Posted 8/30/2016 1:45pm by Eugene Wyatt.
American writer best remembered for his music and film reviews in The New Republic in the 1930s.
He was considered "the first rock critic" due to his appreciation of jazz and its impact on popular culture.
Ferguson's famous appreciation of Bix Beiderbecke (1930) shows his technical knowledge without showing it off, draws pointed comparisons with other musicians, and captures what is both traditional and new about jazz.
He played a full easy tone, no forcing, faking, or mute tricks, no glissando to cover unsure attack or vibrato to fuzz over imprecisions of pitch—it all had to be in the music. And the clear line of that music is something to wonder at. You see, this is the sort of thing that is almost wholly improvised, starting from a simple theme and taking off from that into a different and unpredictable melodic line, spontaneous, personal—almost a new tune but still shadowing the old one, anchored in its chord sequence. Obviously, without lyric invention and a perfect instinct for harmony, this is no go for a minute, let alone chorus after chorus, night after night.
Ferguson wrote in the laconic, wiseacre idiom of the generation who faced the turmoil of the 1930s and who knew the lessons of Ring Lardner, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein. Jazz inflected his prose, as did the pulse of the movies, which by the time he started reviewing had finally learned to talk properly.
Just as everyday conversations hop from high metaphor to curse words, Ferguson could jump registers.
Rhapsodes, How 1940's Critics Changed The American Film Culture, 2016 David Bordwell