Most scurrilous, unfunny New Yorker “humor” re jazz

rollins not plased

Sonny Rollins, were he not so zen, would not be pleased.

I’m aghast at The New Yorker’s rip-off of Sonny Rollins’ good name and great heart to slag jazz in the guise of “humor.” A Daily Shouts piece, bylined “Django Gold” (surely a pseudonym) purports to be “Sonny Rollins: In His Own Words” and controverts the very essence of the art form this grand hero has embodied for more than half a century — without raising a chuckle (at least from me). See for yourself — then write the editor a letter saying “This ain’t funny.” Not that jazz is sacrosanct, but this ain’t funny.

Ok, call me sensitive. I was read “The Talk of the Town” as an infant by my parents trying to put me to sleep. I saved my copy of The New Yorker issue containing S.J. Perelman’s last story, as well as Salinger’s “Hapworth 16, 1924” and In Cold Blood. I’ve always wanted to write something that The New Yorker would publish. As a reader and later budding jazz journalist, I admired Whitney Balliett’s interviews and sopped up the front-of-the-book squibs on who was playing where. The magazine’s neglect of jazz since Balliett retired in 1998 has been regrettable, but all too consistent with mainstream media’s treatment of America’s world-renown cultural signifier.

I have often been amused by The New Yorker’s satires and cartoons. But appropriating and subverting the persona and image (photo by David Redfern) of the NEA Jazz Master/National Medal of the Arts honoree in order to scoff at what he and hordes of other performers do (mostly for self-satisfaction: It’s not like even the best-selling jazz musicians make the big bucks flowing to visual arts stars, major film directors and actors, globte-trotting orchestra conductors, etc.) is nothing to laugh at. The “joke” is based on everyone who stumbles on this realizing it’s the opposite of Rollins’ life and purpose, but yet turns on the seed of punkish resentment sophisticates presumably harbor against the music.

“The saxophone sounds horrible . . . Jazz may be the stupidest thing anyone ever came up with . . .I hate music. I wasted my life.” Oh, yeah, Django, those are real corkers!

To know what Rollins really thinks about things, check out Mark Jacobson’s 2013 interview or view any of a Bret Primack’s video posts with the man.

And what’s really wrong about this is that due to the mechanics of search engine optimization, henceforth “Sonny Rollins: In His Own Words” will likely score high in Google searches for Sonny, maybe for jazz, so that unsuspecting readers will be led to think (at least for a moment) that this wonderful, selfless 84-year-old human being actually has come to the conclusion that everything he’s poured his mind, soul, energy into — for decades in the face of society’s bigoted and snooty dismissal, commercial disregard and evidently continuing “intellectual” non-comprehension — has been for nought.

Shame on The New Yorker. What would Balliett, Robert Gottlieb (TNY editor 1987 – 82, editor of Reading Jazz), or such immortal TNY humorists as Robert Benchley, James Thurber, S.J. Perelman 0r Donald Barthelme, author of a genuinely silly New Yorker-published spoof, “The King of Jazz” say? For shame, for shame. Not that jazz is sacrosanct, but “funny” must be funny.

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  1. says

    Like you Howard I’ve been a longtime avid New. Yorker reader. While I love much of its humor I too found the piece you are referring to to be beneath contempt. Why would anybody, maybe other than someone who thinks they are so hip as to deserve to laugh at it, find this funny? It made me cringe and I’m someone who tends to find humor in just about anything. It is simply degrading and makes the author look like a fool.

      • JazzFan says

        Wait, wait, wait, Mr. Mandel, let me get this right. You think because someone wrote an un-funny satire piece that offended your sensibilities, and it was published in the New Yorker, that the author should be harmed physically or otherwise? How about just ignoring it instead of giving it extra publicity and making personal threats?

        • says

          Oh please, JazzFan — calling “Django Gold” a marked man is just to say I have noted his name and will remember it, not that I laid the Black Spot on him. I should have used an emoticon. :) — happy now? Let me make myself absolutely clear: NO ONE SHOULD HARM DJANGO because of this piece or any of his other writing. Or anything, no matter what kind of fool he is or foolish thing he does. Total non-violence is my recommendation. I think the main responsibility is on the anonymous New Yorker editor who published this piece, not on the lame writer. But no, I don’t think ignoring it would be smart, because a lot of people took the piece seriously, either thinking Sonny wrote it or that he was interviewed, and I do have some followers interested in this kind of thing, and they have friends who they could inform, too, that it’s not for real. If you look at my fb page you’ll see how much confusion this piece stirred up. :) :) :)

    • Michael Moorman says

      The issue is not that jazz and jazz musicians cannot be the subject of satire, the issue is that The New Yorker chose to run a piece where Sonny Rollins is also the subject. Satire in my opinion, calls for the subject or subject matter to be ripe for ridicule, show me an individual who believes the Mr. Rollins is ripe for ridicule and I will show you a dullard. Sadly this is typical of The New Yorker of late, In December of 2013 The New Yorker published a review by Adam Gopnik of Terry Teachout’s biography of Duke Ellington in which Gopnik stated Ellington played “no better than O.K. piano” and “at his height produced tinny, brief recordings.” The editorial staff is asleep at the wheel.

  2. Brian Bacchus says

    Why did the New Yorker run this? I could maybe understand if it was April 1st, but they are not The Onion.
    Do they do ‘humor’ like this from time to time?

    • says

      Brian, the New Yorker runs humor almost every issue. It’s got a great tradition of running humor writers, although not all of them have hit my funnybone (I never cared for Veronica Geng’s style, but she’s long gone now). This didn’t appear in the print edition, only online I’m told — I don’t know if there are other articles as lame (and also unknowingly offensive) as this one.

        • Jim Clark says

          I am not an avid follower of the decline in American letters. But three things are indubitably clear to me: 1) Sonny Rollins has always been a very serious, hard-working artist in a field in which these qualities are always questioned. His stands on the artistic task of the musician, the place of the African-American art in world culture, and subsidiary issues such as substance abuse and working conditions for musicians have made him a paragon among American musicians, There is nothing much to satirize in Mr. Rollins’ work.; 2) The “satire” itself is below any imaginable standard of literary merit. It shows no knowledge of the jazz world, or of African-American culture. It shows no knowledge of Mr. Rollins’ work in particular. It has no fresh humor (the saxophone sounds ugly, underpaid musicians regret their choice of occupation, this is the vaunted sophistication of New Yorker humor?; 3) the piece, unbelievably (to me) published under the aegis of one of our country’s most respected literary names, is only a mix of disrespect, rudeness, and willful ignorance. The dignity, the creativity, the musical success of Sonny Rollins’ career is a permanent part of the history of American culture. T
          The New Yorker, as we can clearly see, is fading fast.

          • Bob Whitlock says

            Been interesting reading the feedback. One common thread is the “maybe if it had been presented as a joke, I would have gotten it.” Well, duh, it was in the humor section of The New Yorker! And while I don’t pretend to have the most sophisticated taste in humor, I did immediately get the absurdity of the purported “interview.” Kind of like an interview with Gandhi revealing he loved watching mixed martial arts on pay-per-view, or Julia Child confessing she loves McDonald’s french fries (actually, she did admit to that). Anyway, as much as I hate explaining jokes (Girl walks into a bar and asks the bartender for a double entendre so he gave it to her), the joke of the piece is that even the icons we idolize can or could have second doubts about the value of their work.

            And I’m a bit disturbed that I sense a bit of racism in the comments as well. What if Dave Brubeck or Bill Evans had been the alleged interviewee? Would the response be the same? I just don’t think so.

        • says

          I didn’t realize that knowing anything about jazz meant being completely humorless about it. The guy obviously knows a lot about jazz as what makes the material funny is that these are the exact opposite sentiments of what Sonny might express. If you had a sense of humor, you might see the joke and realize that, as a piece of satire, it effectively points out what makes Sonny’s personality so wonderful in reality. One of the things I like about jazz music is that many of the musicians have great senses of humor that they occasionally exhibit through their playing or in various anecdotes about them. Since when did liking jazz become about being slavish and anti-humor. Sheesh.

    • carbon dated says

      No, the New Yorker is not the Onion, but Django Gold is an Onion writer. It’s weird, but I think if I’d read that in The Onion, I would have been okay with it, because I know that the humor magazine is all made up satire. But it did not work in the New Yorker….

  3. David Sampson says

    Good on you Howard. The fool who thought that he had come up with the basis for a cheap laugh may have been ignorant and foolish. Or may have reasonably assumed that no decent editor would have selected for publication in a magazine that pretends to be sophisticated, culturally expansive and ethically sensitive, a crude quickie article consisting entirely of a few shallow jibes at the career of a great artist and inspirational elder. The New Yorker is an over-rated mag trading on long-gone glories. Was this a sad attempt to create some controversy and attention? Or is it just editorial tastelessness and professional incompetence?

    • says

      David, my guess this is careless, casual incompetence. The New Yorker has great cartoons and often interesting long articles. I read the movie and tv reviews too — seldom the fiction or their pop music reviewer.

  4. says

    Agreed! I found the piece quite distasteful, not at all funny. I don’t even understand the humor that it attempts to achieve. Thank you, Howard, for saying what needed to be said. The part about the search engine and people finding THAT before his music is a bit horrifying..

  5. says

    I’m all for subversion, especially in a space that could use it such as the jazz world. However, I think this is the wrong place at the wrong time and the wrong audience. The jazz community is like a family, and you don’t air your dirty laundry in public. The New Yorker is a widely read publication by many people who are not a part of the family.

    And of course, it’s just not funny. There are much funnier satires on the jazz community. @JazzIsTheWorst certainly comes to mind as does jazz robots, and there are certainly other ones I’m failing to mention here. While I do find members of the jazz community to be a little over-sensitive about the music in general, I think The New Yorker really made an error here.

  6. says

    Anyone who has listened to Sonny Rollins has to know that this couldn’t be true. Unfortunately Americans are ignorant of our greatest treasures. Surely Sonny Rollins is one of them, and everything I’ve ever heard him say contradicts everything in this not funny presentation.

      • says

        Well, he at least approved it, and is ok with it. I live in Woodstock & we have mutual friends. I’m not quite sure why everyone is so upset about it.

        • says

          Tim, please see the comments upon my fb posting to see why people are upset. Do you know for a fact Sonny “approved” this? Because it would be unusual for a writer to contact the topic of his spoof, nor would I expect a New Yorker editor to call a person with a public persona to ask if this kind of spoof was ok. I’ve been in contact with Sonny’s publicist Terri Hinte, and she has not indicated Sonny knew about this. But he’s a mature man, who most likely shrugs off nonsense.

    • kass says

      You seem to have the same self-satisfied, smirky attitude the writer had…as if being contrarian by saying it’s hilarious makes you oh so interesting and hip. A very childish response.. This piece does harm. Not everything is worth a joke, especially when it’s not even funny.

  7. says

    Both humour and jazz are central to my life but lines of commentary can be crossed. The line crossed here was not in daring to satirise Jazz but to do it so crassly.

