According to Larry Blumenfeld ["Burns-Eye View of Jazz," January 16], Ken Burns calls those critics who find fault with his PBS Jazz series "gnats." His pal Stanley Crouch refers to them as "fleas" in a recent Daily News column. Do we see an echo here of the practice of totalitarian governments calling opponents "insects"? One would think so, given the series' Soviet-style method of treating the pioneers of the jazz-rock fusion movement of the 1970s as nonpersons, and the refusal of the mainstream press to publish pieces that expose the discriminatory spirit behind Burns's documentary. Down with the jazz police!

Vinni Cappelli
Poughkeepsie, New York


Re "Kind of Blue" by Richard B. Woodward [January 16]: The irony of the current sad state of jazz in America is that those who thought they were saving jazz have been the ones who are killing it. The neo-traditionalists of the '80s thought they could save jazz by putting four walls around it and trying to stop the clock at 1967. But anyone who knows jazz history realizes that jazz has been an ever-expanding universe, and those who have expanded it have been invariably attacked for trying to destroy it. Go through old reviews and you'll find among those accused of killing jazz Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Miles Davis, to name a few.

The difference in the American scene during the 1980s was that these people were put in a position to prevent the next generation of "jazz destroyers" from making records and getting reviews. The current crop of destroyers is at work in Europe, but can't find any work in this country outside of New York.

Right now it looks like the only real future for jazz in the States would be for these artists to stage a revolt similar to that of the Jazz Composer's Guild in 1964 by putting out their own records and promoting their own concerts.

Jim Goetsch
Los Angeles, California


James Hannaham ["Awake and Talk," January 23] obviously had some pretty strong feelings about Steven Berkoff's show Shakespeare's Villains at the Public Theater. Some of us feel strongly that Hannaham should know whereof he speaks to a great enough degree to know that Macbeth did not have what Hannaham describes as "clouds lowering on his house," nor did he march "a dreadful march"—that was Richard III.

Hannaham also seems to have missed Berkoff's point about "political correctness" as it applies to actors and their roles. If that is to mean anything at all, it must be universally applicable. I have seen Titus Andronicus beautifully played by an Asian actor and a female Antony in Julius Caesar, whom I was determined to dislike, but who won me over. How many excellent Othellos have we been denied because no one dare cast a Caucasian in the role? Should the Royal Shakespeare Company's Mark Rylance not have been permitted to play Cleopatra? He is, after all (gasp) male.

As for Berkoff's "one (gasp) word (gasp) at (gasp) a (gasp) time iambic fits," perhaps it makes him indulgent, but at least through them he shows his love of the verse and its infinite possibilities. But in order to appreciate him on that level, Hannaham might want to first learn to tell Richard III and Macbeth apart. One challenge at a time, James.

Kim Carrell

James Hannaham replies: Given Berkoff's histrionics, I'll bet Harold Bloom couldn't tell Richard III from Macbeth. But thanks for the free dramaturgy. (NB: The error's corrected online.) As for incorrectness of the political sort, I say let's level the playing field just a little before whining about the limited opportunities for Caucasians in Shakespeare.


Many thanks to Janet McDonald for her ode to the "Project Girls" [January 23]. I am an alumnus of Taft Projects in East Harlem, and I too remember scenes from my youth: doormen, elevator operators, milk delivery, and a sense of community. My family was so happy to have been accepted there back in the early '60s. However, there were subtle changes throughout my childhood, and at some point I began to feel unsafe. I moved away in 1980, but go back periodically to see family and friends. It's nice to know there was, and still is, a vibrant group of folks holding it down in the projects.

K.J. Durant
Teaneck, New Jersey

In response to Janet McDonald's "Project Girls" [January 23]: I'm a white project girl of the baby-boomer generation. The projects I lived in were in eastern Pennsylvania on the steep incline of a riverbank. I moved there with my mother and sister in the mid '50s. Eventually my father reappeared from the army. My aunt, uncle, and two deaf cousins also lived in the projects.

A part of me never forgets that experience, which provided the first bit of stability for my family. I remember the kindergarten with sour milk, the way my mother fussed over dresses that she sewed for us, the hunger for food, and escaping into books.

Like Janet McDonald, I have come far—not in riches, but in a creative and good way. Hello, ladies of Farragut Houses, from Hanover Acres.

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