When my older daughter would come home from her brainwashing sessions at college, she would argue with me about the art and music classes that she took. “Art doesn’t have objective standards. You can’t judge music or paintings.” She would then go on to describe all of these paintings or pieces of music that “can’t be judged be a set of rules because they’re just the impressions of the creator.”

Well, after finally graduating and going through my deprogramming process (as well as getting a real job in the real world) she has come around to the truth. YES, there IS an OBJECTIVE criteria for music, and many of you reading this may frown and shake at the thought, but who are we, after 2000+ years of Western Civilization, to alter what the masters of our culture have decreed?
You see, that is why I love the annual TOP TEN list. The journalists in the adjoining column have to use their palates and list what they thought were the “best” or “most significant” musical entities of the past year. The sages of the ages used three simple criteria for determining if something was deemed to be “good art.” Simply, they are 1) Beauty 2) Truth and 3) Craft.

What does that mean? Well, think of some piece music you’re listening to. A truly great piece of music, such as Ellington’s “Concerto For Cootie” has all three: the music is gorgeous, it has a theme that resolves itself and is performed with acuity. Some pieces have Craft and Truth, but there is no beauty to it. OK, fine. Most
material today in modern jazz is simply Craft, while “smooth jazz” focuses merely on beauty, and anyone who has gone on a date knows that beauty by itself only takes you so far. Eventually you need a little truth and craft in the mix. (Of course, with my wife I got all three!)

Think about the artists that you like. What is it you like about them? Who told you about them? That is what we journalists do. We scour the world looking for music that emphasizes all three and then pass our culled findings on to you. That is how I got into jazz. I would read articles by Nat Hentoff and Leonard Feather in order to figure out who I should spend my time listening to. I then went on to other articles and books and made a list of all of the albums that were repeatedly recommended. Ah!

The first time I heard Blues and the Abstract Truth by Oliver Nelson! Sometimes, you simply get into a conversation with someone and they convince you to get an album because you both like the same material. In a New Orleans bar during a Super Bowl, I still recall the boisterous bartender pointing his finger at me with “Ya gotta get ‘Go’ by Dexter Gordon, man.” I did, while I never saw him again, I think of him every time I think of that lonely sax opening on “Cheese Cake.”
This doesn’t just apply to music; it applies to all forms of life. One of my best friends gave me Mere Christianity by CS Lewis and made me want to read everything the scholar ever touched. One of my patients turned me on to the sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon and after reading him wondered why I had been wasting all of my previous life. Same with my sisters first boyfriend who told me to watch the then-new TV show called “Star Trek.” Beauty, Truth and Craft. You know it has all three because you feel obligated to share it with someone else. That is the OBJECTIVE truth


Here’s the latest…

Hi George-

Thank you so much for your wonderful review in hope to see you real soon. Take care and be well,

Julian Lage

Dear Mr.  Harris,

I was at the show that night and I totally agree with your review written about the Ruben Reza performance.

The guitar work and band performed magnificent with real nice tones and dynamics.  At times the audience were dancing on their feet and while sitting down.The entire show was exciting!  Thank you

Joe Candelario

Hi George,

Thank you so much for taking the time to listen and review my new CD! Beautifully written George! I just posted it on my Facebook fan page and will share it with all my fans in an email newsletter as well.
Chris Lomheim
Yo George,
Great to hear. Now I can say it directly: Thanks mucho for your insightful, kind, supportive words.
I definitely will check out more of your stuff. You are one of those keeping the flame alive.
Be well, keep wailing,
Zan Stewart