Meet John Kelman
What inspired you to write about jazz?
A friend of mine suggested it, saying that I had a mind for meaningless trivia (!); truthfully, I began because I was looking for something to occupy my time, and it just made sense to take a lifetime of music pathology and focus it on writing. I like to think, on my better days, that I am helping to give something back to the multitude of musicians who have, throughout my life, given me so much.
What do you like to do in your free time? Any hobbies?
Free time? What's that? :)
Seriously, my passion for music is pretty all-encompassing. When I'm not listening to music (rare) I'm thinking about it. When I'm not thinking about it I'm dreaming about it. When I'm not dreaming about it I'm listening to it. It's a pathology, but a benign one :)
I do read a lotlargely fiction, ranging from thrillers by writers like F Paul Wilson to human character studies by Russell Banks. And while I don't see as many movies in the theaters that I used to, I still love 'em and try to catch as much as I can by either buying them, checking out Netflix or, on my many transatlantic flights, picking them up there.
What role does jazz music play in your life?
I'd rather remove "jazz" from the question, though jazz music definitely predominates. What role does music play in my life? Beyond my wife and my dog, it's everything. I cannot imagine a worse fate than to lose my hearing, though by now I suspect I could "listen" inside my head to more albums than I'd ever have time to play. Music is everything to me, plain and simple. People ask me if I ever get tired of it, need to put it away and take a break, and the answer is: never. I go to sleep listening to music, I wake up to music, music is with me wherever I go. Music is my life.
How does writing about jazz contribute to the music itself?
Hopefully, by writing in a way that doesn't so much worry about whether or not I like the music, but rather is concerned with what the music and the musicians making it are about. By contextualizing the music so that the reader, after reading a piece, can make up his/her own mind whether or not this music is something they should check out, that's what I hope I can contribute to the music. By providing informative (and hopefully interesting) articles that help readers new to an artist get a feel for the music, and for those familiar, maybe a different perspective. I'd like to hope that, in doing all this, I'm able to give something back to the many musicians who've meant so much to me throughout my life, and given me so much of themselves through their work.
What do you like most about All About Jazz?
What don't I like about All About Jazz!
Seriously, the reason I parked my bench as a writer at AAJ and became more involved in the site was because it is the only jazz site I know of that looks at jazz from the broadest possible purview, and doesn't look to pigeonhole, reduce or restrict.
There is no other site in jazz (and, in many other kinds of music for that matter) that marries content with technology the way AAJ does, truly leveraging the power of web to do more than just be an online version of a hardcopy magazine; on the web, you've got to have more than just good content, you've got to deliver it in ways that are enticing, compelling, captivating. AAJ's integrated database makes it possible to put so much information at a reader's disposal without making it cluttered or hard to find, that it amazes me it's not more successful than it admittedly already is. And for that, the jazz world has Michael Ricci (AAJ founder/publisher) to thank; a friend and colleague with inimitable vision, he's always looking at ways to expand, improve and make the site easier to use, whether you're a reader, a writer, a label, a publicist or a musician. I'm a lucky guy to be associated with a site like AAJ, and to have Michael as a supportive friend and professional colleague.
And speaking of musicians, AAJ is not just a site about content. It's a musician advocacy site that's also all about the music. If you write enough and establish a name, folks will get to know who you are and what your tastes are without your actually telling them directly; so the writing should always be about the music and not you. You want it to be about yourself? Start a blog. At AAJ it's the music that's central, and the musicians who make it, and I'd not want it any other way.
What positives have come from your association with All About Jazz?
Wow. Well, aside from more free music than I can handle and access to more shows than I could ever afford, writing for AAJ has directly resulted in:
1. Travel: I spend 10 weeks or so on the road, largely in Europe but also have been invited to places farther afield like South Africa and Malaysia to cover festivals;
2. I'm being asked, increasingly, to participate as a speaker at daytime educational events tied into music festivals;