  8. says

    Count me as another supporter of your position, Howard. My first thought was “maybe Sonny’s got serious dementia”.
    More to the point, a typical dictionary definition of satire says, “the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.”
    The only folly apparent here is that of Mr. “Gold”…

  9. Doug Ashford says

    Put it in the same category as Drunk History. Famous person’s life is recast in an alternate, irreverent way. I think Sonny’s legend will survive this.

    There are lots of unfunny things written on the Internet, but to devote such attention to this one leads me to think that you do think jazz (or Sonny) is, in fact, sacrosanct.

    • says

      Doug, I admire Sonny, a living artist. No, he’s not above ribbing, he indulges in it himself — maybe you’ve seen him on The Simpsons? If anything, I hold The New Yorker as a paragon of magazine excellence, and this piece was pointless. I also think humor is too important to trivialize. Jazz? It’s hilarious.

  10. Ess Kay says

    Thank you, Howard. Many years ago I was a serious student of jazz and Sonny Rollins made a big impression on me. I saw him play once and the fond memory is still bright in my mind. I read this piece about a half hour ago and it was kinda like being punched in the stomach. I figured it HAD to be a joke but I could still understand how some one might consider a couple of those statements. But Sonny Rollins? I did a search on Django Gold and saw that he was a writer for The Onion and started to relax then came across this page. You’re absolutely right. It ain’t. funny. Good evening to you, sir.

  11. says

    One of the hallmarks of a civilized brain is the ability to admit that even when you personally don’t like something – say, a musical form – it doesn’t change its greatness. As an example, I’m not a reggae fan, but that doesn’t change the fact that Bob Marley was brilliant.
    I try to be civilized, so when I read a piece of attempted humor that seems poorly written, or ignorant, or even mean-spirited, I try to remind myself that others may find it worthy, and let it go.
    There is nothing worthy about this piece, and the ramifications are detestable. I’ve already received emails from friends who “don’t like jazz”, and who thought it was real. “See – even the musicians don’t like what they have to play!” is the theme.
    Lovely that the new and improved “New Yorker” site looks so much better than the old one. Unfortunate that the old New Yorker’s sense seems to have been airbrushed away as a result.
    I don’t know Mr. Rollins, but if I did, I’d ask him to demand The New Yorker print an explanation, and an apology.
    From my own point of view, his musical legacy will outlive the magazine, and that’s what matters in the end.

  12. Bob Whitlock says

    “I also think humor is too important to trivialize.” Now, THAT’s funny! Yes, the most important part of humor is that you, personally, find it funny.

    I didn’t find the piece overtly hilarious, but it did raise a chuckle or two. Too bad that you can’t just lighten up a bit, even if it was published in the. gasp, New Yorker.

    • says

      When a writer puts the words “I wasted my life” in the mouth of someone he does not know and has not consulted, that writer deserves to be called out, I believe. But I’m working on lightening up! Thanks for that suggestion, Bob!

      • tb says

        I find your sentence above to be very instructive: “When a writer puts the words “I wasted my life””…

        I would adjust it slightly to, “When a satirical writer puts the words “I wasted my life” they MEAN THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF THAT. (apologies for the all caps, just wanted to indicate my own addition)

        This author is referencing, in a satirical manner, what an extraordinary contribution to music Sonny Rollins has made.

        Leaving aside the possibility that some readers don’t know about the New Yorker’s satirical tradition and thought this was real, being offended by this piece suggests that you don’t think Sonny Rollins was an important contributor to Jazz.

        the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.
        synonyms: sarcasm, causticity, cynicism, mockery, satire, sardonicism
        antonyms: sincerity
        a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.
        a literary technique, originally used in Greek tragedy, by which the full significance of a character’s words or actions are clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character.
        adjective: dramatic

        • says

          The problem, Trip Bernstein, is that irony is hard to see on the page. Yes, I understood what the writer was trying to do. But failed. “Django Gold” isn’t Swift, Byron, Tomas Mann, S.J. Perelman or Colbert. IMHO.

          • tb says

            Thank you for this response. To confirm, you understood that the writer was holding Sonny Rollins up as someone who has made an extraordinary contribution to music. You just didn’t think it was easy enough to see on the page, and therefore might confuse people who are unfamiliar with the New Yorker’s satirical section.

          • says

            #1 — I DIDN’T THINK IT WAS FUNNY. #2, to my way of thinking it is a terrible thing to put “I wasted my life” in the mouth of an 84 year old creative artist who will very likely be unwittingly tagged with that comment for decades to come. #3 It wasn’t on the page in the mag that’s labeled Shouts and Murmurs, it was online as “Daily Shout” (a column heading I was not familiar with, but as a sophisticated New Yorker reader I could figure it out), and specifically tried to seem like Sonny said this “In His Own Words” with his thumbnail portrait. #4 — it wasn’t funny, absurd, extreme enough to signal to anyone it was a joke. A hoax, maybe. A prank. #5, as Sonny said, it’s damaging to jazz, but I don’t want to emphasize that ’cause jazz isn’t sacrosanct and will survive. But enough is enough.

  13. DaveDos says

    Not sure what’s funnier, the NYer article or the pearl-clutchers in this forum. Not that it’s news that the hardcore jazz fan subculture is as self-important as that, of say, furries, or civil war re-enactors.

    • says

      In the interest of freedom of expression, here’s your comment. But evidently you don’t understand the first thing about how words attached to a person (whether the person uttered them or not) take on meaning and get used.

    • Jon Hey says

      I had a vague idea of what “pearl-clutcher” meant. But upon investigation and finding this, I understand better:

      All in all – I agree, lighten up, be not so self-important. As jazz fans maybe you can understand the marginalization. Jazz was nearly DOA in the early 1960’s, McCoy Tyner was going to become a postman; and now streaming media (Spotify, and many others) basically give away music free, as long as you pay for your bandwidth. Many small labels have quit Spotify because it decreases their audience that might pay for a CD. Anyway, let’s hope Sonny Rollins sells a bunch of records/downloads because of all this attention. Then pray he actually gets some of the money.

  14. Declan Lewis says

    The world could be a better place if some nice jazz journalist of note now wrote something along this line: “Django Gold was available for comment but I really could not be bothered to ask him anything.”

  15. says

    Thanks for the screed, Howard. And thanks to Terri for clarifying that Sonny had nothing to do with this. I’ve heard from a lot of folks since Friday who are concerned that the piece indicated a decline in Sonny’s health. Frankly, I didn’t know what to think, save that this attempt at humor is another example of The New Yorker’s decline from a leading voice in culture and manners to another periodical desperately seeking a younger readership via website irreverence. It was the present editor who eliminated Whitney Balliett from the mag’s pages while he was still in a sharp, critical groove (yours is the first reference I’ve seen to him “retiring”), and among its few jazz articles since 1998 was Adam Gopnik’s recent smackdown of Duke Ellington as a musician who “played no better than O.K. piano,” and whose recordings were “tinny.” Between the family home and my own, I’ve seen the magazine every week of my life, but barring a clarification from Remnick that this is a hoax, it may be time to end my subscription.

  16. says

    For myself, being a musician, (I play blues and R&B, not the “popular” blues rocker stuff so horribly wore out but the style from the 50’s and 60’s born out of “big band” swing) I did not find it one bit distasteful or harming.

    I also got right away that these were all quotes strung together from different conversations with the man, interviews, etc. I think using ***** above and below each excerpt made that abundantly clear.

    It is important I think for each of us as performers to be honest, real if you may, about the somewhat “darker” side of emotion that is created by making the choice to play any of these styles professionaly. It can be a “lonely” place. The money, lack of it. The listeners, fans, lack of them more often than not. The inner struggle of, “what in hell made me want this in the first place?” The harsh realities facing oneself who performs it.

    In each of those quotes comes forth an incredible sardonic wit. Dry to the bone, as “double entendre” as any great jazz or blues lyric can be, some eloquence, and harsh truths.

    It is no big secret that the “greats” were not the most emotionally stable people. And usually equally as bad at managing money. His quote about Miles in that moment, capturing that snapshot headed to the stage is pretty amazing actually. The interpretation of “that” particular description of Jazz (noodling until running out of ideas) is nothing more than echoing a much greater sentiment that is shared by the general public on Sonny’s art form as well as mine.

    I found value as a fellow musician in each and every quote. Maybe it is because of my ability to “read between the lines” if you will emotionally with his inner sentiment and “dark” sense of humor as a musician.

    There are more listeners and fans that don’t play an instrument, (thank god) than there is that do. They come to our defense. Even about things we have said throughout the years that came straight from the “horses mouth.”

    They care for us and feel they know us better than anyone. Better than even our closest friends or family. Some are fanatical, have reverence, pedestals, they are reached on a much “deeper” plane through the music. We are grateful for them all, including you. At the same time I can attest to the fact that it creates an incredibly “surreal” world to live in between the balance of those fans and the harsh reality of the world the performer lives in.

    In the end for those of us that have freely chosen one of these heartfelt “lesser” in popularity art forms there are those minutes, seconds, brief moments on stage where everything is “right” with the world.

    And therein lies the rub sir. As with all great barbecue we all down here in Texas know that it is in the “rub” that the secret lies. 😉


    Michael Holt
    Austin Texas

    • says

      Michael, you misunderstand. Sonny did not write this or say it. He was not interviewed or informed of the article. It is ALL MADE UP. Please rethink on the basis of that info.

    • Bob Whitlock says

      Michael I think you nailed it. As my friend Danny says, fuck you if you can’t take a joke. Sounds crass but life is crass and if you can’t find humor even in the darkest moments, well, good luck.

      • Dave Hersh says

        The clever self-importance promotion of the author in this response is the funniest part of it all. Riding the dilution of MY OPINION IS MORE IMPORTANT (as confirmed by this blog and its entries) THAN THE ATTEMPT AT HUMOR I CALL OUT we see the egomaniacal reality of those who cannot see their own energy as they judge others. Classic ‘karmic pivot’ lesson of NOT getting that – by calling them out – your opinion melts away to the heat of the (now forced) debate of IS THIS REAL, or even IS THIS FUNNY issue, and the perpetual ‘disrespectful’ tone the orig piece purports now resides and sustains itself instead of just going away like bad jokes or attempts at humor usually do. IOW, by clamoring and bitching for your own back-patting, self-promoting reasons about something you think is ruining the world (of jazz, least of all), you give it the slingshot the author could only DREAM OF getting. Any publicity is good publicity, and that now cuts two ways for you, sir… ONE, you keep alive this contemptuous piece, thru the response, this comments section, etc.. you FEED the energy any writer craves, now both his and yours, so if you want the piece ot go away, your energy seems counterproductive, if not ignorant, to this point… TWO, Sonny himself doesn’t seem to be bothered, just you, since Sonny knows my first point about any publ being good, and that (like some have already pointed out) this likely fuels ANY discussion, ignorant or otherwise, about jazz, Sonny, or any other peripheral matter some might perpetuate due to the orig satire being ambiguous or confusing. People are talking about the article, Sonny, music and his and others’ attitudes, and that is a good thing, PERIOD. Now, you claiming to be a human/jazz centerpiece for how we think about topics and the music itself, I’d think you’d get this subtle-yet-obvious point all writers need to understand for their own perpetuating/proliferating nature, like the guy who wrote the orig piece gets.

