John Klemmer. The Romanticist, Consummate Artist, Renaissance Man and Innovator. A composer of Emotional Song. He always has a message and is a truly unique, individual and original saxophone player and composer as expressive as the greatest of singers, expressing feelings that cannot be said in words. " I approach playing the horn as if I were a singer," says John. " I want all the nuances and phrasing etc. that the greatest of singers use."
Through the course of a courageous career John has been intimate with every nuance and style of music, powerful and lasting, massaging psyches and emotions with the mystical, flowing vibrations that flow in its purity, from his heart through the echoes of his mind into the galaxies of this and other worlds. Within the serenity that manifested the sound, listeners bore witness to the hum of the universe and the motion of the ocean. His songs became the sound track for soul mates to collide with the beat of a human heart at the alpha. Catharsis, surrender and sensuality. All this and more coming from this Contemporary and Legendary Artist with a long recording & performing career and all. Seemingly, culminating in a Recording called, "TOUCH", and the many recordings that followed this profound phase in his Music and Career.
Over the course of his legendary career, John has created an enduring body of music, peeling himself open, layer by layer, changing directions numerous times which brought his concepts and compositions of his unique and distinct saxophone and composing styles to his listeners throughout the world. This created an awareness of who he is and who we are, as well. This honesty of musical and personal expression explains Klemmer's long and successful career and his many followers world wide, giving him respect among musicians and listeners alike as well as audiences of all walks of life, ages and tastes.
He has often blazed new paths, some loudly, some quietly, always having the courage to not only risk new ideas, but also bold and confident enough to return to previous statements if it served his musical muse of, "The Higher Good." Most often first thought of as a Premier saxophonist, he is actually more The Composer and Creator of Concepts and a "Designer" of composition and sound. His unique trademark sound of " Magical Delays" on his saxophone is his essence. He is, too many, "THE" mysterious, magical musical pioneer.
John strives to create visions for the listener so they can hopefully experience "another world" that John "sees," hears", and feels. John approaches music from an emotional point of view, hopefully taking the listener deep inside himself to evoke valuable emotions. "I want to move and touch the listener as well as entertain them," explains John. John calls this; "Surrendering Yourself to the Music". Meaning; "Letting go of your own ego". Klemmer goes wherever the feelings, thoughts & emotions want to take him and to what he "hears" when he "listens" for those "messages" to tell him what is the next "right" thing to do in the Music and for what he calls; "The Higher Goal"- The Ultimate "Purpose" of the Music; to the point of changing or abandoning, at a moment's notice, any plans he might have made in advance for; "what is right". John is dedicated to creating timeless music that offers a quiet place in an increasingly stressful world.
Here is John Klemmer, by many accounts, ahead of his time by at least twenty years. John has given us a concept he pioneered and created that he neglected to name for us all at the time.. Today it's called "Smooth Jazz and New Age Music" etc. John Klemmer is Love, Romance, Heart, Emotion and Great Composing and Performing, gaining enormous acceptance with an approach he calls; "Getting more attention with a whisper than a scream".
John does not prefer the category of "jazz". "I want to create music that is beyond any categories", John describes. "I want to take the beauty of live musicians interacting with one another in a spontaneous musical environment, something that seems to be lacking in so much of the computer and machine driven music so prevalent today, and combine them to a new hybrid with all the new technology and new forms of performing and recording".
Klemmer, however, is in no way a "Reactionary" to "Electronica.". He loves all the gorgeous music that can be created with computers and samplers. However, John never wants to lose, in himself, nor does he wish the listener to lose, the essential value and beauty of live musicians reacting to each other with their own instruments and personas as their; "Soul Sounds". After all, explains Klemmer, "relationships are what life is really all about and it's the same with Music." John will pursue his creativity in electronic music in his future recordings that may surprise many. All will attest to the fact of John's interest and pioneering of electronics as he was one of, if not, "the" first, to have used electronics with the saxophone since his innovative recordings in 1969. His trademark sound of "sax with delay" [the "Echoplex"] [he calls this his "personal and portable Grand Canyon"] plus his use of other electronic effects have yet to be imitated by anyone. His one and only criteria is that the electronic effects never distort the original, natural beauty and sound of the saxophone. This haunting trademark sound, " the delay effect," pioneered so many years and recordings ago by John, has over time found its way into all styles of popular music. John promises even more, innovative "Magical Electronics" with the saxophone on his future recordings. 'Magical" is a word that seems to apply to Klemmer in all ways.
