Home » Member Page

John E Allen

I am an educator, an avid runner and cyclist, jazz and all music aficionado and love to travel, and I enjoy a variety of teas, as well as wines from Argentina.

About Me

Contact Me

I have been teaching for almost 25 years, first at the high school level before I retired, then I accepted a short -term stint teaching K-8. During my high school career, I earned Teacher of the Year honors, taught all levels of Spanish including AP and designed a class for Native Spanish speakers (I taught these students literature, contemporary issues, grammar, etc). In addition, I was the department coordinator for several years, combining a leadership role with teaching assignments. Currently, I teach at two New Jersey universities (Rutgers and Seton Hall). At Rutgers, I teach a course titled “Principles of Leadership” and at Seton Hall, I teach second semester Spanish grammar.

I have been a runner and bicyclist for many years, I have run a marathon, several half-marathons, competed in biathlons, have ridden several “century rides” (100+ miles) and too many to count shorter distances running races. I workout, run, ride daily. My wife and I have a horse farm and that too gives me plenty of outdoors time.

I love jazz, as well as all types of music. I have written an essay (published on my Member's Page, as to how I came to love the genre. I love attending concerts, but since the Covid era began, I have to be very careful, and I purchase tickets to watch live streaming shows.

I love to travel. At the age of two, my Dad was transferred to Argentina (he worked for Ford Motor Company) and we stayed there for 10 years. It was in Argentina that I learned Spanish, and it has been a love of mine ever since. I have traveled extensively throughout South, Central and North America, Europe and to a couple of Caribbean countries. My plans are to travel to Japan, New Zealand and the Nordic countries.

I mentioned wine and tea. Being that I grew up in Argentina, I have, as an adult, been tasting fine wines from Mendoza and Salta, two primary wine producing provinces. As for tea, I take courses with “EL club de the”, which is based in Buenos Aires and through this club, I have come to learn the history of tea, how it is made, what to look for in taste, smell, etc.

My Jazz Story

How I Came To Love Jazz The road to where I am now with jazz was, to quote a famous song, “a long and winding road”. To begin with, I am not a musician, but back when I was in my late teens and early twenties I became a “serious” music aficionado. I was especially drawn to rock. A friend of mine turned me on to Hendrix, Cream, finally to Santana. I grew to appreciate all types of rock music, but jazz was not then on my radar. Not even fusion. When it finally called out to me, I must admit I was not ready for it. I was working in a hardware store, in what was a chain of stores that one could say was the forerunner of the big box hardware stores of today. While working as a part-timer stocking shelves and helping customers while attending college, I would turn on a radio that was part of a display of maybe a dozen or so different models that, back then, people would install in their cars as replacements and upgrades over what the automotive companies provided as standard equipment. More like sub-standard, but that is a different story. My manager was a “rec” bass player who, perhaps, disdained rock music, calling it out for its simplicity, its reliance on “hooks” and three chords. I paid him no never mind, digging the sounds that emanated from the displayed car radios and when in my bedroom, the music filled my room. Perhaps, it made it hard for other family members to hear themselves think. What better way to hear Carlos and his early bands play tunes from Abraxas, Caravanserai, Borboleta. I have seen Santana live over 60 times, and counting. Add to the mix Jimi (gone before I even heard of him), Neil Young, the Grateful Dead. Loud. Walls of sound. Rich was persistent, and determined to cultivate my musical tastes, Or curate them. One day, he came into work with two albums, one by Pat Martino, the other by Joe Pass. He asked me to listen to them, to give jazz a try, to open my mind to other musical sonic experiences and possibilities. But with the sound of Carlos’ guitar in my mind, I would probably have appreciated Al DiMeola and John McLaughlin before Pass and Martino. I tried to listen to both; I could not get past the first compositions. Neither album struck my fancy. If memory serves, I returned the albums to Rich, despite having never listened to them again. Boy was I wrong. My journey, unbeknownst to me, was now taking an offramp from the rock and roll highway that I was on. DiMeola and McLaughlin were just the beginning. The same thing that happened to me with Pass and Martino repeated itself with the Pat Metheny Group, back when Lyle Mays played keys, Steve Rodby was on bass, Danny Gootlieb manned the drum chair, and Nana Vasconcelos added textures and cool vibes via various percussion instruments (and the berimbau) plus wordless vocals. I tried listening to “Travels”, PMG’s first live double album. I was still not ready, but then something was happening. The road to jazz began to open up, or better said, my mind opened. PMG through “Travels” and all of their other creative output, began to make sense, and I have seen various iterations of PMG more than 50 times since my first encounter with their music. (My wife and I have even named one of our horses after the late, great Lyle Mays.) Jazz then became an integral part of my musical self, albeit as a fan, since, as I hinted at before, I am no more able to play a musical instrument than I can figure out John Conway’s Game of Life, but that is a whole other story. It is actually beyond me to be able to describe jazz’s hold on me, but suffice to say I can hold my own in talking about the greats of the music: Holiday, Parker, Addelery, Monk, Coltrane, Shorter, Pass and Martino (yes!), Metheny, Krall, Fitzgerald, Miles, Brubeck, Mays, Evans, Barbieri, Aldana, Hiromi. Shall I go on? I think you get the point. I have immersed myself in the language of jazz, just as I have done so with the Spanish language, running and cycling, horses, and so much more. However, I realized the other day that I had been searching for the next Santana, the next Metheny, to add to the short list of my absolute favorites, whose music would accompany me to the proverbial “if I were stuck on a deserted island” question. Thanks to the algorithm of YouTube, I have “discovered” just that person. Her name is Harumo Imai and if you have not heard of her or listened to her music, you are missing out. She is a saxophone player, songwriter and composer extraordinaire (from Japan) who is just as comfortable playing jazz as she is playing funk, hip-hop and so much more. Her sound is unique, her energy electric, her tastes eclectic, and being young, she is poised to be the future of jazz. In fact, she was a member of the Future Jazz Quartet, whose debut CD “Flying Humanoids” was poised for…well, the pandemic interfered with what could have been… Harumo is equally at home playing with musicians of her own age as well as players who are decades older. Imai becomes the musical GPS no matter who she performs with. She has shared the stage with Victor Wooten, Tokyo Groove Jyoshi and so many other traditional and contemporary jazz musicians. My deep love and appreciation of jazz, through her, has been re-invigorated. Jazz is big-tent music. It is not static; it has an element of surprise. Today’s practitioners are not bound by the past but they are informed by it; they are forging new paths and Harumo, to me, to my musical sensibilities, is, as the commercial says, find(ing) new roads. Jazz’s history has not been written in its entirety: there is so much more. Carlos, Pat and now Harumo. Carlos was exploring the boundaries of rock as it meets jazz, but never quite crossed over. Pat is still exploring many of the sonic possibilities of jazz, and where it meets or intersects with rock. Harumo is taking jazz into the worlds of funk, hip-hop, R&B and rock and with her incredible improvisatory skills, is creating a new jazz dialect. One that is sure to be universal, accessible yet technically challenging. Full of emotion, spirit, sensibility, and grit. Unwavering in its originality, true to the past but even more so, true to the future. To paraphrase Jack Kerouac, Harumo is “ready to rock the jazz world”. Why do I love jazz? I love it not just for what it was, and is, but for what it can become. Rich, if you are reading this (we have long since lost touch but I have never forgotten you), I send you a belated thank you for turning me on to jazz. I am forever in your debt. And, in case you are wondering if, when you loaned me those albums ohh so many years ago, if I did enjoy them…well, I do now. PS: I had the honor of seeing both Joe Pass and Pat Martino live.

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and includes upcoming jazz events near you.