As a jazz writer, I have always felt a special allegiance with those musicians who continue to develop their voice over the course of their careers. When I have occasion to look back at something I wrote early in my writing life I recognize myself to be sure, but I also see stylistic tics and critical stances that strike me as a product of the times—the late 1970s—and my age.
Looking back over basically the same time and age span of my writing colleague Mark Miller—as captured in the new compilation of his reviews and essays, A Certain Respect for Tradition: Mark Miller on Jazz—I see a writer who found his voice early in his career and polished that gem rather than re-cut it. The earliest work in the book dates to 1980, when Miller was 29, and finds him as clear-eyed and succinct as he was when he retired from his post as jazz columnist with the Toronto-based Globe and Mail a year ago.
Another writing colleague—the Washington, DC-based Bill Shoemaker—cited Miller’s “scarily consistent excellence” in an essay of appreciation published after Mark’s premature retirement. All I can add is “Amen.”