Downbeat Blindfold Test

Hosted by Dan Ouellette

The DownBeat Blindfold Test is a listening test that challenges the featured artist to identify and discuss the music and musicians who perform on selected recordings. The artist is then asked to rate each tune using a 5-star system. No information is given to the artist prior to the test. 

The 2018 DownBeat  Blindfold artist will be John Clayton.

Since the mid-1980s, Dan Ouellette has been writing about music for a variety of publications—reviewing/critiquing albums and shows, profiling a variety of artists, including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Norah Jones, Diana Krall, Elvis Costello, Willie Nelson, Dizzy Gillespie, Astor Piazzolla, Frank Zappa, Lou Reed and Joni Mitchell, and commenting on the evolving world of the recording industry.

In 2008, he wrote the book Ron Carter: Finding the Right Notes. and recently published the biography of legendary record company exec, Bruce Lundvall Playing by Ear.

Dan started writing for DownBeat in 1987 and has been a regular contributor since. In the last decade he has filed many cover stories and features. He also contributes frequently to DownBeat's “Blindfold Test” page with his live listening tests at festivals, including Monterey, North Sea, Detroit, Umbria and Barcelona.

Previously, Dan reported on the jazz world for Billboard—profiling new and veteran artists, breaking news on record companies, and weighing in on various subjects ranging from post-Katrina rebuilding in New Orleans to Wynton Marsalis' status in the jazz world at large. In addition to his columns, he contributed features and reviews. Reuters licensed his Billboard content to its news service subscribers.

Dan’s writing also appeared in Stereophile (contributing editor), Salon, Pulse!, The New Yorker (special sections), Playboy (Japan), the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Examiner, Acoustic Guitar, Strings and Adweek. He was the jazz consultant for Napster until it was purchased by Rhapsody.

In addition to writing, Dan served as the music editor of several Schwann publications, including Schwann Spectrum and Schwann Inside, the monthly jazz and classical magazine.

He has traveled the world to report on jazz and popular music. His jaunts have taken him to Mali, Africa; Cape Town, South Africa; Beijing, China; Melbourne, Australia; Molde, Norway; Perugia, Italy; Genoa, Italy; Istanbul, Turkey; Marciac, France; The Hague and Rotterdam, in the Netherlands; and on the Queen Elizabeth 2 for its “floating” jazz festival that traveled from New York to Southampton, England. He has covered music events throughout Canada (including Montreal, Vancouver and Quebec City) and the U.S. (including New York, San Francisco, Detroit, Cleveland, Seattle, Chicago, New Orleans and in the Mississippi Delta).

Dan moderated panels at IAJE, the Monterey Jazz Festival and the San Francisco Jazz Festival. He curates artist panels at the North Sea Jazz Festival.

In 1999, Dan moved from San Francisco, where he comprehensively covered the Bay Area music scene for several years, to New York, where he is now based. He lives part-time in Harlem and on Shelter Island, at the eastern end of Long Island.

Even though the subject matter seems quite at odds with his expertise and reputation in the popular music world, Dan wrote the book, The Volkswagen Bug Book: A Celebration of Beetle Culture (Angel City Press, 1999). While its subject matter is steered by the Bug, it's also heavily indebted to music.