        But to anyone viewing this sequence – of your knee-jerked attempt to shame the orig article’s author by thinking/taking a “mighty mighty high and whitey” veins of ethics – it is rather humorous, like the person who doesn’t get the joke, and by screaming (proverbially, i think, on your part) louder and louder about how they don’t get it and how bad the joke is, they become part of (if not, in this case, the sole owner of) what is being laughed at. Dude, you’re not really getting the entirety of what is occurring, let alone the details you call out… In New Orleans, to echo another commenter’s sentiments, the like is F-CK EM IF THEY CAN’T TAKE A JOKE… life is serious and funny, and no one gets that more than Sonny himself thru living his and owning both his successes and mistakes… and if his legacy cannot take a simple, crass hit like you claim the article is – in a publication that most who read it GET the subtlety of life’s ebbs/flows, then we can guess Sonny isn’t the GIANT we all know.. I’m taking bets that he is fine, his disposition hasn’t changed, and that he realizes there are MILLIONS of people who actually feel the ways about the music the orig author does, and that too is OK with him since he ISN’T them, and knows we are all allowed to think ANY WAY WE WANT, without being judged by idiots around us who think they know EVERYTHING just because they have a blog/keyboard/platform/idea.

        Did someone not get published in the NEW YORKER, and now we all feel that wrath?

        • says

          Wow, Dave, what a literate response (I’m writing that intending all the irony that can be read into it). In the interest of full disclosure I must admit that I submitted a poem for potential publication to The New Yorker when I was 17, and it was rejected. So I have continued to read it for 55 years, just waiting for an opportunity to vent my wrath. (More irony intended).

          • Dave Hersh says

            Yeah, at least you own it, somewhat indirectly… Sonny said his reaction was “it was like a piece from MAD MAGAZINE…and I read and enjoy MAD MAGAZINE”

            We all get it wrong sometimes… but why be the guy who curtails freedom of expression, instead of the guy who can understand and handle a joke, however bad you may think it is? Ironically speaking, you evidently ignore the content of the biggest JAZZ POOPOO-ER there is, who himself IS a top artist… can you guess who you’ve strategically avoided calling out for naysaying “jazz”, like you just DID strategically call out this guy who – even in humor – couldn’t get a break from your sort? If it is soooooo fricking important to stop the energy you just stopped, you need to be consistent and take on those who do this constantly, especially the one person who won’t let the word JAZZ even be uttered… grow a pair and go after the lot, or just slink back under the self-importance rock and put on another LP… ’cause to act like you do towards a select few reflects an agenda NOT about genuine concern towards the topic you seem to champion, but a narcissistic effort that so many in the music writing game like to pose/enact – to seemingly take the focus off of them as they thrive on the focus actually being them.

            IOW, if you don’t make the art, you’re just another guy revolving around it ,and trying to find peripheral worth as the artistic demagoguery skirts you/us. Try enjoying the music instead of preaching against that within which you too participate – talking sh-t about the music, and those you dis/like, accordingly. Trying to shame someone for their effort – like you are the ‘jazz police’ – is precisely why you are being treated the same exact way now…. so if you enjoy being talked to in this manner, do it to others, again, and the ‘karmic cops’ will possibly rear our bobbing heads to exact human justice, if not, moreover, Murphy’s intent. See? Lots of fun, now you go…..

  17. says

    As I wrote on Loren Stillman’s page about this “interview”: No previous New Yorker articles by author “Django Gold.” No explanatory intro as to when or how the Sonny Rollins “quotes” were acquired makes this a poor attempt at satire at best, and irresponsible journalism at worst. Why choose to spoof Rollins who clearly loves to improvise at great length? This celebrated career has been decades of masochism? Nonsensical and a blot on New Yorker’s rep. The mag is famous for smart humor and satire. This piece lacked any satirical wit, and simply peddled tired anti-jazz cliches.

    • says

      This got a lot of attention. Django got paid. I guess there’s a win in it, just not for Sonny, for those of us who respect artists, or for the historical record.

  18. Dave Castle says

    In most all of Sonny Rollins brilliant improvisations there are moments where his sense of humor (encompassing satire, sarcasm, irony etc) shine through to give the listener elevating moments of pure delight. Nobody could possibly improve on him in that respect so this piece of doggerel just sinks into its own quicksand of embarrassing humorlessness in comparison..

  19. says

    There’s nothing wrong with satirizing one of the greatest living American artists and his art form. The music certainly has much to poke fun at. The wrong part is that it’s not funny. If the New Yorker wants rib him a bit, Sonny Rollins deserves a more able satirist. Anyone who’s listened to Sonny knows of his sense of humor and amazing wit. Whoever Gold is, he needs to spend more time with Sonny’s records for some lessons in humor. This Django Gold cat just can’t play, or he certainly didn’t on this sad “shout” chorus.

  20. says

    Someone at the New Yorker should be fired. As to “Django Gold”, he proves that you can’t successfully satirize that which you don’t understand. Sonny should demand a retraction and deletion from the web site, under threat of lawsuit.

    • says

      Agree 100%, Roberta. This is defamatory bilge, about as funny as the ebloa virus.

      Sonny Rollins should sue their butts off.

      The fact that people believe that this tepid litany of stale cliches is either witty or that they are actual quotes from Sonny Rollins just makes my blood boil. Django Gold is a gutless little turd, but what most re-fries my beans is the clear and present specter of a frat boy mentality amongst the editorial decision-makers which viewed this as “satire.”

      Considering all of the people who arrive at THE NEW YORKER site via a Google search and who think that these quotes reflect the mind of Sonny Rollins, this mean-spirited, petty pile of steaming cliches represents something clearly injurious to a man as spiritual and committed to the healing power of music as Sonny Rollins.

      They should dig Whitney Balliett up and mount him on a rotisserie spit so that he might brown evenly on all sides while spinning in his grave.

      THE NEW YORKER yet! $&#@^%*#&^@)@!Q!!!!

  21. says

    Amen, Howard. Sad to say, I’ve already seen someone (who should’ve known better) quoting from said article on FB. And when corrected by a friend, replied, “No! It’s true! It’s in the New Yorker!”

    That said, good to see Terri here! And I’m a fan of Janis Ian!


  22. Aram Saroyan says

    Sonny Rollins is alive and must have at least cooperated or collaborated on this piece or it would expose The New Yorker to a libel suit. And then think of his music, those little steals from the songbook in unexpected places. Think of The Bridge after he was silent for years, practicing again to stay fresh. This seems to me of a piece with the Rollins I know and love, like a lyrical swan dive in the middle of a big, lifetime solo.

    • says

      Aram, Sonny IS alive and he DID NOT COOPERATE NOR COLLABORATE on this piece. As his publicist has written, he was blindsided by it. As he tweeted, “Folks, this is some guy’s idea of a joke.” He’s not a disputatious person, and I doubt he’d care to get involved in legal matters at this stage of his life (but I don’t know, I’ve only heard of his response via his publicist and his Tweet). I don’t think it’s libelous, but I’m not a lawyer, either. But “little steals” doesn’t feel to me like the right description of what Rollins does in solos. It seems to me he quotes others’ music with love and a sense of discovery, to show the unity of all songs.

      • Aram Saroyan says

        I stand corrected, then. And The New Yorker has evidently lost its effing mind. I still say a smart attorney has a strong libel case here. If Sonny didn’t say it, it’s libelous, impugning a whole art form and other major figures along with Rollins.

        • Jaymo says

          At the risk of repeating, parody and satire are not tortious, even if no one gets the joke. In this case clearly some readers found it funny enough. Personally, I haven’t read the original, and won’t. Not that Sonny is inviolate, but it seems that the preponderance of thought is that it lacks risibility, and Rollins himself thought it was hurtful.

  23. says

    I personally find this lame attempt at humor to be offensive. No matter how much one “lightens up” about such things, some of the sentiments expressed by Django Gold come dangerously close to a kind of mindless attitude that seems to be increasingly prevalent regarding music that is essentially instrumental…. i.e. music with no words/lyrics. What this attitude really expresses is an unwillingness to be challenged by anything that is not visual or verbal. This attitude encourages agreement to coalesce around some kind of perspective that it is hip to make fun of anything one does not understand, in a juvenile attempt to mitigate one’s own discomfort when encountering what one does not understand. To use the good name of a legendary artist that is still alive and active to perpetrate such an inadequate attempt to assuage a lack of comprehension in the pages of the New Yorker makes one who shares a subscription to this fine magazine consider canceling it!

  24. Jerold Towber says

    How this could be approved for publication says something about what the New Yorker thinks about jazz. In a recent piece, a Mr. Gopnik referred to Duke Ellington as a someone who “played no better than average piano. Now this? Knowledge,appreciation and respect for the music are in limited supply at the magazine. I wonder if a similarly “clever” satire about Jascha Heifetz or Rubinstein would get published. Better to keep ignoring jazz than end up disrespecting it, intended or not.

  25. Stanley says

    Is the jazz community really so fragile and insecure as to be offended by a simple satire? I read this as a satire on the obsessive nostalgia within jazz about the “golden years,” flipping that idea on its head and reminding jazz musicians and fans that almost all of us (Sonny excluded, of course) have no idea what the jazz world was really like in the 50s and 60s. What’s wrong with that?
    Remember, most of the time, if you are offended by a satire, it probably means that it’s doing its job.

    • says

      Stanley, this isn’t satire. Satire is designed to subvert pomposity and pretense, neither of which is characteristic of Sonny Rollins. Satire from the time of the Romans through Jonathan Swift to Steven Colbert is used to show the emperor has no clothes. Rollins doesn’t qualify. But what’s really bad is a) (as I wrote) it’s not funny; b) it is being taken seriously as Sonny’s expression and c) it put words “I’ve wasted my life” into the mouth and with the picture of a man who doesn’t and shouldn’t feel that way, someone we should (I believe) be grateful to. Now maybe I’m being pompous and pretentious, so go after me. But don’t say “Sonny Rollins in his own words” and project into the historical record bs that will never be expunged, no matter how many footnotes and asterisks get attached, explaining this was “satire.”

      • Stanley says

        I appreciate your points, but in no way is Sonny Rollins the target of this satire. WE, the people who LIKE Sonny Rollins and jazz in general, are the targets, as is our view of jazz in the past. Of course writing it under Mr. Rollins’ name was edgy and insensitive to the man himself, but that’s what satire IS, edgy and insensitive. We can get defensive and offended about the words that were put into one of our last living hero’s mouth, or we can use it as an opportunity to look critically at the jazz community that exists, and ponder the question it asks of us. Namely, why DO we like jazz so much? Where do we get our impressions about jazz in 1953 and 1954, and could they be inaccurate? Why is jazz of so much value to America, and not something that would be better off replaced by accounts and process servers? I think you’ll find we are better off for it.

