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John Kelman

With the realization that there will always be more music coming at him than he can keep up with, John wonders why anyone would think that jazz is dead or dying.

About Me

I was born in Winnipeg, Canada and stayed there until the age of three, when the kiddie train in McKellar Park closed up and the only reason left for staying was the tropical climate. Relocated against my wishes to Ottawa, where I have lived ever since, I now bask in the balmy winters, where temperatures often reach -40C (that's -40F for you non-metric folks), and the temperate summers, where temperatures often reach a humid 35C (that's 95F). Living in a government town that is known as a hotseat of jazz culture (?) I have spent much of the past thirty years or so as a freelance guitarist backing up numerous singer/songwriters, some good, others, well... what do you get when you add an "e" to the word "artist"? Answer: someone who takes themselves way too seriously. Realizing that my CD buying habit was about to put myself, my wife, and two dogs (Posey, the intrepid Jack Russell Terrier and Toby, the ever- cheerful Shih Tzu; sadly, with Posey passing in the spring of 2009, it's just the venerable Toby) out of house and home, I realized that the trick was to start writing about what I'd been listening to so passionately since my first guitar teacher introduced me to Wes, Charlie Christian, Miles and Johnny Winter, amongst so many others. More than a decade on, I am now receiving upwards of 150 CDs/month for review consideration, and am in the position of taking up so much space with review copies that I am, yet again, threatening to push my wife and dogs out of house and home. In 2005 I was asked, by Steve Lake (of ECM) and writer Paul Griffiths, to contribute to a book they were putting together about the label. It's a privilege to have been a part of Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM (Granta, 2007). With 21 contributions from writers around the world covering the entire breadth of the label and also including bios/testimonials from artists, graphic designers and many others, a wealth of colour and B&W photos, a comprehensive discography and more, it's a remarkable book and I'm honoured to have been a small part of it. In recent times I've become more intimately involved in the Norwegian scene--to my mind the most vibrant scene at the moment, with an almost unreasonable (!) amount of remarkable music being made by so many people in a country with such a small population. I've traveled the country (and continue to do so) from Bergen to Kongsberg, Oslo to Molde, Stavanger to Svalbard--and, of course, to Kristiansand for Punkt, perhaps the most unique music festival on the face of the planet. I've also covered events in Malaysia, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden, Amsterdam, the United States and Canada. In addition to contributing to Horizons Touched and regular contributions to All About Jazz, I've contributed to Downbeat, Jazzwise, Jazznytt and Oxford American magazines. I've written liner notes for artists including Arve Henriksen (Rune Grammofon vinyl box, Solidification), Bill Bruford (Summerfold and Winterfold collections, Koch), Jan Erik Vold (Blackbird Bye Bye, with Bill Frisell and Arild Andersen, Hot Club of Norway), Terje Rypdal (Odyssey Live and in the Studio, ECM), Dave Liebman and Marc Copland (Impressions, hatOLOGY), Stanley Jordan (Friends, Mack Avenue), Matteo Sabbatini (Dawning, Fresh Sound), Alex Sipiagin (Prints, Criss Cross), Samuel Blaser (As the Sea, hatOLOGY), Tom Harrell (Number Five, HighNote), Joe Chambers (Moving Pictures Orchestra, Savant), Wallace Roney (Understanding, HighNote), Jaga Jazzist ('94-'14, Ninja Tune vinyl-only 20th anniversary box set), SONAR (Black Light, Cuneiform Records), John Abercrombie (ECM Old & New Masters Edition box, coming November, 2015), Peter Erskine's trio with John Taylor and Palle Danielsson (ECM Old & New Masters Edition box, release date TBD), (Sharp Radway (Hymns and Things, Radway Music); had photos published in ECM recordings by Terje Rypdal (Crime Scenes), Ketil Bjornstad (La Notte) and Tomasz Stańko (Dark Eyes) and in numerous magazines; and contributed chapters to another (German-only) book on ECM: Die Blaue Klang (Wolke Verlag, 2010). I've written press sheets for Greta Aagre and Eric Honoré (Jazzland Records), the Joe Locke / Geoffrey Keezer Group (Motéma Music), Samuel Blaser (hatOLOGY), Cryptogrammophone Records, Komeda Project (Independent), John McLaughlin (Abstract Logix), SONAR and Jaga Jazzist, and was honoured to contribute the introduction to photographer Ziga Koritnik's forthcoming jazz photography book, Cloud Arranger. In 2012, I curated a series at Norway's Kongsberg Jazz Festival, a collaboration by AAJ, Kongsberg and Music Export Norway. All About Jazz Presents: Doing it Norway presented seven shows, over two days, that featured some of today's most creative Norwegian musicians in contexts both old and new. All of this has been a direct result of my affiliation with All About Jazz, and being able to leverage opportunities thanks to AAJ's international reach and large readership. It's all just a matter of going after them by providing quality service bolstered by the strength of AAJ. You can do it too!

