Meet Daniel Lehner
I joined All About Jazz in: 2010
What made you decide to contribute to All About Jazz? I actually submitted my first review, which was the Undead Jazz Festival 2010, to the AAJ message boards. I saw they had a section for concert reviews so I decided I'd relay my experiences of the festival. I had never previously written a review of a concert before, but I found it to greatly rewarding and almost cathartic. One of the contributors, a New York trumpeter, said that he really enjoyed the review and suggested I submit it to the main site. I cleaned it up to fit the house style and sent it along. I decided I wanted to do this more often and the couple of nice words I got on my first piece from Michael Ricci didn't hurt either.
How do you contribute to All About Jazz? I've covered a pretty good range of different submissions, which have included live reviews, CD reviews and interviews. My most consistent projects have been covering the Undead Music Festival and Winter Jazzfest for a few successive years; those are two New York jazz festivals that I think showcase some of the best and most diverse acts in jazz and improvised music. I've also latched on heavily to doing interviews, my first in 2011 with Jen Shyu and Theo Bleckmann. That area in particular has been immensely rewarding
What is your musical background? I'm a musician myself. I've played the trombone for about 10 years and I graduated with a Bachelor's in Jazz Studies from William Paterson University. I'm a freelance player and teacher in New York City of several different styles, as well as leading my own quartet, Memory Field. I've also composed a fair amount, both for my own group and for an incidental music score back in 2010
What was the first record you bought that you would still listen to today? Strangely enough, it'd be Rancid's Life Won't Wait. I was very into punk rock as a teenager in New Jersey and they were my favorite band. Like The Clash before them, Rancid was enamored with other genres like reggae, ska, rockabilly, hip-hop, etc., and that's particularly showcased on this record. It's the "weird one" of their discography and I still think there's a lot of musical merit beyond simply my nostalgia factor. For what it's worth, I think that was a major turning point in me be so musically eclectic
What type of jazz do you enjoy listening to the most? I really like today's younger musicians of the avant-garde/modern jazz scene, typically those represented by record labels like Pi, Clean Feed, Cuneiform, Sunnyside, etc. The types of music that bring in other ways of operating, like folk music, new music, chamber music, into improvised, jazz-based music is really exciting for me. I also like a lot of the current jazz "bands" that operate more as units, like Kneebody, The Bad Plus, Mostly Other People Do the Killing, etc. Basically, if you read down the list of the recent Winter and Undead festivals, that would be more or less where my tastes run. A lot music coming out of Brooklyn in particular is very exciting for me.
But even after all that, I still love all of the bebop/hard bop/post-bop records from the 50's and 60's, from Blue Note, Atlantic, Columbia, Riverside, etc. I'm a huge fan of Andrew Hill and have been trying to get into the early strains of the avant-garde in jazz. As a trombonist, I still listen to a lot of J.J. Johnson and Jimmy Knepper, but they have their own merits even outside of their instruments. When it comes to New York, as much as I like going out to see "left of center" acts at Cornelia Street, The Stone or Barbes, I still love going to hear contemporary swinging players at places like Smoke, Smalls or The Kitano.
I'm also still trying to expand my palette to other "sounds" and eras in jazz, like hot/trad jazz, ECM, Hat Hut, etc.
Aside from jazz, what styles of music do you enjoy? I'm a big fan of hip-hop; I think it's a worthy contemporary companion to jazz, with respect to artists like Mos Def, Madlib, Talib Kweli, the Wu-Tang Clan members, Kendrick Lamar, Biggie Smalls, J Dilla, Q-Tip, The Roots, etc. I also like a fair amount of so-called "indie rock" via artist like Sufjan Stevens, Dirty Projectors, Radiohead, Arcade Fire, St. Vincent, TV on the Radio, etc. Also, since I've been playing a lot of salsa music in NYC, I've gotten pretty big into salsa and Latin jazz, with artists like Wilie Colon, Ruben Blades, Fania All-Stars, Eddie Palmieri, Oscar D'Leon and others like that.
I have pretty expansive tastes, so it always branches out to genres like electronica (James Blake, Venetian Snares, Autechre), contemporary classical (Morton Feldman, Olivier Messaien, Gyorgi Ligeti), classic rock (The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin), Soul/RnB (James Brown, Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder), metal (Meshuggah, Animals as Leaders) and just a lot of material in between. As of recently, I've flirted with genres like old-school gospel, klezmer and No Wave
What are you listening to right now? My current iPod nano (which I got deliberately to listen to albums more thoroughly/more often) presently has:
1. Billy HartAll of Our Reasons 2. Charles IvesSymphony No. 3 3. Colin StetsonNew History Warfare Vol. 2 4. Count BasieThe Complete Decca Recordings, CD 1 5. Elmo Hope TrioMeditations 6. Fania All-StarsLive at Yankee Stadium, Part 1 7. Glenn BrancaThe Ascension 8. Grachan Moncur IIIEvolution 9. GZALiquid Swords 10. James BlakeJames Blake 11. Janice "Ms. JJ" JohnsonJ. J. Inc. 12. Mary Halvorson QuintetSaturn Sings 13. Ornette ColemanThis is Our Music 14. Steve Lehman TrioDialect Fluorescent 15. Wayne Shorter QuartetWithout a Net 16. Will McEvoy's MutuasmLabor of Labor
Which five recent releases would you recommend to readers who share your musical taste? 1. Deluxe (Clean Feed) by Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth 2. Accelerando (ACT Music) by Vijay Iyer Trio 3. Snakeoil (ECM) by Tim Berne 4. Union (Clean Feed) by Paradoxical Frog (Tyshawn Sorey, Kris Davis, Ingrid Laubrock) 5. Endangered Blood(Skirl) by Endangered Blood (Chris Speed, Trevor Dunn, Jim Black, Oscar Noriega)
What inspired you to write about jazz? I've always enjoyed describing my musical listening experiences to others, finding ways to best describe, in musical and non-musical ways, what I experienced or what could be gleaned from a performance. It has helped me understand music better as a result of thinking about it in different ways. I also like being able to give artists the exposure and the press they deserve.
What do you like to do in your free time? Any hobbies? Between writing and playing music, free time is scarce, haha. Outside of music, I occasionally do creative writing (short stories, poems, etc.). I'm also interested in nature and particularly wild foods and have gone on foraging tours in the greater New York area.
What role does jazz music play in your life? I try to play it as often as possible and make part of my living off it of (in addition to other types of music). It's always been my main focus and my passion. I think it's improved me as a musician and person in a number of ways and listening to it has opened sonic doors for me as well.
How does writing about jazz contribute to the music itself? As jazz gets deeper and wider in its over 100 years of existence, it's becoming increasingly difficult for people to get a handle of what "jazz" is. I think those who write about it give people a sense of what elements are in place and where the artist is in the history (and present and future) of the music. I try to make writing about jazz as important to me as playing it. I really admire musicians like Ethan Iverson and ?uestlove (of The Roots) who blog and write about music so eloquently and passionately
What do you like most about All About Jazz? I like how thorough and non-sectarian we are about presenting the music. They showcase music from all over the map, both geographically and stylistically. It also presents so much in terms of different articles and works as a huge database for info about the music going way back.
What positives have come from your association with All About Jazz? I've been able to expand my view of the music through sitting down and talking to great and unique artists through interview commissions and I've also started to write for another music blog in NYC, Feast of Music, which afforded me the ability to attend the Newport Jazz Festival this past year
Daniel Lehner at All About Jazz.