Many years ago I was spending a quiet Saturday afternoon inside a music listening room at my high school. There were shelves jammed with old record albums in there along with a turntable and a set of headphones. For a young music buff who was just discovering jazz that was my version of heaven.
As I riffled through the stacks I discovered a pile of ten inch, 33 1/3 RPM platters from the 1950's. I cued up a record called "Jazz from Storyville" and as I sank into the vibe that was emanating from those waxy grooves I perused the liner notes. They had been written by a guy named Nat Hentoff. I made a mental note: this cat knows his jazz.
Years went by. I kept seeing his name on liner notes and on essays. I became an admirer of his prose. Many years later I had an opportunity to interview him on the radio. I did not pass up that chance. By then I had recognized that Nat Hentoff was one of our great cultural critics. He was an expert on jazz and the First Amendment. He was also a bit of a gadfly. The man could take some controversial stands.
He was unpredictable and difficult to categorize. One moment he could sound like a liberal. Or, a progressive. The next moment he might sound libertarian or even conservative. And he could always justify his views.
Nat Hentoff died recently. He was 91. I have heard from a number of listeners who have expressed their delight that we dipped into the archives to dust off this little gem. If you haven't heard it yet prepare yourself for a journey inside a brilliant mind. Not mine. Nat Hentoff could be a bit of a curmudgeon but he was always articulate. This interview is truly "the Best of the Book Nook."
The Book Nook on WYSO is made possible by five local library systems in southwest Ohio: the Greene County Public Library, Washington-Centerville Public Library, Clark County Public Library, Dayton Metro Library, and Wright Memorial Public Library.