James Mtume v. Stanley Crouch

Props to commenter Sklute for sending this my way. I think a lot of jazz-heads--especially Miles fans--will be interested in this. I don't really have the context to evaluate the conversation. I was annoyed to hear Mtume bring out that awful quote--"Those who can, do. Those who can't become critics." I would argue that criticism is doing, that criticism is, in and of itself, a craft.


But then Crouch started talking and, as a sometimes critic, I wanted to cover my head. What seems to be at stake is a debate over using electronic instruments in jazz, and whether jazz should evolve. Given how I came up, it's very hard for me to see Crouch's case. But more than that, I think critics need to know understand the intention of the medium they're evaluating. Sometimes I see some of my favorite movie critics destroying a film like Transformers 2. It's fun to read, but in fact, the critic knows going in that film's aesthetics aren't anywhere near the reviewers. There's no point in having someone who hates comic books reviewing the new Captain America movie.

It's hard for critics to let go, to hold their tongue and say, "This isn't for me." Likely each generation of art, needs a generation of critics. No one much cares what I think of Drake. Nor should they.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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