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Gene Lees, Jazz Critic and Historian, Dies at 82

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Gene Lees, a prolific jazz critic and historian who approached his subject with a journalist's rigor and an insider's understanding, died on Thursday at his home in Ojai, Calif. He was 82.

The apparent cause was a stroke, said Leslie A. Westbrook, a family spokeswoman.

The author of numerous books, Mr. Lees was not just an observer of the music scene, he was also a participant.

He was an accomplished lyricist whose credits included “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars," the English-language lyric for Antonio Carlos Jobim's “Corcovado," which was recorded by Frank Sinatra, Astrud Gilberto and many others. He was also a vocalist, with several albums to his credit.

That experience, and the friendships he built over the years with musicians, singers and songwriters, informed the project that had been his primary focus since 1981: publishing (monthly at first, later at irregular intervals) the subscription-only Gene Lees Ad Libitum Jazzletter, mostly as an outlet for his own biographical and historical essays.

“The beauty of this thing," Mr. Lees said of his journal in an interview in The New York Times in 1987, “is that it has permitted me to write what I want to write, not what editors want me to write. And the beauty of it for the other contributors is that theyve got total freedom. No money, but total freedom."

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