Dizzy Gillespie was just one of the jazz greats with whom Hentoff had a close personal relationship.
Dizzy Gillespie was just one of the jazz greats with whom Hentoff had a close personal relationship. Getty Images
Nat Hentoff was 11 years old, strolling along a street in Boston, when he heard jazz clarinetist Artie Shaw's famous composition "Nightmare" through the open door of a record store. Hentoff was hooked.
By 19, he had his own jazz show on a local radio station, and he was getting career advice from none other than Duke Ellington. Hentoff played the clarinet back then, but he knew he wasn't going to be the next Artie Shaw, so he joined the staff of the music magazine Down Beat as a columnist and eventual New York editor.
Hentoff has spent roughly six decades covering the world of jazz, and he's collected his thoughts and memories in a new book, At the Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years on the Jazz Scene. Hentoff recently joined Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz to discuss the book, as well as the best way to get into jazz music.
"Just open yourself if it reaches you. Get inside of it the way they get inside themselves as they play for you," Hentoff says. "That way, you'll say, 'Hey, I gotta hear more of this.' That's the way into jazz. Once you get started, you can't stop. You always need more."