My Jazz Story

Thanks to a terrific guitar teacher from the ages of 10-16, I was introduced to a broad range of music at an early age, from Miles Davis to Johnny Winter, from Weather Report to Wes Montgomery, and from Larry Coryell to Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. Playing on the road for a couple years, in my late teens, may have taught me that the road was not for me, but it also cemented that music was and remains a passion--a priority in my life, no matter what else is taking place--and that while my musical tastes run as broad as that guitar teacher's (maybe even broader), jazz and improvised music remain what interest me the most. A mid-life change to writing about jazz and, ultimately, becoming Managing Editor for All About Jazz, the internet's largest jazz site, and seeing the world one festival at a time--from Svalbard to South Africa, from Molde to Malaysia, and from Montreal to Mannheim--have taught me that opportunities are always there for the taking. Personal interests in labels like ECM, and artists like Bill Frisell, John Scofield and Joe Locke have led to professional affiliations and projects ranging from liner notes and CD photos to press sheets and public speaking. You just have to be prepared to meet people, sus out those opportunities, and grab them. I am fortunate to be able to give something back to many of the musicians who have meant so much to me throughout my life. And it IS good fortune - something I never, ever forget - to be able to do what I do and, through my writing, provide (hopefully!) something that helps spread the good word about musicians ranging from well-established to up-and-coming. And also I never forget that writing for All About Jazz has led to so many of the opportunities I've received in the 12 years since I hooked up with the website at the beginning of 2004. While I know the website benefits from my work, I think it's important to acknowledge that it's a two-way street, and that as much as I give to All About Jazz, All About Jazz provides back to spades!

