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Meet Carl L. Hager

Meet Carl L. Hager
AAJ Staff By

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I currently live in: Los Angeles, CA

I joined All About Jazz in: 2009

What made you decide to contribute to All About Jazz? I've been a writer and editor most of my life, and I love jazz. One day after I'd been reading All About Jazz for a few months, I inquired to see what it would take to submit reviews. Magazines can be pretty closed shops, so I didn't know what to expect. But the publisher, Michael Ricci, got in touch with me right away, and I started by reviewing a recording of Chick Corea and Hiromi. I was a little stunned, frankly, at how easy he made it to get on board. A year or so after that I emailed again and asked if they could use a hand in the editorial department. Besides editing, I'd also spent quite a few years as an educator and knew how to coach people. Friends in the music community regarded All About Jazz highly, and I thought the magazine's mission deserved support.

How do you contribute to All About Jazz? Besides my own opinion pieces and reviews, I'm a Senior Editor and concentrate on our live reviews. We have contributors all around the world who attend jazz and blues shows, and then write reviews. Some are professional writers or have aspirations to be, some are doing it as a labor of love. I edit coverage of all the established festivals here in the U.S. and Canada and Europe, the new ones as well, plus now we are seeing more and more reviews of the newer Asian and Scandinavian festivals, ones that are booming along but largely ignored by other jazz publications.

What is your musical background? I studied some music theory and composition in school, sang, played clarinet and bassoon in the orchestra and band. But it was apparent by my late teens that my natural instrument was a QWERTY keyboard, and I've long since left performing music to the people who do it much better than I can. I still study the piano a bit.

What was the first record you bought that you would still listen to today? Interesting that you should ask... The first one I remember is Van Cliburn—who died just last week—playing Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1. I've since replaced it with another one, a clean vinyl copy, and I still listen to it. When he won the 1958 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow by performing that piece, the impact he had on U.S.-Soviet relations was fantastic. They loved him! His brilliance and passion won their hearts and had an immediate thawing effect on the Cold War, just like Duke Ellington's tour there a few years later. Music is a universal language and really can be used as a healing force.

What type of jazz do you enjoy listening to the most? It changes all the time. I go through phases when I listen to one kind exclusively for months at a time, like those early 1969-1970 ECM recordings, or 1964-1966 Miles Davis, but usually I move around. There isn't a single type that I listen to. I can enjoy listening to Glenn Miller as much as Charlie Parker. For the last few weeks I've been listening to a lot of traditional jazz and its contemporary derivatives.

Aside from jazz, what styles of music do you enjoy? All kinds. There's a quote attributed to both Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington that says there are two kinds of music—good and bad. Lenny White [pictured above] told me once that he doesn't believe there is such a thing as bad music, only badly done music. There's no contradiction in those statements. Years ago at Roy Parnell's club in Seattle, I saw Max Roach take a solo, not on the drums themselves, but on the metal drum stand, and it was one of the most artfully creative musical performances I've ever seen, a drum stand played well. Musical expression is about the musician, not the instrument. It's easy enough to think that beat boxing is something less than musical, but then along comes Butterscotch, who blows the room away doing all three parts of a piano trio.

What are you listening to right now? A lot of "traditional jazz" as it's called, James P. Johnson, Louis Armstrong... Duke Ellington on the live recording in Stuttgart recently reissued by the new JazzHaus label. Lorraine Feather's Fourteen (Relarion, 2012), Dick Hyman's collaboration with Heather Masse—I wondered what would get the grand old master to do an entire album with a new female singer, and now I know. Damn, that girl can sing a lyric! There's a young jazz violinist working with Bruce Forman in USC's program here in L.A., Nora Germain, who hasn't done much recording yet, but she will—if you check her out on YouTube, she has moments when she swings like Stephane Grappelli.


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