        • says

          Stanley, if this piece has inspired you to think about the topics you bring up, I guess something good comes from it, but I think your responses are at a rather far remove from what the general reaction or impressions especially upon the non-jazz-oriented reader would be. To me it seems needlessly damaging and unsuccessful because it’s not funny, which presumably was its intent. And given that today memes spread that are very difficult to correct and impossible to recall, in my journalistic judgement a responsible editor of the New Yorker would have spiked this submission.

      • Kyle Patrick says

        Howard Mandel, I’m afraid that you and others are missing the point entirely. This piece is NOT A SATIRE OF SONNY ROLLINS. It’s not even about Sonny in the slightest.

        I’m not saying that it is some brilliant social commentary, but I clearly see it for what it is: a satire of the popular views of a great and extremely misunderstood art form. Nothing more or less.

        The idea that a master of high art would just sigh later in life and say that it is all just a bunch of baloney after all, that he wasted his life, and that he wishes he became an accountant for the money – it is intended to make people think about how that art was valued in the first place.

        The only connection to Sonny Rollins is that the “speaker” of this piece is implied by the title (not the byline) to be a fictitious version of the musician. Personally, I think the selection of Sonny for the basis of the character is great because, as you’ve acknowledged, he would never say anything like that and it makes the statements about the art as trivial that much more absurd.

      • Roshan says

        Satire is indeed designed to subvert pomposity and pretense. Sonny Rollins indeed possesses none of those things. But you sure do, and I’m quite tickled that the satire of this article appears to be doing its job absolutely perfectly: riling up the all-too-large portion of the jazz community with a stick up their collective rear ends about the sanctity of their music.

        I’m a jazz student at a university. I found this piece as hilarious as I find the closed-minded pompousness of the jazz community at large abhorrent. Have a damn laugh once in a while, hmm? It’s this sort of attitude that is making jazz less and less accessible and more and more irrelevant, and it makes me cringe.

  26. Jon Hey says

    Geeze, people, it was pretty obviously a joke. It IS those who think Jazz IS sacrosanct and didn’t quite notice that it was all silly, stupid. But, c’mon, the Miles paragraph was actually a little bit funny:

    “Once I played the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Switzerland, with Miles Davis. I walked in on him smoking cigarettes and staring at his horn for what must have been fifteen minutes, like it was a poisonous snake and he wasn’t sure if it was dead. Finally Miles stood up, turned to his band, and said, “All right, let’s get through this, and then we’ll go to the airport.” He looked like he was about to cry.”

    For me it was like watching “The Sixth Sense” – most of the people in the audience didn’t figure it out – but I knew from the beginning that Haley Joel Osment was seeing a dead Bruce Willis.

    The New Yorker shouldn’t have to explain itself, when it was clearly in the humor section – yeah it wasn’t very good satire, but “you” (all the people who didn’t) should have figured that out from the start. I’ve played/studied jazz for over 40 years, but I didn’t get blind-sided. Maybe you ought to listen to some of the players who included humor in their playing: Louis Armstrong, “Father” Hines ….

    • says

      Funny: Louis Armstrong, Fatha Hines, Fats Waller, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker at times, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, many others. No funny: pinning “I’ve wasted my life” into the historical record of someone who has clearly given his life to making people happy with music. Maybe if it had been “Dick Cheney in his own words. . . “

      • Jon Hey says

        I’m old enough to know that not everything you read (and now certainly in the internet era) is true. And I am surprised when I have to teach that to college undergraduates, because when I was their age I already knew that. Pinning “wasted my life” to Sonny Rollins may be abhorrent to you if you have such little faith in people seeing beyond a web search, link, etc. and maybe having the intellectual curiosity to figure out with some further research that it is all baloney.

        • says

          Jon, note that you have to teach college students not to believe everything they read on the web. Note that many people of considerable accomplishment and intelligence over the past two days have written that they believed Sonny was “having a bad day,” suffering from dementia, or had collaborated or condoned the article. Yes, I knew immediately that it wasn’t Sonny “in his own words,” and I saw that it was a “Daily Shout.” But I still am offended that somebody using what appears to be a pseudonym would purport to have interviewed Sonny Rollins, and thought it would be cute (as well as pay off) to controvert his essence. Guess I’m just an old doofus.

          • Jon Hey says

            I saw Bill Cunliffe posting it on Facebook, he thought it WAS from Sonny Rollins. I saw that many people didn’t understand it was a “parody” or “satire”. Yes, it wasn’t that funny. It was only funny at all if you KNEW from the start it was all BS – and had some “jazz fan” history background. I remember recently hearing a repeat airing of Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland with Bruce Hornsby. Bruce mentioned how he would play recordings of Bill Evans for people who would say “nice cocktail music”. Sigh. I wish people were more aware so we wouldn’t HAVE to educate them how to learn.

      • Mark Spencer says

        Howard, you are suggesting that some people are fair game for satire (here, Dick Cheney), while others are not (Sonny Rollins). And you are implying that someone, i.e. YOU, should be the one to decided who is and who is not. That doesn’t sit quite right with me.

        • says

          Mark, it’s all a joke, a joke! Sorry to disturb you. How could I disrespect Dick Cheney, the most powerful Vice President the USA has ever had? He, like Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon, Donald Rumsfeld, John McCain, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, Justices Roberts, Scalia, Alito and Thomas, Michele Bachman, Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin, Rob Blagojevich and other politicians national, local, international are simply not fair game for satire, as they are public servants of the highest order whose only desire is to serve we citizens. Absolutely, the proper targets of withering satire are artists, musicians, writers, and other parasites living high on the hog while contributing nothing (nothing!) to the befoulment of earth’s atmosphere, to the spread of war and conflict world-wide, or to the coffers of our greatest corporations.

          • JOANN MORAN says

            Howard, all I can say is Bravo! Having had the pleasure of seeing Sonny play throughout the past 3 decades, I felt physically ill after reading that “article”. There has always been something about Sonny that communicated pure joy when you hear him play. I remember him breaking out in spontaneous laughter during one of his glorious solos. And yes, maybe some of us are too sensitive about this piece, but it was not that easy to verify that it wasn’t really Sonny’s “own words”. Thank you for sticking up for all of us.

          • Mark Spencer says

            Howard, yours is a textbook example of a strawman fallacy in argument. You misrepresented my point to make it easier to attack.

            I never said that you disrespected anyone, or that “other politicians national, local, international are simply not fair game for satire,” I just simply said that you do not get to chose what/who can be parodied based on your own sensibilities.

          • says

            Mark, of course I get to chose who can be parodied based on my own sensibilities. I can’t rule that everyone adheres to my sensibilities, but I can suggest who I think deserves attack, and I can attack them. That’s what Django did, whether he acknowledges it or even realizes it or not. I have made the opinion I posted mine from the first words: “I’m aghast . . .” I’ve posted lots of comments of people telling me I’m a sensitive flower, and many more saying I represent their points of view, too. I dom’t represent your point of view, evidently. I’m okay with that. Yes, people who wield influence over others by virtue of their privilege, wealth or power seem to me ripe candidates for take-downs. People who offer their creative efforts in good faith, not so much.

  27. Rick Banales says

    I think this says more about the steadily downward spiral that the New Yorker is taking (and its obviously non-existent standards of hiring new “humor” writers) than anything about Jazz or Mr. Rollins. If you were to replace the subject of this “satire” with another revered figure in the arts, say Itzhak Perlman, the premise still falls flat – it’s bottom line not funny.

    Maybe the New Yorker can do a real interview with Mr. Rollins, or let him pen an article himself – that would actually be the most writing on Jazz that the New Yorker has done since Whitney Balliett was let go.

    As for “Django Gold” – man, that was just sad. Maybe the Onion needs to reconsider its writing staff as well…

  28. Larry Rothfield says

    You’ve got to be kidding. Please be kidding. I really hope you are kidding.

    It was so obviously not making fun of jazz or of Sonny Rollins. It was hilarious. Good grief.

  29. Kyle Patrick says

    Howard Mandel, I’m afraid that you and others are missing the point entirely. This piece is NOT A SATIRE OF SONNY ROLLINS. It’s not even about Sonny in the slightest.

    I’m not saying that it is some brilliant social commentary, but I clearly see it for what it is: a satire of the popular views of a great and extremely misunderstood art form. Nothing more or less.

    The idea that a master of high art would just sigh later in life and say that it is all just a bunch of baloney after all, that he wasted his life, and that he wishes he became an accountant for the money – it is intended to make people think about how that art was valued in the first place.

    The only connection to Sonny Rollins is that the “speaker” of this piece is implied by the title (not the byline) to be a fictitious version of the musician. Personally, I think the selection of Sonny for the basis of the character is great because, as you’ve acknowledged, he would never say anything like that and it makes the statements about the art as trivial that much more absurd.

    • says

      “Sonny Rollins: In His Own Words” with a photo of Sonny Rollins’ face — both larger than the writer’s pseudonymous byline is not about Sonny at all? You’re right Kyle, I don’t get it.

      • Kyle Patrick says

        Well there we have it, Mr. Mandel, we have heard from both sides. Both Django Gold and Sonny Rollins have acknowledged that the New Yorker piece of satire is NOT ABOUT SONNY ROLLINS. I hope you will step up and admit that you were wrong.

        To quote Mr. Gold: “What I wrote has nothing to do with Rollins personally; it is clearly more about the popular conception of jazz and its history.”

        To quote Mr. Rollins (times given are from the Jazz Video Guy interview, here

        “It;’s a little bit kind of cutting about jazz….more than just about me, it seems to ridicule jazz music”… (4:44)
        “Why kick something? Oh well I’ll SATIRE JAZZ so let’s kick jazz around.” (12:59)
        “Is it fun to SATIRE JAZZ and make fun of it? I don’t think so.” (14:34)

        There you have it plain, and simple, its a satire of jazz, whether one decides that it is a good or bad one. As an aside, it’s really too bad that Mr. Rollins was by the notion that young musicians might view the music differently after reading the piece. But the author has personally apologized to Mr. Rollins for any offense.

        But hell, man, even Sonny knows that its not about him.

        • says

          Kyle, I’m not wrong. Humor may be in the sensibility of the observer, but to me this is not funny — not haha funny, not thought-provoking funny, and ethically ugly. For “Gold” to claim his writing had nothing to do with Sonny personally is disingenuous if not downright blind (“Sonny Rollins: In His Own Words” with a thumbnail of Sonny — oh no, that’s not about Sonny). For Sonny to deflect it is true to his nature, as I stipulated in the caption to the photo I used in this post — if he weren’t so Zen, he’d be disturbed. I also realized it wasn’t a take-down of Sonny, but he was collateral damage, and was used by the author either without the author’s concern for the impact on the reputation of a musician he purportedly admires, or without understanding the negative impact. Read some successful satire, or just study Colbert. Compare and contrast. Maybe you’ll see what I mean. And if you feel the piece is funny — ok for you. But I don’t.

