“Legacy” honors the work of Grammy-nominee Neil Slater


The life work of Grammy-nominated Neil Slater is compiled in the collection, “Legacy.” “Legacy” is like no other collection reviewed of late. There are four discs divided into decades from the 1980s to the present. In addition, there is a 168-page book that discusses Slater’s abilities as a composer and a teacher. “Legacy” it seems, covers all of Slater’s work as a professional.

“Legacy”: a unique idea

Even those who are not familiar with Slater’s work will be impressed by his Grammy nomination. “Legacy,” is currently under consideration for a Grammy in the historical album category. The very idea of “Legacy” is a daunting one. It is uncertain how long it would take the average listener to get through all of the material provided. Both the book and the collection of four CDs contain a considerable amount of text and music.

While the collection is fairly supersized, it does live up to its name. Just because it contains a great deal of material doesn’t mean that the project that led to its creation wasn’t worthwhile. The span of time represented by the music alone is important to this project. It would be problematic if a collection meant to comprise a professional lifetime of work was stingy and lacked completeness.

With the way photos and text are arranged in the book for “Legacy,” audiences get a feel for the man behind the music. Slater, like others written about of late, has ties to the University of North Texas. “Legacy” is part of a collection of releases that mark various milestones in the history of the jazz department of the University of North Texas.

“Legacy,” Neil Slater and today’s music scene

“Legacy” is interesting for reasons previously discussed, but also because it represents an investment in jazz. In today’s musical climate, except among certain avid fans, jazz is either forgotten or misunderstood. “Legacy” and the other recent releases by the University of North Texas jazz department illustrate a thriving interest in jazz. Certainly, faculty and student interest in jazz might not be to the exclusion of all other genres. However, that jazz is part of a continued conversation about American culture and American music history.

The collection sheds light on the work of professionals like Slater, who might not be household names yet, but whose exemplary approaches to jazz are worth noting. Perhaps with the Grammy nomination Slater has already garnered, and the pending one, the case for jazz will continue to be made.

With the way the music industry functions, it is unclear if jazz will be as popular as contemporary pop music. That there are aspects of contemporary culture that make younger music forms more accessible and arguably, more appealing to more audiences, doesn’t negate the possibility for a true jazz resurgence to occur.

“Legacy” is a sweeping collection of music and stories about the work of Slater. Even those who are unfamiliar with him will appreciate what Slater has accomplished. “Legacy” is worth the time it takes to examine it for the decades’ worth of music if nothing else.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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