There are some pieces that are terribly difficult to write, some pieces that write themselves and some that are simply a necessary evil. Writing about anything that strikes a personal chord with music and especially jazz can be incredibly cathartic or somewhat cancerous if not handled correctly. ( Pardon the pun as I have recently been diagnosed with Leukemia).
For the uninitiated, being "serviced" by a label means they see enough merit in your work that they are "happy" to supply you with product to review. Such was the case with ECM. Allow me to say this, ECM is part of a multi-national if not global entertainment empire that is Universal Music. The publicist I have dealt with takes professionalism to new heights, is kind, and is genuinely interested in my current health crisis. Sadly all good things must come to an end. Normally I would pull all the reviews but given the fact that ECM boasts some of the most brilliant talent I have heard - I can not in good conscious screw an artist like that ever again. I am opting for the smaller, independent and more cutting edge label. Not a label known for little more than piano trios.
Last weekend I reviewed an ECM artist only to receive an unsolicited instructional email from my former editor at All About Jazz - John Kelman. It was made clear to both Kelman and his boss Mike Ricci to no longer contact me. There are pending legal matters hanging in the air that pose a conflict of interest. I spoke of what in my opinion may have either been severe jet lag or self induced semi-lethal quantities of alcohol Kelman may have ingested as he later emailed me yet again to apologize for his inappropriate emails to begin with. ECM asked I remove my mention of Kelman at his request and Kelman would then in turn promise not to bother me. Not how the game is played.... Conflict of interest seems second nature as Kelman confided to me he writes liner notes for artists he also reviews. In attempting to cooperate and because of my sincere admiration for ECM, I removed some but not all of our conversation.
Clearly ECM answers to the mainstream media which is understanable but not Kelman's attempt to intimidate my on line content. I printed the truth and the facts as they occur and I always will. This is one of the many issues of questionable ethics in jazz journalism today. Editors attempting to unduly influence others in the field and labels that if you chose to go your own way will have nothing to do with you.
News flash - most reviews are influenced in some fashion, shape and form by other - "outside influences." I don't have much. I have this site and a new one that I hope to have running soon and with that I have my integrity.
There are hundreds of small labels and thousands of deserving musicians that value and appreciate the effort I put into my craft. Unlike All About Jazz, my reviews are current and often cutting edge - not 8 months old. All About Jazz is a great clearing house for publishers but for artists it is a sonic grave yard littered with the bones and relics of what might have been or in this case what will never be.
I made the decision to break ties with ECM. The only person responsible for the success of the label is Producer Manfred Eicher and when he is gone so is the label. While others will be reacting, I will have long forged ahead.
I am not a betting man but John Kelman published a vicious hit piece on me on his blog. Kelman said I had a "diminishing shelf life." 2 sponsors later and an additional 100,000 readers later here I am.
If you are an artist then take this test...Count the number of artist profiles with more than 25 likes...Even money says its less than 60%...You will get lost in the clutter. Better yet, write down what you find useful and useless and then compare it to any other publication anywhere including this one and you will see that A.A.J is a cluttered mess of sonic ambiguity. Kelman allowed Rich Siegel to take a personal attack against me yet at that time not one soul liked his artist profile. The proof is in the publication. Jazziz and JazzTimes are still the two finest publications out today.
Just for grins, I looked up Rich Siegel on All About Jazz. In the roughly six months he had aired his "free" (nothing is "free") profile he has 283 views, rustled up 1 fan, and ranks 27,081...I like to back my word up with factual numbers and these are currently printed by All About Jazz proving an artist is essentially wasting their time in pursing their publication as any sort of outlet for free publicity when I boast close to 300,000 hits and am in fact more popular in Europe than here in the States...What is so irritating to the mainstream musical press is that I understand how the game is played, how the numbers are manipulated and when I am getting used and not in a fun way...I have the one intangible most jazz journalists do not have - integrity. I agree with Bob Mintzer not everything sucks - but some things do! Do all labels, editors, and publicists act in this fashion? Of course not but far too many are doing it and getting away with it as music sales continue to flat line and deserving Independent artists are screwed out of deals for the far more commercial and far less artistically bent artist i.e. Boney James...1 fan in 6 months? Personally I think Siegel's record The Way To Peace is sonic propaganda induced sleeping pill but even Siegel should be drawing the ultra liberal tree hugging fan that doesn't realize Woodstock is over. When I am right on these issues - and I normally am, I hear arteries of record executives harden all across the globe and it makes me smile.
I'll go all in on "me."
I stand by my decision to no longer cover ECM and in all likely hood Decca as well. "It's in the mail is getting old." There are artists in desperate need of publicity service and quality reviews should their work scream for it and I am just the person to do it.
Neither ECM or Mike Ricci would repond to my inquiries today in an attempt to resolve the matter as adults.
*******EDITORS NOTE *******
In an email conversation and in the spirit of honesty, integrity and the HIPPA laws of this country, Kelman freely confided to me he has a particular medical reason that makes him avoid alcohol entirely as it exacerbates an ongoing condition involving headaches. He went on to add he does not do drugs which was something I clearly never stated or inferred. The numerous typos gave me reasonable cause to rush to judgement on a logical assumption given his extensive back ground as an anal retentive editor. Unlike Kelman, if my report gave the wrong impression or was factually incorrect as there is no way to be 100% sure of his truth telling at this point I will offer a public apology. I am owed several from Kelman but stand a better chance writing for Down Beat. My association with ECM remains broken with no desire for reconcilliation on my part. You can thank Kelman for that. My last ECM review has posted...Now I know how I pot smoking monkey feels when they talk away his stuff...