  30. Bob Sarles says

    I thought the piece was hysterical. I read it to my wife and we were in tears laughing out loud. By the way, we are both huge jazz fans, and have nothing but admiration and respect for the great Sonny Rollins. But, funny is funny. That people take the piece so f’ing seriously makes it even funnier. That’s the whole point, how damn serious jazz fans take themselves and the art form. Lighten up folks. It’s a joke. If it didn’t tickle your funnybone, then just move on, fer chrissakes.

  31. says

    Thanks for writing this, Howard.

    Check this out: (possibly added after the original appearance of the article on-line?) the editor’s note (from the New Yorker): “Editor’s note: This article, which is part of our Shouts & Murmurs humor blog, is a work a satire.”

    I like that: “…is a work a satire.” The editor. Really? And to think that I subscribe to the digital version of the magazine…ugh.

  32. Ashley Kahn says

    Hey Howard — Huge props for posting what needed to be posted, and for taking the time and effort to explain it so well. And the same to Terri Hinte who has tirelessly taken on the task of telling anyone and everyone that these words are not Sonny’s though it clearly states the opposite.

    Two things I’d like to add: this whole thing was an attempt at sarcasm, not satire. The now infamous Django Gold (an apparently pseudonymous writer making up comments by a real, living person — that in and of itself is so ethically odious as to warrant its own discussion) admits as much in his strange explanation of his approach to humor this past May:

    The second thing is simply this: I believe the idea that jazz has no sense of humor is one of the biggest misconceptions about this music and tradition. Jazz musicians, writers, and professionals share among them one of the most carefully honed senses of humor I know of. It can be exceedingly dry to the point of being almost the gallows variety (“How do you make $2 million in the jazz business”) but I feel that there’s also a wide variety out there — from the general musician type jokes (“How do you know when a drummer’s at the door?” “How many singers does it take to sing ‘My Funny Valentine’?”) to those jazz robots on YouTube and that animated character Smigly ( to Russell Malone’s outrageousness on FB. There’s jokes that are very inside, made in the music, or more openly in song names (Bad Plus’s “Cheney Pinata”) or album titles (“Because They Can”, “I Can See Your House From Here”), etc. etc. etc. Hey there’s even that classic Onion piece — “No One Sets Out To Be A Smooth Jazz Musician.” Now that’s funny.

    The jazz world laughs — most often at itself — with more insight than most other areas of music.

    That so many people are STILL reading this misfire of a humor piece believing it to be Sonny’s own words should be proof enough that this is the online equivalent of the most cringe-producing attempt at joke-telling at a comedy club’s open-mike night.

    Plus it’s mean-spirited — not creatively like Don Rickles or Andrew Dice Clay. Humor? This is consciously hurtful bomb-throwing (see his “manifesto” above). To paraphrase a comment among the now disabled comments on Django’s FB page: “Dude. Stop. This is too…much. No really. Stop.”

  33. Django Gold says

    Hey gang, thanks for all the constructive criticism. Just wanted to chime in with a few notes:

    1. Despite Howard’s claim to the contrary, to my knowledge, he did not attempt to contact me on Facebook. My Facebook message folder is divided into two sections: the regular Inbox (which contains messages from people I know on Facebook); and the Other section (which contains messages from people I don’t know on Facebook, and which, for the past 72 hours, has been flooded with various angry messages from an assortment of unhinged assholes [“Your blown up ego is likely inversely proportional to the size of your prick.”]). As far as I can tell, neither of these sections contains a missive from Howard.

    2. As has been correctly speculated, Sonny Rollins was chosen more-or-less at random as the “subject” of this piece. I believe the other top candidates were Ornette Coleman and Jim Hall, but I figured Rollins had the name recognition. What I wrote has nothing to do with Rollins personally; it is clearly more about the popular conception of jazz and its history. Given the feedback I have read thus far, I suppose “clearly” may not be the right word to use here.

    3. For what it’s worth, I am a huge fan of both Sonny Rollins’ work and jazz in general. Anyone who knows me will tell you that. The music he made and is making has enriched my life over the years, and for that I am grateful. If Sonny was offended by what I wrote, I sincerely apologize to him for that; given all the joy his music has produced for me, this would be a hell of a way to repay him. No apologies for anyone else, though—all this humorlessness and tedious moral posturing only reinforces the worst stereotypes about jazz fans.

    And, as a quick addendum, the most bizarre part about this whole controversy is how many people apparently believe “Django Gold” is a pseudonym and not my actual name. Given the prevalence of musicians with names like Sun Ra and Thelonious Sphere Monk, you’d think I’d be equivalent to a John Smith by now.

      • Django Gold says

        Sorry, Howard, I don’t see your message. I would say resend it, but I think what I wrote above should suffice as my comment on the matter.

        Also, I don’t know that “Nice paycheck?” qualifies as a request for comment under normal journalistic standards, though, as some have noted, I may not be much of a reporter.

    • Rick Banales says

      First off Django, if you want “constructive criticism”, you could open your Facebook profile to comments instead of taking the cowardly way out…

      Second, “satire”, “sarcasm”, or any other form of humor has to be, above all, funny. The best humor has a grain of truth in it, and in basically admitting that the piece is a template that you could drop other Jazz musicians names into, you are showing that this was an attempt to be disrespectful to someone, anyone….

      That piece is more a window into your neuroses than anything close to humor, and if the New Yorker editorial staff were smart, they would pay for counseling for you with a licensed mental health professional.

    • says

      “…all this humorlessness and tedious moral posturing only reinforces the worst stereotypes about jazz fans.” Damn it, I was going to whip up some thousand-word blogpost making the same point but you said it in a few words! You must be one of those smart-asses that works with words all the time and generates plenty of discussion and emotion with just a few those words. What are they called again? Oh yes, “writers.”

      Since you weren’t trying to report anything I can’t say how much of a reporter you are, but as far as being a humorist and trying to elicit a response that shines a light onto those responding, well done. Make a career out of mocking pop divas, rock stars and other mega celebrities and no one says a word. Attribute some completely over-the-top quotes to a jazz musician and get ready for the firing squad.

    • Mike Zellers says

      you’re a crappym unfunny writer, Rollins is a national treasure. you need to respect. btw, that’s Monk’s real name, you hack

      • tb says

        I could be wrong, but I believe Gold’s exact point on the name question was that there are other jazz musicians that didn’t use a pseudonym (like Monk) but also had unconventional sounding names…which is why it shouldn’t be too hard to believe that Gold’s name is not a pseudonym.

        • says

          I’d like to meet the parents who named their child “Django Gold.” It’s certainly possible, but considering that’s the one thing that seems to irk the writer, I’m considering continuing to use quotes around “Django Gold.”

          • Forbes says

            It’s shameful, though not terribly surprising, to see you making fun of a grown man’s name. After all, you have spent your entire adult life being “The Other Howard Mandel,” so maybe you’re a little bitter.

            Let’s all just keep the discussion on responsible standards of journalism, arts criticism, the appropriate role of satire, respect for cultural figures, etc., and leave the name games alone, umkay?

          • says

            Shameful? Teasing. As I wrote early on “Django” is now a marked man. Marked by quotation marks. Big deal. As for Howie Mandel, I do not begrudge him use of my name. He operates at several disadvantages, but doesn’t bother me at all, and I had my byline well in advance of that hospital show when he had hair.

          • says

            I’d been thinking about who would name their darling son “Django Gold,” as well, Howard. I would guess that it would imply “Django’s” parents are hip, or hep, jazz-fan types, though I guess it could be a family name. It brings up more issues of the adolescent rebellious tone. It also makes me wonder if he owns a ukulele and a short-brim fedora, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I was glad to hear Sonny’s take on the article last night (a long-term subscriber to Mad Magazine, cool) and think Nicholas Payton made some great points. Though many may see it as playing race cards, if we don’t put them on the table and turn them over to look, we’ll never heal from the the evils of what is at the root of most of our national problems.

          • says

            Agreed on all counts, Jeff, though perhaps “Django” took that name himself? It is distinctive. “Django Gold” does have a nice ring to it.

        • Mike Zellers says

          ok… but Sun Ra “isn’t” the name he was born with… again, who knows what this hack means

    • Rick Banales says

      “For what it’s worth, I am a huge fan of both Sonny Rollins’ work and jazz in general”

      Sun Ra was not his real name.

    • Frank Duffy says

      Dear Django,

      great name by the way.

      So if I understand your explanation, you love jazz and were attempting in a humorous and engaging way to lampoon the ignorant attitude many straights have towards jazz. Andin all this Sonny Rollins is just an innocent bystander, a convenient place-marker.

      It is clear that many of the folks who you would expect to make up your natural constituency, didn’t pick up on your satire and as a result, rather than blame yourself for not quite pitching it right you say “all this humorlessness and tedious moral posturing only reinforces the worst stereotypes about jazz fans”.

      Now that bitter response seems to undermine any passion you profess for jazz and its world in the first place.

      Maybe you are ahead of your time and we are simply not worthy. Or maybe you were just trying too hard and missed.

      Tomorrow is another day.

      And as for humour in jazz – Pharoah Sanders is a genius, he spans the deeply serious to panto and knows when to do what. He is not alone.

  34. Declan Lewis says

    Huge gratitude extended once more to you, Howard, for the caring ‘n’ sharing nature with which you’re truly blessed and, in turns, write so bloomin’ marvellously — often with great humour too (who’d have thought, eh?) including irony — and on behalf of your devoted followers on Merseyside, UK, best of wishes in swinging through all this stuff on the New Yorker’s misguided-by-far decision to allow this garbage to spill out online. E-mailing NY editor next, so good day, everyone.

  35. Steve says

    There is such a thing as a bad joke. This goes further, to the point of libel. Obviously, many readers thought Sonny had said these things. Unlike Twitter satires like “Angry Keith Jarrett,” the joke was not clear, and an underlying appreciation was sadly missing. Sonny is owed an apology.

  36. almightyshux says

    Jesus Christ, you’re all idiots getting upset by this. SOMEONE didn’t get the joke. And SOMEONE obviously doesn’t read The Onion. Morons. JAZZ! :/

  37. says

    As a lifelong fan of jazz, and having worked as a sound engineer on the road and at most of the New York clubs, including the Blue Note (and regularly for the Mingus Big Band) … but also as a writer myself, and all around (I like to think) PHUNNY guy …

    I have to say, I get it: the piece IS funny. Non-sequiturs (“I hate music. I wasted my life.”) placed in an absurdist context (Sonny Rollins uttering them) … is funny. Absurdity is a foundation of satire, which of course is an element of humor … and humor is comedy.

    Lighten up, people!

