A Memorial for Nat Hentoff

75060Leslie Savan at The Nation:

Nat’s fierce love for jazz underlay his devotion to free speech, and vice versa. In fact, for him, they were made of the same stuff. “The Constitution and jazz are my main reasons for being,” Nat said in the 2013 documentary about his life by journalist David Lewis, The Pleasures of Being Out of Step, a clip of which was shown at the event. “The reason we have jazz, the reason we have anything worthwhile, is the fact that we’re a free people, and that comes about because of James Madison and those improvisers.”

The service was highlighted with two piano solos. Ninety-year-old jazz pianist Randy Weston played a rendition of “Berkshire Blues” (he said he and Nat became friends in the Berkshires), and the young pianist Joe Altermanperformed “Gaslight,” a song composed by Erroll Garner. During the discussion, Alterman, who got to know Hentoff while studying at NYU, recalled that Nat “said jazz was the perfect representation of democracy.”

During the panel discussion, Michael Meyers, the president and executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, called Hentoff “my Wyatt Earp, because he was brave, courageous, and bold.… We agreed on virtually everything about freedom, due process of law long before it was fashionable, long before the civil-rights community caught up to the notion that freedom is indivisible.”

more here.