Sometimes the road ahead is simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time…and knowing the right people. Back in the spring of 2000, with my illustrious public-relations career at an impasse after BMG Classics eliminated almost everyone in the department, I got an interesting offer from Larry Blumenfeld, then the editor in chief of Jazziz magazine.
Jazziz was and is based in Palm Beach County, Florida, but Larry worked from New York City, coordinating his labor with another editor, R. Dante Sawyer, down at the home office. The magazine, which started out as a smooth-jazz-friendly vehicle and always retained a place for commercial sounds, flourished under Blumenfeld and Sawyer. Major articles on artists like John Zorn, David S. Ware and Dave Douglas became newly prominent under their watch.
The reason Larry approached me in 2000 was that Dante was leaving Jazziz, en route to India and a spiritual trek. Would I be interested in taking on his position as associate editor of Jazziz, with the understanding that Larry himself would be leaving the company in four months' time?
The answer, of course, was yes. Not just any magazine editor would have taken a former publicist on board as an editor. But Larry, who'd done P.R. work himself in the past, had been assigning me freelance pieces for some years by the time he hired me outright, and trusted my objectivity. Having been laid off by BMG, I was unemployed only for a single weekend.
This, then, was my bridge back to journalism, from which I'd stepped away in 1993 for the sole reason of finding my way to and in New York City. Larry was a terrific colleague and guide, and I got to work with some extraordinary writers: among them Neil Tesser, Steve Dollar, Harvey Pekar, Ed Hazell, Steve Futterman, Lee Jeske and a new face on the scene, Lara Pellegrinelli.
Larry reasoned that when his time to depart arrived, Jazziz might invite me to stay on and perhaps even replace him. An invitation like that did actually come, with the stipulation that I'd have to relocate to Florida to take it. The notion was tempting, but I'd worked far too long and hard to get to New York in the first place; leaving after seven years didn't feel like a viable option. Happily, Billboard magazine came calling, and with it, a return to classical music after a five-year hiatus.
I bring all of this up not only as a wallow in pleasant nostalgia, but also because Lara and I are digging through piles of Jazziz back issues retrieved from an emptied-out storage unit, and I'm about to start posting some of my old odds and ends here for safe keeping and convenient retrieval.
Thanks for everything, Larry. And hey, does anyone know what became of Dante?