I’ve wondered occasionally whether the position of arts critic – self-appointed or otherwise – should be subject to term limits. The thought occurred to me most recently while attending… no, while immersed in Grace Nexus, the simultaneously bewitching and bewildering presentation mounted at Issue Project Room on April 15 by Quantum Natives: either a British digital-media collective or “an abstruse net-label run by two art school-educated Londoners,” according to Resident Advisor. Maybe both.
About Steve Smith
I've been involved professionally in music and media for close to 30 years, and personally for perhaps a decade longer. Apart from a two-year sojourn in Boston, I've been based in or around New York City since June 1993. After a long string of roles and positions in mass media, I've recently taken up the role of director of publications at National Sawdust, a revolutionary young performing-arts venue and incubator in Wiliamsburg, Brooklyn. You can learn more about that venture at nationalsawdust.org.
My work email address, for press releases, pitches, potential contributions, and whatnot, is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prior to joining National Sawdust, I spent just over two years as an assistant arts editor at the Boston Globe, where I had the privilege of overseeing that esteemed newspaper's coverage of music and the visual arts. Before that, I served for 13 years as a music editor (first classical music, and then everything) for Time Out New York, and for seven years concurrently as a freelance classical-music reporter and reviewer for The New York Times.
While nearly all of my work is now focused on National Sawdust, I continue to contribute interviews and concert and CD reviews for RollingStone.com. My writing has appeared previously in the Washington Post, Village Voice, Billboard, Musical America, The Wire, Signal to Noise [RIP], Decibel, Jazziz, Jazz Times, Down Beat, Chamber Music, and Symphony magazines.
Before turning to journalism full time, I was a classical radio DJ in Houston, and then worked as a publicist at BMG Classics, the Knitting Factory, Third Floor Media (representing the Columbia Records jazz roster, the Village Vanguard, select projects on Blue Note Records, and more), and other NYC organizations. Artists with whom I worked directly include Tim Berne, Bobby Previte, Dave Douglas, and Ellery Eskelin.
I trained formally as a classical percussionist, and then put those skills to use with jazz and rock bands in Houston and New York. I graduated from Clear Creek High School in League City, TX, in 1984, and from Trinity University in San Antonio, TX, in 1988. I'm married to Dr. Lara Pellegrinelli, an accomplished journalist, critic, and academic. Our daughter, Annina, is a budding singer, dancer, painter, and social-media superstar.
If you want to send something to me via snail mail, please drop me a line via email first to determine the best destination.
Entries by Steve Smith
One of the best known and most respected journalists and critics in the realm of classical music and opera, Anne Midgette has also been among the more tenacious advocates of changing with the times, embracing new media platforms, techniques, and modes of storytelling – including Facebook and Twitter.
Midori Takada, Kelly Moran, Sarah Hennies, Olivier Alary, Gov’t Mule, Ecstatic Vision, Allan Holdsworth (RIP), and other striking sounds heard lately at Night After Night HQ.
Formed in 2013, Bearthoven has built up an estimable repertoire of fresh pieces for an instrumentation that’s canonical among jazz circles, but uncommon within the concert-music world. Listen to an exclusive stream of a Fjóla Evans piece on Bearthoven’s debut album, ‘Trios,’ courtesy of Cantaloupe Music.
The four members of PRISM Quartet have been singleminded in their pursuit of new sonic and stylistic frontiers for their mutual instrument of choice, the saxophone. Alongside strictly four-part inventions, PRISM has engaged in eye- and ear-opening collaborations with other artists and ensembles. Disparate though all these projects might be, what they all share in common is an enviable combination of integrity, individuality, and instant appeal.
What does a breakthrough sound like? To borrow a tetchy old turn of phrase, you might not know how to define it, but you know when you hear it. And bloodroot, newly released by Kelly Moran, a New York-based composer and multi-instrumentalist, absolutely qualifies.
Change appears to be coming, in some form or another, to Spectrum, the intimate Ludlow Street performance space that over the last five or so seasons has provided a home base for fascinating musical voyages spanning an unusually broad range of styles.… Perhaps because of that hovering uncertainty, a pair of recent recitals by the pianists R. Andrew Lee and Sophia Subbayya Vastek seemed brushed with a sense of anticipatory valediction.
Dave’s Coffee Shop on Broadway in Oakland was always the destination for me to meet a deadline. I started going there soon after becoming the classical music critic for the East Bay Express, an alternative weekly, in 1985. After a concert, I would take the bus to Dave’s, open all night, and sit at the counter and order fried eggs and corned beef hash – the kind that comes in a perfect oval patty, and looks and tastes like dog food – and endless refills of coffee. I would sit there and write out the whole review by hand, and then take it home and type it up on my ancient Royal typewriter. It could be five pages or eight pages – however long was necessary to go into great detail and depth.
Springtime is here, and with it comes the implementation of the first major changes in this journal since we launched last October. We’ve worked hard during the first six months of producing The Log to establish a place and a precedent for vivid conversations with and among artists, strong and pertinent essays on topics of broad interest, timely news, and constructive criticism.
Pere Ubu, Latitude 49, Julia Holter, Dag Rosenqvist & Matthew Collings, Jason Moran, Tom Carter, and other striking sounds heard lately at Night After Night HQ.