Meet Mark Sullivan

Meet Mark Sullivan

Courtesy Jeanine Dovell

AAJ Staff BY

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I currently live in:

Indian Trail, North Carolina (just outside of Charlotte).

I joined All About Jazz in:

I joined in 2012, after reading the site casually for a couple of years. I answered the call to join the staff in early 2014 (I think), initially as an editor. I kept getting requests for album reviews, and finally published my first one in December, 2014.

Why did you decide to contribute to All About Jazz?

I had already done a lot of writing about music earlier in my life. Having been away from it for a while, I realized that I had missed the exercise of close listening and setting down my thoughts. I enjoyed the diversity and openness of the AAJ format: it seemed like a place where all of my musical interests could find a home.

How do you contribute to All About Jazz?

Initially I contributed as an editor, and still do occasional editing. I review albums, live performances and books, and conduct interviews. I especially love attending and reviewing festivals near and far.

What is your musical background?

I began learning how to play guitar at age 14, initially in folk singer/songwriter mode (influenced by Bob Dylan and others). In high school I sang in the glee club, and formed the first of several rock bands. In college I continued to play rock, while also exploring prog rock, jazz and New Music. I took music classes in theory, musicology and composition (including a semester with composer William Bolcom). After graduating I took private composition lessons with the avant-garde composer George Cacioppo (who had been a member of the ONCE group).

My interest in performing my own compositions—informed by Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Fripp & Eno— led to solo performances with tape-delay, as well as group collaborations. I released the solo cassette Electronic Meditations in 1983. Since then I have been intermittently active as a jazz and experimental guitarist (including several self-produced albums in the early 2000s).

What was the first record you bought that you would still listen to today?

Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited.

Aside from jazz, what styles of music do you enjoy?

Lots! Traditional international music from all over: India, Africa, and the Middle East especially. New Music, experimental music of all sorts, and Latin music (especially Latin jazz). Rock, including classic rock, New Wave, and art rock.

What are you listening to right now?

Anything with touch guitarist Markus Reuter: he is not only prolific, but consistently interesting, in a wide variety of settings. Weekly postings by experimental guitarists Henry Kaiser and Robert Fripp. Local online jazz performances from Jazz at the Bechtler and JazzArts Charlotte. MoonJune Records releases and live streams.

Which five recent releases would you recommend to readers who share your musical taste?

Jon Hassell: Seeing Through Sound: Pentimento Volume Two
Karuna: Imaginary Archipelago
Kurt Rosenwinkel Trio: Angels Around
Markus Reuter: Truce
Stillefelt: Stillefelt

What inspired you to write about jazz?

Jazz has become increasingly central to my listening and playing, so I wanted to join in the public conversation.

What do you like to do in your free time? Any hobbies?

I love to travel to festivals, so I've been missing that. I'm also an avid reader, mainly of contemporary fiction and science fiction. I even belong to a book club (we meet at a brewery). And I love to read comics, and write about them regularly in my blog Mr. Vertigo.

What role does jazz music play in your life?

It's a big part of my daily guitar practice, as well as my social life, in the form of attending jam sessions and going to clubs.

How does writing about jazz contribute to the music itself?

I don't think I can take credit for contributing to the music by writing about it. But I can help a wide variety of artists by exposing their work to audiences who may be hearing about it for the first time. And I am convinced that jazz fans do continue to buy music more frequently than most other music fans, so hopefully that exposure will help pay the bills, at least a little.

What do you like most about All About Jazz?

The diversity of the coverage, as well as the high editorial standards maintained on the site.

What positives have come from your association with All About Jazz?

I've had travel opportunities that I probably would not have had otherwise, including South Africa, Haiti, and regular attendance at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. Interviewing has been exciting, too: I had limited opportunities to do it before joining the AAJ staff.

Vinyl, CD or Streaming?

CD, although I know its days are numbered. I'd actually say "Downloading:" I think the Bandcamp platform is one of the most promising platforms for the future of music distribution. I own a working turntable, but I think the vinyl resurgence is vastly overstated. It's a great way to make collectible objects, but I prefer a listening experience free of pops, ticks and thumps.

Which article from your archive is the most memorable and why?

I would have to go with my coverage of the 2017 Festival International de Jazz de Port-au-Prince. Visiting Haiti for the first time was a remarkable experience, and I think the deep effect it had on me is reflected in the writing. I wrote about the setting far more than usual, but there was a wide variety of music presented as well.

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