"I live and breathe "Romance" in all its forms," says John, "and hopefully I will take the listener with me into my world as a hopeful 'antidote' for a sometimes cold, cruel and often violent world. I create from peaceful long nights of sitting at the keyboard and synthesizer. I need to be 'away' from the world to 'see' the world," says John. "As a Composer and Artist I am an "observer and reporter" of what I see and feel both inside myself and what I see and feel the world around me".
John is not what is thought of as your typical musician and performer. To many, a seemingly mysterious and reclusive person, most all of his friends and mentors are not of the musical world but are from all other walks of life. They provide John with a balance of input he needs to stay fresh with his music.
Through John's long sabbatical of a while ago, he never stopped creating, composing and playing. John explains about this longer than usual sabbatical which created so much mystery, speculation and rumor; "It was ' time' and necessary for me to take a "break" and this time was full of beautiful spiritual revelations, the similar experiences that constitute life for all human beings. This was a time to grow, learn, reflect, experience, heal, and rest". (All of which is a fascinating story that will hopefully appear in a forth-coming autobiography / documentary).
After decades of non-stop recording, performing, touring, creating and composing, since the age of 11, Klemmer was long over due for this well-earned rest. Whether in or out of sabbaticals John has constantly created new music for himself as a Composer that he then had to learn to teach himself "how" to play. Using this process, he is always pushing ahead and challenging himself.
The emotional depth and sincerity of John Klemmer is possibly best observed in the poem that he uses to accompany the title track of his recent CD, "Making Love" [Vol.I]. "Everyone and everything is constantly Making Love. If not, they should be." John relates; "Perhaps I see life through the eyes of a child? Sometimes I see and experience things that others might ignore or not take seriously." This, in a nutshell, describes how John constantly uses everything around him for inspiration in his music. "I have always felt that I observed the lack of if not the fear of tenderness and emotion in our society. Expressing emotions is what I do best and who and what I am," Klemmer confides. When Klemmer plays his Horn, it's as if he is " at one" with it. He 'is' the saxophone and the saxophone is "him". They merge to be one and John sways, bends and dances like a dancer or martial arts aficionado when he plays. Many have commented that it appears as if he is "making love to a woman" and the woman is "his horn & the Music". John has indeed been quoted as affirming this observation and experience as true. "It is a totally letting go when I perform and compose as well", John describes. "When I first started playing, I played and practiced night and day, nonstop. I wanted to master the horn as quickly as possible so that I could move on to creating new things without the technical areas of the horn and music having to be of any concern". And that Klemmer did. He played every style of music from straight-ahead, avant avant-garde jazz to Rock, Pop, Dixieland, R&B and every kind of ethnic music he could, eventually, years later, arriving at his gentle but strong Romantic/Mood recordings. His acclaimed Solo Sax Recordings were both the first of its kind and the early beginnings of New Age music. However, through all these explorations, the essence of who and what John is and what he wanted to say to us never changed. Passion, Sincerity, Honesty, Emotion, Craftsmanship and striving to hopefully never go below the high standards he set for himself and others around him.
Klemmer's compositional style and ideas of his recordings have influenced generations of recording artists. Many say that he is one of, if not the "Creator/Father" of the current Smooth Jazz Category and Genre. Some feel he is perhaps underrated and continually refer to him as; "The best kept secret in Jazz."
