGENSTERN is the head traffic controller of jazz history... he is the one with the map of the universe. He knows who knows what." -  BEN RATLIFF

A student of literary criticism can benefit from Dan's writings in his approach to jazz, and in turn the student gains insight into all arts reviewing, whether film, concerts, plays, theatre, art exhibition, dance, architecture, and all forms of music.

In order to utilize this site for research, read the Research Techniques on How To Use this Site. Then follow the examples to see how to cross reference on large and small scales.

A typical class project:

1. Find a vinyl LP album cover that interests you on Album Covers - Record Reviews.

2. Click to see links to the music and histories of the artists, bands, and locations.

3. Write your own review.

4. Ask yourself:

  • How is this different from today's music?
  • What makes this artist a national recording artist?
  • What do you like about his playing?
  • What don't you like?
  • Do you know what to listen for in jazz improvisation

Since 1958, Dan Morgenstern has written extensively about virtually every major jazz artist and their recordings. His album liner notes are legendary— diligently imparting details about musicians and their art in a writing style that's both inviting and informative. Few can match Dan's deft ability to educate and entertain. I think it's fair to say that his album liner notes rise to the same level of creative intensity and delight as the artists he's writing about. 

You always know more when Dan is guiding you through the music.

The trick, Dan says, is blending the right mix of biographical information with overlooked details about the music you're listening to. In effect, Dan specializes in storytelling, which is all but a lost art in any form of writing today.

Dan writes, "As a writer, the most important challenge I face is to say something that will enhance the listeners’ enjoyment of the music. The key is the right mix of biographical and musical information and what’s taking place on the recordings. For the biographical section, I like to write about what the artist was doing at the time the recordings were made. As for the performances, I always try to write about things that the listener might not immediately notice.  I often do quite a bit of research on the artist and the moment in time when the recordings were made."

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