    The problem with the piece, I think, is not that it was written (desecrating, as it does, the hallowed grounds and sounds of jazz, and saxophones, and Sonny Rollins!!) … but contextually, one has to wonder what it’s doing in The New Yorker? An automatic gravitas gets bestowed, which leads then to heavy discussion about a non-heavy topic: a joke.

    If the piece had remained where, I think, it belongs – in the pages of The Onion – or a personal blog, or “Funny or Die” – we wouldn’t be having this debate.

    Toward this end, I think Howard has a point: SEO-wise, this shiny new published content “by Sonny Rollins” is going to rise to the top of the first page of search results … but until ‘Sonny gets blue’ about it, why should we?

    • OP says

      And what’s really wrong about this is that due to the mechanics of search engine optimization, henceforth “Sonny Rollins: In His Own Words” will likely score high in Google searches for Sonny

      I’m sorry Howard, I don’t mean to come across as flippant, but it is somewhat ironic that you’ve said this, as the mere fact that you’ve linked to the original New Yorker article means that you have inadvertently helped to elevate its ranking in Google searches (see the “What Does PageRank Measure?” section of this article for a brief explanation).

      I agree with Jeff on the publication context being a major part of the problem. If the article had appeared in a less high-brow publication with a well-established reputation for irreverent humour, it is unlikely that it would have been taken so seriously.

      • says

        The irony of raising the page rank by crit’ing the post is well-noted. But I don’t see any way around it except to ignore the post entirely. Maybe I could have blogged without linking to the dumb post. But I think readers would have searched it out anyway. Or else told me to grow a sense of humor without knowing how lame the piece by “Gold” is.

    • says

      It’s a disgusting reply, quite frankly – race cards littering the table.

      Not at all what the original “offending” piece was about.

      I’m disappointed to hear Payton blowing that way…

    • jazz fan says

      The only thing Nicholas Payton blows from his horn is racist filth. His legacy in jazz is set: a POS troll.

  38. Dave Castle says

    Fantastic variation in all these replies with jazz lovers being accused of being too serious and “”not getting the joke”. I feel it’s like asking ourselves “is nothing sacred?” In choosing Sonny Rollins they made an awfully unwise decision. Generally speaking there are many giants of jazz such as Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Miles etc where applying satire not only doesn’t feel appropriate but has the boomerang effect we are witnessing now. After all you shouldn’t try and make a buck making satire of His Holiness the Dalai Lama even though he would probably be the first to forgive the perpetrators for their total lack of respect so why go for such a venerable and respected man as Mr Rollins. It’s inexcusable. Sorry, Mr Gold, I did get what you laughingly presented to us as a “joke” but my instincts and reactions failed to even put the faintest of smiles on my face.

  39. Bill Morrison says

    I am not going to take sides in this debate. However, for a bit of perspective, here is a real quote that could fit almost seamlessly into Django Gold’s piece:

    Well, the thing is, I drifted. I thought maybe I’d go to college. But there was no money to send me, and my marks weren’t that good in high school. So rather than a job in a factory in Woonsocket, which was a mill town, and right after World War Two most of them went south… What else was there for me? I should have gone into the Post Office like my father; I would have had a pension now.

    Dave McKenna, from a 1999 interview with Ted Panken

    • says

      Yes, I can believe that statement and respect it. It’s not wrong for musicians to doubt their choices — it’s wrong to put such words (or more drastic ones) into someone’s mouth and purport they are “in their own words” (maybe even if the column is discretely labeled “Daily Shout” and regular readers know that means “Shouts and Murmurs” which is the New Yorker’s designation of humor pieces). The autobiographies of many jazz musicians discuss frankly their aimlessness, sometimes their own criminality, their disillusionment, etc. That kind of honesty is quite a bit in accord with the honesty of most jazz.

  40. Joe Garen says

    The overblown reaction of this columnist and the commenters are precisely why this piece was hilarious. I wish I lived in such a rarefied world that something this trivial could constitute a grand affront to my delicate sensibilities.

    • says

      I’ve been offended by a lot of things in the world this week and charmed by many things, too. I don’t think there’s much I can say about most of the evils that beset us. Puerile spoofing on an 84 yr old cultural hero is unnecessary and offensive enough that the dude who does it ought to be called out. Netanyahu, you’re next.

  41. Terri Hinte says

    ” I believe the other top candidates were Ornette Coleman and Jim Hall, but I figured Rollins had the name recognition,” says Mr. Gold. Of course Jim Hall is deceased. That would have been hilarious – oh, but he didn’t have the name recognition.

  42. David Rumpler says


    I was sickened by the New Yorker article, and I thoroughly agree with you that this piece does not even qualify as satire. I hate this overused expression, but the New Yorker piece really is “wrong on so many levels”. What did Sonny Rollins do to deserve this?

    And no, I don’t think jazz is sacrosanct. There are a couple of _wonderfully_ dark humor pieces out there about “How to make a living in jazz” and “What to do at your first jam session” that I adore. This however crossed the line for me.

  43. says

    Howard : I read the piece and I must admit at first I was stunned. Could it really be that a hero of mine like Sonny Rollins could actually think like this? Could he be, as one of your readers intimated, closing in on dementia? It didn’t seem credible, but this was The ” New Yorker ” after all, this wasn’t Mad magazine spoofing a celebrity. This was a well respected journal that supposedly is dedicated to the preservation of art and culture in our society. It is precisely this mantle of respectability..that was so egregiously trampled on and all for a cheap laugh. A laugh at the expense of a struggling musical art form and an iconic octogenarian of that art form. Ok, we can take a joke. I get it, loosen up its only satire as my editor son tells me after I voiced my outrage, but the truth is, as so many of the respondents so eloquently stated, this goes beyond satire and humor and borders on character assassination.
    I am a strong advocate for the right of all people to say what they wish even if I don’t agree with their position. How else could one enjoy the likes of Rickles, Kinnison, Pryor or Bruce without getting insulted somewhere along the line, but to hide this kind of hurtful denigration behind the visage of Mr. Rollins and the preposterous lines “In his own words.” is tantamount to slander.

    Perhaps Nicholas Payton’s diatribes are excessive and maybe even misguided,but one thing is for sure you can’t deny the hurt you feel in the words to his response. He views this as another blatant attempt at denigrating a Black artist for the fun of it. Even if Mr. Gold, in his desperate grasp at being humorous, didn’t intend to put that kind of hurt out there, he none the less did! And to what gain, a few laughs? I hope that the New Yorker will see this article as the mistake it is a write an apology to Mr. Rollins and his legions of fans. As for satire like this let Mr. Gold should stick to writing for the Onion or Mad where his satire can be appreciated by those who care to listen with full knowledge of its intent.

  44. Stephen Faulk says

    Man, I though the NY satire was funny as hell. I’ve done the same thing, IT WAS FUNNY and if you don’t think so grow a sense of humor. Geeze.

  45. Jon Hey says

    I am posting the Small’s Live [Greenwich Village] email I received today.

    Now that a few days have passed only the jazz fans remain in dialogue about the New Yorker “satire”, “parody”, “send-up”, whatever you wish to call it. For most of the world, there’s Ebola, Palestinians vs. Israelis, Syria, Iraq, Kurds, Afghans, foreclosures, Alzheimer’s, global warming …

    I’m pretty sure most people with little interest in the first place will not pay any more or less attention to Sonny Rollins. Billions of people don’t read the New Yorker. I saw Django Gold’s reply(s) here. We are all sitting pretty within our heated houses, with plumbing, Cuisinart’s, pianos, beds, books, tablets, PCs, wi-fi.

    If I spend a little effort, I can go thrift-store and used book/record wandering and in a few stops can probably buy all of Sonny’s CDs for 50c each up to 5.99.

    So what is the purpose of being on “the high-horse”? I am in the camp that says “it’s just a joke” – it was F’ing obvious – and therefore had some humor.

    If you live in NYC or visit, go to Small’s – have a great jazz experience. Here’s the email:

    Dear Friends:

    Greetings from Paris! I’m on my final couple of days here after a mini-tour with my trio (Ugonna Okegwo and Anthony Pinciotti). We had four successful shows, two at the renown Duc Des Lombards (my thanks to Sebastien Vidal for his hospitality) and two at a very local spot called “Le Caveau Des Legends” where I got to play with my old friend, guitarist Yves Brouqui. As always, it was a lot of fun and warmly received. Paris is great, any time of year.

    I wanted to mention that there’s an article that appears in this week’s New Yorker magazine that is supposed to be a “satire” making fun (of all people) of Sonny Rollins. Why this happened is baffling. So that you can read it for yourself, here is the link –>

    Please keep in mind that even though it’s called “In His Own Words”, it is a complete fiction and one done without Sonny’s consent. Sonny Rollins is a musical hero and an uncompromising artist. At this point in his career he needs be celebrated not ridiculed. Furthermore, this music has already been much maligned and misunderstood. An article like this is destructive. For the large majority of people who read the magazine and may not be familiar with Sonny Rollins or jazz music it may be reason to not take him or his work seriously or this music. This satire is vague enough that unless you really know it could be construed that these really are “his own words.” I have written the following letter to the editors:


    As a professional jazz musician and owner/manager of Smalls Jazz Club here in Greenwich Village I was appalled by the satire “Sonny Rollins: In His Own Words” by Django Gold (July 31rst issue). Not only was it not funny but also vague enough to be construed that it was actually “his own words”. Mr. Rollins is one of the most beloved figures in jazz, renown for his uncompromising artistic integrity. Why at age 83 after a lifetime dedicated to the music he loves and champions he needs to be the subject of ridicule in your magazine is beyond me. Instead, the New Yorker should publish a profile celebrating the life and accomplishments of this great American artist. Jazz is already a much maligned and misunderstood art form. An article like this does a great disservice to the music and the musicians who spend their lives playing it and is beneath the stature of your magazine.

    Spike Wilner
    Smalls Jazz Club
    New York City

    If you are so inclined, you can reach out to the editors of the New Yorker here –>

    Humor is one thing but let’s set our priorities straight – this music needs to be supported and shared, not ridiculed and maligned. The great artists of our time need to be celebrated and honored, not ridiculed and further misunderstood.

    I wish you all peace and thank you for supporting this music and the club.


  46. John Bigelow says

    Missing form Django Gold’s piece is wit, and a point of view. He rather just went for irony–gee, lets have a specific elderly black musician of the black music Pantheon say the opposite of what he might really say–hilarious!!–but without any insight.

    And if Gold meant it as satire, it is absent his point of view, unless his POV that of somebody who dislikes jazz, and wants to share his perspective with those of a like mind. Either way, it was a grim flop that feels mean-spirited.

    Maybe just wanted to beat the bushes and watch all the terribly serious music fans rush out and cry foul? If so, he is a troll with a bad editor.

    • tb says

      I mostly agree with this. Except I would offer that his point of view is that jazz fans are a little bit fanatical and self-serious. Which, let’s be honest, this entire thread basically confirms. If we take Gold at his word then he seems to include himself in that group. But to reiterate, I thought the New Yorker piece was OK, coulda been better.

