Count Basie, Harper Lee, and 'The Big Lebowski': Everyone's a Critic (with Gene Seymour, The Everyman Critic)

Reports of the demise of criticism have been grossly exaggerated. Sure, the type of critic wickedly portrayed in Oscar winner Birdman may find very few customers, but, in this age of "on demand content creation," audiences crave the nuanced observations and heartfelt feelings from a longtime critic and reporter such as CNN's Gene Seymour.

Having a long conversation with Gene, for me, reminded me of my college days, hanging out at the coffee house and letting the topic bleed from jazz to low-brow comedy to television to politics to the very future of the arts. Gene views the world as a reporter with an opinion, and it's a delight to hear him opine about jazz's influence on Kendrick Lamar, or Wes Anderson's visual hallmarks, or Faulkner's insight into race relations.

Gene Seymour is an arts critic and culture reporter who writes frequently for CNN and USA Today. In New York, he was a longtime film and jazz critic at Newsday. His writings have appeared in The Los Angeles TimesThe NationEntertainment Weekly, the Washington Post, and many other publications. Gene is a contributor to The Oxford Companion to Jazz and is the author of Jazz: The Great American Art, a history for young adults. Gene is a two-time winner of the New York Association of Black Journalists Award for distinguished criticism.

Notes from the show:

Gene started out as a reporter, and approaches criticism from a reporter's perspective.

Got his big break when Nels Elson passed along opportunity to cover the Philadelphia Jazz Festival.

Gene's years as a television critic were among his happiest as a journalist because he got to cover tv, politics, and culture.

Gene's came to Newsday as a New York City jazz critic, but later provided movie criticism.

Gene was raised in a Hartford CT household which always had jazz records playing: Miles Davis, Ahmed Jamal, Dave Brubek, Chet Baker, Charlie Parker.

His Dad's motto: "If it doesn't have soul, it isn't worth it."

His Dad loved Paul Desmond's "Time After Time" and Sonny Stitts's "Who Can I Turn To?"- these songs became emotional touchstones.

Music critics range from composer Virgil Thompson to George Bernard Shaw.

It is not Gene's role to explain on behalf of a musician, but to write on behalf of the spectator.

The art of note-taking during a live performance vs. a movie.

Lena Horne vs. the cell phone.

Jazz: The Great American Art

First Book of Jazz - Langston Hughes

"Jazz is the 20th century."

"Have We Reached the End of Jazz Itself?" - The Nation

Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, and the future of jazz.

Groundhog DayThe Big Lebowski, and giving movies a second look.

Critics' controversy over Wes Anderson.

John Leonard's disdain for All in the Family.

The passing of Harper Lee.

Better Living Through Criticism - A.O. Scott

Recommended Blogs:

The Psychology of What Makes a Great Story - Brain Pickings

This podcast hosted by New York attorney Michael Prywes was sponsored by Prywes Schwartz, PLLC, a law firm devoted to artists and entrepreneurs.

This podcast may contain attorney advertising. Prior results do not guarantee future outcomes.