My Favorites

  1. Alex Machacek - [Sic] / 28 Tales
  2. Allan Holdsworth - Around the Clock
  3. Arild Andersen - Molde Concert
  4. Arve Henriksen - Cartography
  5. Bill Bruford - Feels Good to Me / One of a Kind / Earthworks
  6. Bill Connors - Of Mist and Melting
  7. Bill Frisell - This Land / Good Dog, Happy Man
  8. Blue Touch Paper - Stand Well Back
  9. Bobo Stenson - Serenity / Cantando
  10. Brad Mehldau - Live / Highway Rider / Art of the Trio Box
  11. Brian Eno - Music for Airports
  12. Brian Eno / David Byrne - My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
  13. Bugge Wesseltoft - New Conceptions box
  14. Charlie Haden - Private Collection
  15. Charlie Hunter - Ready, Set, Shango!
  16. Chick Corea - Return to Forever / Crystal Silence / Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy
  17. Craig Taborn - Avenging Angel
  18. Dave Douglas - The Infinite / Parallel Worlds
  19. Dave Holland - Prime Directive / Pathways
  20. David Binney - South / Graylen Epicenter
  21. David Liebman - Conversations / Turnaround
  22. Dominic Frasca - Deviations
  23. Eberhard Weber - Yellow Fields / Fluid Rustle / Later That Evening
  24. Eivind Aarset - Electronique Noire / Live Extracts
  25. Elephant9 - Dodovoodoo
  26. Enrico Rava - Pilgrim and the Stars / Tribe
  27. Fairport Convention - Full House / Nine / Live Convention
  28. Gavin Bryars - Requiem; A Man in a Room, Gambling
  29. Genesis - 1970-1975 box
  30. Gentle Giant - Playing the Fool
  31. Hakon Kornstad - Dwell Time
  32. Harold Budd - Plateau of Mirrors / The Pearl
  33. Hatfield and the North - The Rotter's Club
  34. Henry Cow - Unrest / Cow Box
  35. Home Service - Alright Jack / Live 1986
  36. In the Country - This Was the Pace of My Heartbeat
  37. Iro Haarla - Northbound
  38. Jack DeJohnette - New Rags / New Directions / Special Edition / Audiovisualscapes
  39. Jaga Jazzist - One-Armed Bandit
  40. Jan Bang - ...and poppies from Kandahar
  41. Jan Garbarek - Wayfarer / Witchi-Tai-To
  42. Joe Locke - Four Walls of Freedom / Live in Seattle / Signing
  43. Joe Zawinul - Zawinul
  44. Joel Harrison - The Wheel
  45. John Abercrombie - Characters / Third Quartet / Arcade
  46. John Coltrane - A Love Supreme
  47. John Hollenbeck Large Enesemble - A Blessing
  48. John Martyn - Grace & Danger
  49. John McLaughlin - Inner Mounting Flame / To the One
  50. John Scofield - Live (1977) / This Meets That
  51. John Surman - Stranger Than Fiction / Tales of the Algonquin / Rain on the Window
  52. John Taylor - Angel of the Presence
  53. Jon Balke - Kyanos / Solarization
  54. Jon Hassell - Last Night the Moon Came...
  55. Keith Jarrett - Still Live / Belonging / Personal Mountains
  56. Kenny Wheeler - Deer Wan / Angel Song / What Now?
  57. King Crimson - Lizard / Discipline / Larks Tongues in Aspic
  58. Kurt Rosenwinkel - The Remedy: Live at the Village Vanguard / Our Secret World
  59. Lars Danielsson - Tarantella
  60. Little Feat - Waiting for Columbus
  61. Los Lobos - Kiko
  62. Louis Sclavis - Lost on the Way
  63. Lyle Mays - S / T
  64. Marc Copland - Time Within Time / Another Place
  65. Marc Johnson - Shades of Jade
  66. Mark Feldman - What Exit
  67. Mats Eilertsen - SkyDive
  68. Mike Nock Quartet - In Out and Around
  69. Miles Davis - Complete Columbia Box (!)
  70. Miroslav Vitous - First Meeting
  71. National Health - National Health / Of Queues and Cures
  72. Nels Cline - Initiate / Destroy All Nels Cline / New Monastery
  73. Nguyen Le - Signature Edition 1
  74. Nils Petter Molvaer - Khmer / Hamada / Baboon Moon
  75. Oregon - In Concert / In Performance / Winter Light
  76. Pat Metheny - Travels / The Way Up / Imaginary Day
  77. Paul Motian - I Have the Room Above Her / Lost in a Dream
  78. Punkt - Live Remixes, Vol.1
  79. Ralph Towner - Sound and Shadows / Solo Concert
  80. Richard Thompson - I Want to See the Bright Lights / Shoot Out the Lights / Strict Tempo!
  81. Sidsel Endresen - Undertow
  82. So Percussion - Amid the Noise
  83. Soft Machine - Fourth / Grides, Bundles / Drop
  84. Spock's Beard - V / Snow
  85. Stefano Bollani - Stone in the Water
  86. Steven Wilson - Grace for Drowning
  87. Stian Westerhus - Pitch Black Star Spangled
  88. Storms / Nocturnes Trio - VIA
  89. Supersilent - 10
  90. Sweet Billy Pilgrim - Twice Born Men
  91. Terje Rypdal - What Comes After / Vossabryg / Odyssey (box)
  92. The Claudia Quintet - I, Claudia
  93. The Flower Kings - Stardust We Are
  94. Tim Garland - If the Sea Replied / .Libra
  95. Tomasz Stanko - Leosia / Lontano
  96. Tony Williams - Tokyo Live
  97. Tore Brunborg - TID
  98. Transatlantic - More Never is Enough
  99. Trio Beyond - Saudades
  100. Trygve Seim - Sangam
  101. The Unthanks - Here's the Tender Coming / The Songs of Robert Wyatt
  102. Vince Mendoza - Start Here / Blauklang
  103. Wayne Shorter - Beyond the Sound Barrier / Weather Report - Live in Tokyo / Mysterious Traveler
  104. Woody Shaw - The Moontrane
  105. Zbigniew Seifert - Man of the Light / Passion