  47. Al Maginnes says

    This isn’t humor or satire. As I understand satire, it has to do with poking fun at institutions, not 82 year old men who have devoted their lives to mastering an art form. When Mr. Gold achieves the mastery Sonny Rollins has or makes as many people happy as Sonny Rollins has, he might be worth listening to. Until then he’s just a snarky little so and so. As for what the editors of The New Yorker were thinking, I have no idea. But they need to get a little more fresh air.

  48. says

    I keep reading the posts and pondering…… I keep seeing statements of, “it was all made up.” Was it made up or a series of quotes over the time span of Sonny’s life taken out of context? I feel it was the latter.

    I always need remember as a musician and a writer that what I say in public will always be free license for someone to put into a different light, so to speak. I must remember that I will always have to suffer what is called, “a bit of bad press.” In the end if they are talking about you your doing something right. On Sonny’s part and the disparaging moron who wrote the piece. I don’t think he was really trying to be funny. I feel he was trying to bring a different side to light of who I consider one of the most amazing musicians of our time. Was Sonny blindsided? You bet. I would be too. At the same time I would stand by each and every comment if I said them at different points in my life.

    Those of us that play music professionally all have those thoughts at different times. Some are vocal about it. I applaud those that can be. Sonny didn’t hide behind his sax, fame, accolades. Now he’s somewhat paying the price for comments made during dark times. It sucks. The guy should have made a statement of some type paying respect. He didn’t. We live with it. At the same time Sonny is getting a lot of positive press in retort to the piece. He deserves any positive that comes of this.

    I have had many things said in my direction both positive and negative. I have been heralded for my playing, songwriting, my ability to touch someone playing live. I have stood in front of 15-20,000 people and came home and gave the same performance for five in a dingy club thinking it can’t get any weirder than this. I’m sure during the times that those self deprecating remarks of Sonny’s came from he wondered, “where are these people who say they love me so much now?”

    I don’t have two nickels to rub together at the moment. A live record in the can that even amazes me when I bring myself to listen to the rough mixes, enough songs written to do two studio records, and I sat two nights ago looking at my guitar and said, “your months away from 50. Why do you do this to yourself? Your broke and that thing in the corner has just about ruined your life.”

    And then I read that article. I understood as shitty as it was put together Sonny’s mind set in each moment of those quotes. In some way it gives me hope. It was passed on to me by a fellow musician and friend out in LA who found it equally hilarious. But then again he has shared the same struggles.

    Really what was made public is somewhat the inside joke between all professional musicians. Anyone who has stood in front of any sizeable crowd of people who in the moment told you how much they love you and then gets in their broken down car, went home to their un-mansion sized apartment somewhat broke gets it.

    It’s what we do. Doesn’t mean we always like it. Or really want the comments and jokes we share between each other to ease the pain of a career that can inevitably leave us homeless and broke public.

    In the end the writer found what he was looking for, and the musician paid the price. We call that in blues “the cost for being the boss.”

    The music always calls. And we always answer the phone.

    • Rick Banales says

      See, this is why this kind of writing is harmful:

      ” I keep seeing statements of, “it was all made up.” Was it made up or a series of quotes over the time span of Sonny’s life taken out of context? I feel it was the latter.”

      – How someone could come to this page, read the article and comments, and STILL think that Sonny said any of those things is why institutions like the New Yorker need to make some decisions regarding who they hire to write humor and how they frame it for the reader.

  49. Red Raleigh says

    From Mr. Gold’s comment above it’s clear he is his own number one fan and has little clue as to what really has occurred here. He says: “..all this humorlessness and tedious moral posturing..” Yeah. Who cares about slandering and defaming not only a living jazz legend but a few dead ones too through fabricated crap attributed to Rollins? Seems to me that the unauthorized use of Mr. Rollins image along with stating “In His Own Words” qualifies for legal action against The New Yorker not only by Mr. Rollins but also the estates of the others referred to.. His “satire” could not have been more mean-spirited and ugly. Sorry for the tedious response.

  50. says

    So now I run across this guys somewhat apology here. And feel a little “taken” by his writing style. It’s unfortunate that this made it in the New Yorker and not left in the Onion where it would have easily been read with the “right frame of mind.”

    It is somewhat harmful this style of satire put in the wrong publication without some type of by-line that Sonny really deserves.

    At the same time you are welcome to post my other response in its entirety as an example of the type of confusion this type of shoddy journalism can create.

    I will see you on the road.

    Michael Holt
    Austin Texas

  51. robertm2000 says

    This “satire,” supposedly by Sonny Rollins (and I knew right away it couldn’t be – “Django Gold!”) is scurrilous and not funny. i don’t think Howard Mandel would advocate violence – and he said so! I can say that I have never wished death, or any sort of violence, on anyone – hate just ins’t part of my makeup. But I will admit to having wished, for some people, instant and permanent poverty!!

    • says

      Poor Mr. “Gold” has been spotted wandering the streets of Madison, Wisc. with a cup in his hands, bearing a sign: “Out of work ‘satirist’ will squawk for donuts.’

  52. Russ Spiegel says

    Howard, you can thank this article and the debate around it for bringing people such as myself to your site. I want to thank you for your post and replies and for the very fair and open discussion that has ensued on account of the article in question.

    There are many levels to the discussion, some of which I will touch on here:

    I think I understand the New Yorker’s desire to be open to various approaches to humor, but it seems here to be a case of knowing your audience – if I had seen this article in the Onion I would have immediately understood its satiric intent and accepted it as such. I think this doesn’t work so well for a publication such as the New Yorker and the Onion-esque use of Sonny’s picture and the title of the article may have led some astray. On the other hand, anyone who reads the New Yorker regularly will immediately know that the “Shouts and Murmurs” section is always humorous. Whether it is successful (for me, about a 50% ratio) is up to the reader.

    That being said, Jazz has often been the target for humor and ridicule, and why shouldn’t it? Jazz, it’s musicians, situations and the world around it can be often quite funny. On the other hand, it is a unique, very important art form which, due to its structure and a lack of knowledge about it by the general public makes it open to being misunderstood and maligned (and we all know that people will often attack and make fun of exactly those things they don’t understand). In other words, jazz is open to the Cheap Shot.

    I think, on the whole, Gold’s choice of Rollins as his subject for this kind of humor failed for so many not because the idea isn’t funny, but, like a Cecil Taylor solo, it was just too abstract to connect with many readers, and as such came off as maligning a much-loved and respected musician who deserves far better (even if that was not the author’s intent). It reads like a Cheap Shot.

    • says

      thanks Russ, interesting analogy to a Cecil solo, but the thing is Cecil has astounding chops (even people who can’t bear him were usually amazed by his stamina), and “Gold” doesn’t display much skill as a humorist here.

      • Russ Spiegel says

        Howard, you as a musician must be aware that stamina is not always concomitant with chops. My point is that an artist – whether a musician, a writer, or in another field – is always attempting to connect with his or her audience, whoever that may be. That Mr. Gold’s piece has provoked so much acrimony only tells me that he was not very successful in this regard. I am not familiar with the rest of his work, but it reminds me of comics who “bomb” – he failed to entertain many of his audience and now has to deal with the repercussions. Why the New Yorker chose to publish this piece is the real issue here, I think.

        • says

          Right Russ, I know stamina is not concomitant with chops, just saying that Cecil’s stamina in itself would impress people who know nothing about music, jazz, improvisation, etc. Maybe “Gold” was successful connection with his audience, as there are commenters to this post who thought the piece was funny. People do have different senses of humor. However, to me it was a fail, and the bad judgement rests on the editor who published this as much as the writer.

  53. bsem says

    This is Satire…it isn’t supposed to be “funny-haha.” …

    It seems like a juxtaposition of a music legend and what people who don’t get it think about musicians: we feel about it how (nearly) everyone else feels about their career – just something you have to wake up for.

    This piece makes me think about what it actually means to be a musician. It makes me think about why we want to be musicians: because we love the music. I am certain that Sonny felt the same way.

    That is exactly what this piece exemplifies: we don’t do it for the money. We do it for the love of the art. We don’t get dressed up to forget how crappy our stage is. We do it because we have pride and respect for what we do (and we are, after all, performers). We don’t ‘hate’ the sound of other instruments. We think that all instruments have a unique timbre that is suited for certain settings.

    It SHOULD make you laugh – at how absurd it all sounds. But most of all, it should make you think. That is what Satire is meant for: making people think (and you have to look beyond the surface of the work).

    I don’t know what the intentions of the author were. I do know that the New Yorker wouldn’t publish something that was meant as a honest attack of a great musician. So, maybe there is more to this piece than anyone is giving it credit for…at least, that is what I hope.

  54. marcus benoit says

    As a public school music teacher, former USAF bandsman, and still gigging sax player it saddens me to see such a lame attempt at humor at the expense of one of the greatest icons of jazz and at the expense of one thing we can be proud of as Americans, this wonderful gift of jazz.. It could only have been have been born in a society that includes the world’s citizens.

  55. Joe Fig says

    As I’m sure you know, “Shouts and Murmurs” is a regular column in the New Yorker that is known to be wildy, absurdly facetious. Mostwho read the New Yorker would have known immediately that the article was making fun of people who says stupid things like that about jazz, not Sonny Rollins. As a matter of fact-most New Yorker readers would have understood that it was in a way being supportive of jazz.

    It’s a literary style. Some people don’t get certain styles of art-for example bebop. They listen to it and don’t understand and then they say misinformed things that are sometimes stupid. Just like some people don’t get certain literary styles and then when they read them they say misinformed things. Or people sometimes get defensive and self-righteous about things that are dear to them and miss the point.

    That parallel right there is part of the art of the writer. I would imagine he intended it-to write a humorous piece pointing out the close minded reaction people have to things they don’t understand-realizing that his piece would bring about the same reaction. That the outraged people reacting to his piece are people involved in the arts who ask for open mindedness of others and then don’t display it themselves is just an added bonus. It’s more sophisticated than you think.

    The best way I can describe it is to compare to Steven Colbert. He says a lot of outrageous conservative things. People could be offended by his very often absurdly conservative views. But they aren’t because they know he is mocking people who hold those views-he doesn’t hold those views himself. In fact-he is supportive and trying to promote exactly the opposite viewpoint.

    Just like how this author is in fact supportive of jazz and mocking people who say ridiculous things about it.

    The ironies here are pretty overwhelming. If you think this is making fun of jazz or Sonny I feel pretty comfortable saying you just don’t get it. Just like you would say to someone who said a Clifford Brown solo was unorganized noise. In each case the truth is the exact opposite of what the person thinks. The exposed hypocrisy of jazz lovers who ask others to be open to music they don’t understand and yet are completely close-minded to humor they don’t get reminds me of Jane Austen.

    I appreciate your work-I have for a long time-so I’m confused about how you don’t get this.

