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Meet Marla Kleman

Tessa Souter and Andrea Wolper By

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If you could go back in time and hear one of the jazz legends perform live, who would it be?
One is too hard: Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Lester Young, Fats Navarro, Billie Holiday, Art Tatum, Lucky Thompson, Kenny Clarke, Kenny Dorham, Bobby Timmons, Bud Powell, and on and on. Although I did get to hear Hank Mobley shortly before he passed at the Angry Squire, I would have loved to hear him back in the '50s and '60s. Sorry for the multiple names, but if I had to pick one, I probably would have left this one blank.

What makes a great jazz club?
A great sound system and room with good acoustics is probably one of the most important elements. Intimacy of the room is important. The bookings at the club (of course, everyone has different taste), so perhaps a well-balanced mix of artists—and hearing through the grapevine that a club treats musicians well!

Which club(s) are you most regularly to be found at?
In Boston, of course, Scullers! There's a great Thai restaurant in Central Square, The Mad Monkfish and they feature a lot of Boston's best jazz musicians, as well as occasional out-of-towners such as the legendary vocalist, Sheila Jordan.

Is there a club that's no longer around that you miss the most?
Bradley's, Sweet Basil and Mikell's—spent many glorious nights there.

Do you have a favorite jazz anecdote or memory, something that involves you or that you witnessed?
Yup—Roy Haynes was at Scullers about five years ago and I did the typical fan thing and went up to him before sound check and said, "Mr. Haynes, I'm a huge fan of yours, of jazz, and I'm so happy you are here." He smiled and said, "Oh yeah, you're a jazz fan? Gimme a few names." So, I believe the first musician I mentioned was Charlie Parker, and then I mentioned a few more. I mentioned Gigi Gryce, and all of a sudden Roy stopped me and said, "Gigi Gryce, Gigi Gryce—you CANNOT mention Gigi Gryce in the same sentence as Charlie Parker!" He burst out laughing, said, "You're cute!" and walked away. I cherish that moment. I have more, but I'll save them for my book—kidding!!!

How do you discover new artists?
Shows at Scullers, JazzTimes magazine, DownBeat magazine, jazz radio stations (shout out to WICN in Worcester and WGBH in Boston), word of mouth. Sometimes I'll use a streaming service to hear someone and then if I like what I hear, I always purchase the recording via download or CD as I like to support the musicians.

Vinyl, CDs, MP3s?, streaming?
All of the above, but streaming less so.

If you were a professional musician, which instrument would you play?
Probably piano, though I did play alto saxophone, clarinet, even some oboe years ago. Oh, and baritone saxophone for a short time in my high school jazz band.

What's your desert island disc?
Way too tough, but since I just lost my adoptive mom, Rebecca Parris, who passed about six months ago, I'd say my desert island disc would probably be one of her recordings, perhaps You Don't Know Me or her recording with the Kenny Hadley Big Band, A Beautiful Friendship. Then, once again, it becomes hard to just choose one. I'd probably need to have a Buddy Rich Big Band recording, a Duke Ellington recording, a Basie recording, an Art Blakey Jazz Messengers recording.

What do you think keeps jazz alive and thriving?
I'm not sure it is thriving, sadly, compared to the 70s, when I started to regularly attend jazz concerts and frequent jazz clubs. That being said, I think the enthusiasm of jazz lovers always shines through, whether there are 30 or 300 people in attendance. Obviously the ultra-talented musicians play the biggest part in keeping jazz alive and thriving, so we need to support them!

Tell us about your radio show.
I was asked by someone if I'd like to do a jazz show on KRML radio out of Carmel, CA. I remotely prepped my shows from home and had a ball doing so. My show was called "Jazz Straight Ahead," and that's basically the type of music I played. Everything from Basie to Bird to bebop and post-bop. I think I did the show for about two years. KRML eventually changed the format to talk radio. It sure was fun and I had a ball playing stuff from my own collection.

Is there anything else we should know about you?
First, thank you for inviting me to do this. I'm very passionate about supporting the music and I hope other folks consider doing the same: buy a jazz CD/download/vinyl and of course, support live jazz. I am what I wrote above: a jazz fan who spends most of her spare time listening to music or reading books and magazines and combing the internet for historical information related to jazz. While I'm thrilled to work at Scullers and enjoy work every day, if I could roll back time, I think I'd delve into doing something similar to what Dan Morgenstern did and still does—dig down into the history of the music for the love of jazz.

Finish this sentence: Life without music would be...
Unbearable.

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