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Meet John Kelman

Meet John Kelman
AAJ Staff By

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It's a big musical world out there and I want it all! —John Kelman
I currently live in: Ottawa, Canada

I joined All About Jazz in: 2004

What made you decide to contribute to All About Jazz? After deciding to start writing about music in about 2001, and starting at smaller websites, I was approached by All About Jazz in late 2003, with the question: "We've been following your writing and wondering why you're not writing for All About Jazz?"

One look at the website and my answer was, "Good question!"

Within four months I'd moved to writing analytical content exclusively for AAJ; within six months I decided I wanted to do more, so began an involvement in the back end that led to my becoming Managing Editor in 2007... the rest, as they say, is history....

How do you contribute to All About Jazz? CD Reviews, DVD and Book Reviews, Live Reviews and Interviews. Since 2006 I've been fortunate enough to get invited, increasingly, to destinations around the world, from South Africa to Svalbard, from Montreal to Molde and from Burghausen to Bergen. So live festival/event coverage from around the world has become something of a special area of interest for me, and I'm a lucky guy that it's been made possible by writing for AAJ— everything starts here.

I've also been Managing Editor from 2007-2013 (earlier this year I stepped down), managing the content side of the site, editing the vast majority of content, coordinating interviews, interfacing with writers, editors, musicians, publicists and labels. It's been a terrific experience that has helped me even further by educating me about all aspects of the industry, while leveraging on my own managerial background.

I also participated in AAJ's first curation in 2012, as the programmer of All About Jazz Presents: Doing It Norway, a series at the 2012 Kongsberg Jazz Festival that brought together nine separate performances in seven shows to give some idea of the breadth and depth of the Norwegian scene that has become increasingly interesting to me. It was successful beyond my wildest imagination.

What is your musical background? Studied guitar from the ages of 10-16. Began playing professionally age 16. Spent two years on the road, 1974-76 in a progressive rock band, only to discover the road (at least, not at that level; these days I seem to be a touring writer!) was not for me. Went back to school and got into computer technology, but remained a part-time professional musician, ultimately also picking up a bit of mandolin and banjo (and ultimately playing in a more diverse range of contexts and making more money than I ever did on the road!) through to 2005, when writing seemed to take over. Spent 10+ years as house guitarist in a local recording studio, back when that kind of work was the norm. Recorded on a number of albums, including one that's sold over 100,000 units and another over 35,000. Too bad, on the first one, the musicians weren't listed!

What was the first record you bought that you would still listen to today? Either Cream's Wheels of Fire or Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland. In the jazz realm I cannot recall the first album I bought, but as someone with a passionate interest in the ECM Records label, my first ECM record was a gift from a friend on my 18th birthday: Ring, by Gary Burton Quintet with Special Guest Eberhard Weber. The beginning of a beautiful friendship. Who knew, nearly 40 years later, that I'd be in two books about the label (Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM; and Die Blaue Klang), contributing photos and liner notes to label releases—and, of course, continuing to review recordings for AAJ?

What type of jazz do you enjoy listening to the most? ECM figures heavily into the mix; what I've learned about musical diversity from that one label couldn't be articulated in something this short. While I have become known (and rightfully so, I suppose) as a specialist in the European scene and Norway and the ECM label in particular, my tastes are much broader. The best I can do to narrow down my tastes are that they lean to the modern, but from a "looking back" perspective, while I appreciate music pre-1950 (for the most part) from an academic and contextual perspective (you've gotta know what comes before to know what's coming now and in the future), it's music from around 1956 forward that seems to move me the most.


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