    • says

      Joe, I got it, I don’t like it. Colbert gives many signals to his audience of the ridiculous extremity of what he’s saying. Although when he ridiculed John Zorn for receiving a big grant, I found that rather opaque commentary, too. Most non-jazz people, imho, are not alert enough to what jazz/improv/cutting edge composition is to understand what it isn’t. Satirizing Zorn or Rollins or Ornette, Jim Hall, Monk, without giving a hint as to why those peoples’ music has genuine value is to do a weak job.

      • Joe Fig says

        Fair enough. I would bet good money “Django Gold” really loves jazz and Sonny Rollins. He took a risk-which-as an artist is not the worst thing you can do. And to a certain extent it succeeded and to a certain extent it didn’t. He appeared to drag another person’s integrity through the mud-and so it’s easy to see why that”s offensive. Even though I still think his intent was the opposite. I heard Sonny Rollins live in Lexington KY in 1983 -84. It was one of the wonderful experiences of my life. This article by Gold was nowhere near that meaningful to me-but it got me thinking-and I appreciate that. Andy Warhol’s soup can was not a masterpiece-but it started-and probably still starts-some really great conversations…

      • Jon Hey says

        In mentioning Colbert and Ornette Coleman – Here’s ‘Colbert on Ornette’ from a few years back – [near the end]—-pulitzer

        Here’s a fellow who didn’t get any of the humor of ‘Colbert on Ornette’:

        “I love Stephen Colbert! And I love Ornette Coleman! So it hurts my feelings when Mr. Colbert makes fun of Ornette Coleman as he does on his show from time to time with no apparent irony…”

        If you follow the C-Span 2 links (tapping toes stuff) back from there you end up here:

        “SUNDAY, APRIL 15, 2007
        C-Span 2 A Mixed Blessing?

        After all my distress over C-Span 2, and its happy resolution, I must say I saw something on C-Span 2 just a little while ago that filled me with a strange sadness. It was a famous intellectual author who called Sonny Rollins “unlistenable” — seemingly because Mr. Rollins has dared to be, in the famous intellectual’s estimation, well, intellectual, like the famous intellectual author. The poor old fellow can’t tap his toes to Sonny Rollins, he claims! Maybe he should try harder! But no, his argument seemed false to me. He seemed to say that only highly cultured professional musicians could enjoy Sonny Rollins… and that the sort of complex, supposedly “unlistenable” music made by Mr. Rollins is a sign of decadence in the arts.

        It is all of this the New Yorker/Onion writer Django Gold summoned – the complex reactions at both extremes. Emotional/political response was easy to pass by IF you knew in the first place it was just facetious/false/silly. It disappoints me how many got “duped” and didn’t think twice about how it might have been a parody – a “hoax”; maybe Geraldo Rivera (or should I type Jerry Rivers?) should investigate …

        [To be fair: ” While one might find much to criticize about Rivera’s reportorial techniques, his ethnicity is genuine. His father’s surname was Rivera, his given name was Gerald, and the only concession he made to fashion was to agree to go by the Spanish pronunciation of his given name to satisfy an employer who wanted an identifiably Puerto Rican reporter. In the world of television, that’s practically a refreshing authenticity.
        Read more at“]

        If you are upset by the New Yorker silliness, maybe you should be even more upset by whatever “famous intellectual author” was on C-Span 2 talking about Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, etc. back in 2007. Since the blog didn’t reveal this author’s identity, maybe someone knows.

  56. Dave Castle says

    I tell you what does make me laugh. It would be a kind of Monty Python sketch of the editor of a national daily and a journalist (we’ll call him Bud Silver) having a discussion about what eventually resulted in this article. It could have gone something like this:

    Editor: Hey Buddy, d’you feel like putting together a kind of satirical article where some famous old jazz musician reflects on his life as being a series of disappointments and failures and where he wishes he’d done something completely different instead – like accountancy or something.
    Bud Silver: Hmmm, he..he..he.. Yeah, I get the picture. Shall I make up a name of the musician?
    Editor: No, let’s go for a living legend, say Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Boots Randolph……
    Bud Silver: No, no. no, none of them are living anymore. How about someone like Sonny Rollins?
    Editor: Is he as famous as Kenny G?
    Bud Silver: Trust me, he’s famous! Okay I’ll start working on this straight away. Is it alright if I headline it as “in his own words”
    Editor: Sure, who’s to know?

  57. Ricardo da Mata says

    Congratulations, Mr. Mandel, this Django Gold’s text is embarrassing and disrespectful.

  58. Bruce Johnston says

    Thanks for the post Howard.

    I imagine “Mr Gold” is cringing quietly now, especially if he really does dig Sonny.
    What worries me was that the article was described as satire, but satire usually has a point to make, and uses humour… it’s more reminiscent of of the sight-gags of old slapstick movies.

    I can see why Sonny was pissed off.

    On to the next gig…

  59. James says

    Parts of this satirical piece were very funny. The part about Miles made me laugh out loud. The Dexter paragraph, too. Clearly suggesting Sonny doesn’t know the names of ‘the other instruments is a mis-step; it doesn’t make any sense, and it veers away from the truly funny notion that Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, and Dexter Gordon all secretly hate jazz, and always have.

    This article has a rhythm that lots of ones written for The Onion do; maybe you just can’t hear it. I wish it had been better-researched and therefore funnier, because he’s really not that far off. All of this ‘how DARE he mock the life’s work of an 84-year-old NEA Jazz Master/God among men’ stuff is so depressing. You sound like Mitch McConnell talking about Ronald Reagan. Your article gives me the distinct impression that you don’t want us to write the New Yorker editor about jazz being sacrosanct, just so long as we all tacitly acknowledge that it is.

    I am a working NYC jazz musician who loves and respects Sonny Rollins and have enjoyed and studied his music. But so we’re clear, as much as anything else, what this article was written to juxtapose is the hyperbole most professional jazz writers and dedicated fans use to deify these men. Someone who is actually spending his life making this music, with all of its challenges (both artistic and practical) and seeing that, on the best day when we play our best concerts and get our highest accolades, we’re still just a guy going home to go to bed, is probably better able to understand that then a critic/enthusiast with a house full of framed jazz photos and posters(?)

    Again, this wasn’t a slam dunk/home run at all, but it had its moments. Maybe you can’t find ANYthing funny at all in this article because the true butt of the joke — what actually makes it funny, is you.

      • James says

        Yes, in that the words Sonny is ‘saying’ in the satire piece are basically refuting/upending certain parties’ ideas about how he makes the greatest music in the world because he loves it more than anything else in the world, and it’s terribly, terribly important. I don’t think the ‘resentment of sophisticated people’ you reference in your rebuttal has to do with jazz itself, I think it has to do with the pomp and pretense with which it’s written about. I love jazz. I play jazz. I don’t like how other people who like it are given to lording it over everyone how great and important it is; how it’s this vitally important American contribution to American culture that we should be teaching kids about in school. It’s just jazz. It’s another kind of music to listen to, and I think it’ll be a lot more attractive for people to check out if it’s not presented in the same way as, say, the Grand Convention of Philadelphia, or the discoveries of Marie Curie.

        • says

          James, you resent jazz being taken seriously? Do you ever read the New Yorker’s coverage of pop music? It seems like you resent having been taught about jazz in school, yet you became a jazz musician who doesn’t take himself seriously though you “love jazz”? And this ” satire” was aimed at the pomposity off jazz lovers? I’m confused, or you are.

          • James says

            Correct. The fantasy baseball/religious devotee stuff wears thin for those of us who actually scratch out our living in this world through jazz, as much as we appreciate loyal ticket and album purchasers.

            There are plenty of us who play jazz and study jazz and take our craft and our art very seriously who also get very very tired of hearing about how it’s America’s greatest blah blah and its ‘classical music’ (no thanks!) on one hand, and on the other hand, that it’s Nick Payton’s personal property, and that we need to change its name and up his festival fees.

            Personally, it’s because I love jazz that I love seeing the stuffier elements in the jazz world freak out when it’s ‘attacked.’ There are so many forces conspiring to destroy both this music and any chance of those of us who play it have to live reasonably comfortable lives out there. Django Gold is not one of them. I hope he learns more about jazz and takes another run at it, and that he gets it right, and it further causes jazz worshippers to fall on their fainting couches.

          • says

            You’re right, James, I’m utterly bored by people who worship jazz. And I scratch out my living in this world through jazz — not by playing it but by writing and teaching about it, and consulting usually for free those who perform or present. I’m so sorry you’re tired of hearing that jazz is America’s great art form — maybe you should stop listening to that message, as it is not aimed at you (you already believe it, since you do it). Sonny Rollins is NOT one of the stuffier elements of the jazz world. Django Gold should turn his attention to how bad pop music is and the zillions made from it as well as though vast audiences who are entranced by its celebrities.

  60. says

    Rather than blow things out of proportion, people should just accept that the New Yorker will occasionally run a funny satirical piece about something that they like and should just enjoy the satire for what it is. I love Sonny Rollins and I thought the piece was excellent in that it perfectly exemplified the exact opposite of the type of things Sonny Rollins says in interviews. The people who didn’t get it either (a) don’t understand Sonny Rollins or (b) don’t get jokes.

  61. Alex Lemski says

    Maybe the piece was a joking satire like so many of the covers and cartons are, just suck it up fan they’re saying but I know that the mag doesn’t know diddly about nor care about Jazz especially when it comes to simply covering music especially the art of it. Editorial board, owner, journalist attitude(s), I don’t know, but it translates into harm done to our music because it’s seems to be the only chance its covered and readers who might genuinely learn something new (like catching on to Jazz beyond Jazz) will dismiss it as another spoof and go on to a more intelligent article. They should simply be honest and publicly declare war on Jazz, that’s their intention! Oh, I’ve written to the editor about a previous music article and the lack of Jazz coverage; another one to what avail?? Like telling conservatives to read more Marx, they’d finally learn something about their system…

  62. Chuck Koton says

    Its remarkable what it takes to get this much commentary about jazz in a mainstream magazine (online version, in this case), besides, of course, the annual “Jazz is dead” article. In this case, as soon as i read the “satire” i posted on FB that it had to be an April Fool’s joke(in August). Obviously, Sonny Rollins didnt write it, because if he decided to write something, Im sure it wouldve been funny…Django Gold’s piece was not at all funny…the only mildly clever statement was when he wrote then “in walked Bud,” clever because thats the title of a Monk tune…ok, so the publication of this asinine essay was rather mean spirited and not at all funny but i was amazed to read how many people believed…Obviously, this is as much a commentary on the stupidity of the American reading public as it is a revelation of Django’s lack of writing ability. But the most serious consequence here is what either Howard Mandel or a commenter mentioned: that Googling Sonny Rollins will now likely bring up this stooopid article, giving Django(if that really is your name)more attention but also exposing more uninformed people to believe that, in fact, Sonny Rollins has admitted that his entire life has bee a lie!…Oy vey!

  63. Chuck Koton says

    wow, this is rather interesting…in my comment i wrote “stooopid” for emphasis and it was corrected…thats rather remarkable…didnt know these comments were edited for spelling!