John accomplished all of this in spite of some, seemingly to many, overwhelming and staggering odds. "I have always said that "Music saved my Life" and it truly has.", John confides. Anyone can attest to this persistence as they watch John "throw himself " deeply into whatever he does. He gives himself unconditionally to whatever he commits to. He seems, to many, to "never miss a beat". He is, consciously or unconsciously, seemingly aware of everything going on around him. Music business Mogul, Joe Smith recalls; "John has an innate sense of timing."
Klemmer definitely has a style of composing, playing and Recording all of his own. His unique sound is identifiable in a moment's listening and stands out among all others, something very few artists ever achieve. "I love melodicism", explains John. " I love to play on top of a rich, luscious, thick carpet of sound so that I can freely 'sail' on top of this, pushing it forward, twisting, and pulling it back at will. I want to have the same affect on a listener that a great singer does except with out words." However, another of Klemmer's trademarks is his occasional use of the spoken word on his recordings with his prose and poetry to further express himself. John explains, "I decided that if I couldn't sing the way I would like at least I could talk! I am probably a frustrated singer! All I have ever listened to and studied all of my life are Singers. I am open to express myself artistically in anything or any way that comes along and is appropriate". Klemmer continues on; "I feel very blessed and grateful for being in the position to express myself so personally and freely".
John reveals, "I never expected the most incredible rewards that have come my way. I just did what I loved and needed to do in my life and dedicated myself to learning and studying from everything and every one I came in contact with. I am what I am. I was born in the affluent suburbs of Chicago, was weaned on early Rock & Roll and Pop records and hearing Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and 101 Strings etc. music around me night and day played in my home. From there I went on to absorb the Jazz Music of that time. Any stereotyping of me in any one category is a mistake and very frustrating for me. Some people want to categorize me in what a "jazz musician", or, "a musician", is. They are even more surprised and confused when they find out that I actually prefer and spend more time listening to and appreciating non-jazz Artists such as; Yanni, Whitney Houston, Deep Forest, Enigma, Dellerium, Sade and all of the rest of R&B, Pop/Rock, Ambient, World and Dance Music. I listen to EVERYTHING. The jazz that I have listened to and studied in the past comes from an attraction to more sophisticated forms of music like classical music as well". John, continuing on, explains; "I have not totally released and expressed all of the many different facets of my creative life and ideas yet. I hope God blesses me with the opportunity to get it all out. However, every Artist knows and lives with the reality that he will NEVER have enough time to attempt and express ALL that he wants. Much of the time it feels like "beat the clock" time".
For most of Klemmer's career, because of his eclectic musical interests and expressions, he seemingly has been "stuck in the middle", not totally accepted either in the jazz world or the popular music world. Klemmer says, "It's frustrating but I love and prefer "being my own man." Whatever an artist does, to be truly successful, he has to be totally honest and sincere and from his heart to truly have an impact on the public". There is an inherited "power" in being this way". Klemmer continues; "I cannot. It is impossible for me to play music I don't believe in. My hands literally will not move, even though I believe I am technically proficient to play any style of music. I literally cannot play music that I don't believe in and truly feel." John's singularly individualistic character is evident. "At home, I am constantly working to keep my focus and direction as an Artist and Person, yet, I am in great conflict as many of my "dreams" might require more sacrifice of my life than I believe I want to allow", Klemmer confides. "I remember saying once to a friend a long time ago at a more vulnerable moment"; "God ! I want to seduce the world!"
If John wanted to seduce the world, [and he has to a degree] he probably could. He most likely will, though, in his own quiet and individualistic way. Radio programmer, Marty Marcon exclaims, " No one sounds, composes, records or does things like John Klemmer and I doubt that anyone could. What may sound "simple" to some is actually very "difficult" and takes a great degree of proficiency as well as commitment, dedication and discipline to do what he does".
John reveals, in a press release regarding his recent Touch Records "Making Love" [Vol.I] release; "All I want to do in this chapter of my life is try to make the most beautiful music on the planet I can and try to reach as many people as I can and create new directions in Music and recording and try to live the Happiest, most Fulfilling Personal Life I can. What else is there to do"?
By, Jerry Sumner 2001