"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” according to one widely-held maxim.
Many people do think the only way to experience music is to hear it. Yet the vast majority of listeners read about it first – in previews, reviews, analyses, even poetry and fiction – so “writing about music” obviously has its place.
It’s a specialized craft, occasionally even an art, practiced by hordes of on-line fans and distinguished in the work of relatively few. But when done well, it can illuminate the music and offer insights that apply to other disciplines, and to writing as a whole.
GRAMMY® Award-winning journalist Neil Tesser has reviewed, reported on, and broadcast jazz in Chicago for 40 years. Jazz writer for the Chicago READER from 1973-2008, and author of The Playboy Guide to Jazz (Plume Books), he was Playboy's jazz critic from 1991-2002 and the first jazz reviewer for USA Today. He has also served as a monthly columnist for Jazziz Magazine and jazz critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, and from 2010-2012 contributed to the “Chicago” section of the New York Times. He most recently covered the local jazz scene for the web sites Examiner.com and Chicagomusic.org.
Tesser has authored liner notes for almost 400 albums, receiving an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award and, in 2013, the GRAMMY for his notes to John Coltrane’s Afro-Blue Impressions. His articles have appeared in such publications as The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Downbeat, and many others. He has written chapters for the anthologies Jazz: The First Century (Morrow, 2000), The Oxford Companion To Jazz (Oxford, 2000), and Discover Jazz (2011). He edited Learning To Listen, the autobiography of famed vibraphonist Gary Burton, which was published in September 2013.
Tesser has taught jazz history at Northwestern University, Columbia College in Chicago, and University of Illinois, Chicago. On radio, he hosted jazz programming at WBEZ from 1979-1996, and most recently co-hosted and produced the jazz review-commentary-interview program “Listen Here!” (2005-2008), syndicated on some 100 public radio stations. He is the first winner of the Jazz Journalists Association’s “Willis Conover Award” for excellence in broadcasting. He is a board member of the Jazz Institute of Chicago and a charter member of the programming committee for the Chicago Jazz Festival. Tesser has also been active in the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, serving on several national committees and as Vice Chair of that organization’s Board of Trustees during its 50th anniversary celebration.
In 2015 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jazz Journalists Association; he had previously received that organization’s first Willis Conover Award for excellence in broadcasting.
Neil will be accepting manuscripts for critique. Please click here to submit your manuscript critique request.
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