A couple of weeks ago Mike Westbrook expressed a view to me strongly regretting the demise of critics of Charles Fox's calibre, people articulate, well-versed and confident in writing up pieces that reflected their *own* views about what they were reviewing, rather than merely reproducing their interviewees verbatim. As one who probably stands accused of privileging the interviewee pov at the expense of the critic (who after all in most cases couldn't actually do what he or she expects of the musicians and wouldn't be there were it not for the music his criticism depends on), I must admit I felt uncomfortable and didn't know quite what to say in reply.
Jazz musos in general (with one or two notable exceptions, in my admittedly somewhat limited experience of interviewing as compared with the likes of J Fordham) are best at spinning their own stories. Given the spontaneous manner in which jazz evolves, above all, in performance, fitting the musos' musical journeys *into* their story is possibly more of a necessary part and parcel of an interviewer's equipment in jazz than of the inevitably more academically-orientated classical critic.
I have generally found jazz musicians generally to be much more approachable than their classical "equivalents". Someone on another thread dismissed the question of interviewing working musicians on live programmes, suggesting that all they would have to say of interest would be, "well, my job consists in reading the notes on the score and doing my best to accurately reproduce them". Evaluative principles have been shaped differently in classical music by performance practice, copyright desiderata etc, the relative separation of composer from realisation, and an historical overview placement lending distance and, for some, professional substance to the critic's role in the transmission. But even in the case of the jazz composer, the vast proportion of whose creative time will be away from the bandstand, the moment of actual realisation is informed by the imminent character of jazz performance, taking account of how it is shaped by the context beyond, as well as immediate.
Consciousness of these factors and their bearing have always informed the character of Westbrooks' output. While appreciative of the relative autonomy a great musician such as Mike Westbrook is prepared to accord those who write up the music, long gone are the days when jazz musos were to be treated as inarticulate spokespersons for the music, and so I still think it is the jazz critic's main job to be a mouthpiece rather than a mouth.
As of now I see the critic's role in jazz to fill in the spaces; to encourage musicians to talk, to point out any changes in direction in the music and, where possible, draw attention to statements made at different stages in the musician's career which can throw light on where the music has gone and is going. But I greatly appreciate the views offered on this forum that I may find initial disagreement with and am always prepared to be persuaded to the contrary.