Profiles of the artists who create New York City's vibrant cultural landscape
Renowned jazz critic Whitney Balliett loves New York. A longtime columnist and critic for the New Yorker, he has written about the city's artistic side and night life for fifty years. In many ways his writings have helped define the culture of a metropolis where artistic activity is a major attraction.
In New York Voices Balliett moves beyond the portraits of jazz artists for which he is most famous to write biographies of fourteen gifted people from abroad and around the United States. They settled in New York, celebrated it, and rose to the top of their professions. Each of these portraits focuses on an individual who makes a living in the arts and whose work contains a strong improvisational element. As with the best jazz musicians, many of these individuals work with live audiences and without a safety net.
Those portrayed include nightclub owners Barney Josephson, Bradley Cunningham, and Max Gordon; comedians Jackie Mason and Bob and Ray; painter Jon Schueler; entrepreneur, writer, and director Julius Monk; and Lola Szladits, who oversees the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library.
Whitney Balliett wrote for the New Yorker for fifty years and was the jazz critic there for over forty years. He is the author of many books, including American Musicians II: Seventy-one Portraits in Jazz, American Singers: Twenty-seven Portraits in Song, and Collected Works: A Journal of Jazz, 1954-2001. He received an award for excellence in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and three of his books on jazz have won awards from ASCAP.
Photograph—Whitney Balliett, courtesy Jamie Balliett