The Long-Anticipated (Yeah, right!) IAJE Post!

Ah, NYC. 2007 marked a milestone for me: my first year attending the International Association for Jazz Education Annual Conference. The Conference is held at both the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers and the Hilton New York, which are one block apart and, as you can see, right in between Central Park and Times Square.

I attended as an emissary of the University of South Florida and the Center for Jazz Composition and, as such, spent quite a bit of time working these booths:
usf_cjc booth

Instead of rambling through my itenerary, I will give you the highlights as I saw them:

The “Evening Concerts” were held in the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton. Having seen the schedule, I had assumed the ballroom was divided into thirds with one act in each third, but soon discovered that all three (or more) acts went on sequentially. In general, these tended to be the more ceremonius events, ones during which set changes paraded as award ceremonies or retrospectives. I sat throught the Crescent Super Band from American Fork, UT, an excellent high school group, but certainly not what I had come to New York to hear. Add to that a rather chatty, occasionally malevolent neighbor, and this was the makings of a less than IAJE 2007 night.

Joey DAfter some shilling for a new video series (the name escapes me now), Joey Defrancesco came on. Accompanied by Ron Blake, Jake Lanaley and Byron Lardham (with vocalist Colleen McNabb on a tune or two), Joey D’s set seemed somewhat staid. His performance was impeccable (saving for the snthesized organ sounds!), but seemed to lack the energy I expected.

JPI left Joey D early (The whole program started well over an hour after the published time) to get a good seat for John Patitucci, and boy did I get a good seat! I was second row, just house irght of center for the whole set. I’ve admired Patitucci since long before I ever picked up a double bass. I have been hot or cold on his tone, but his contributions to the advancement of the instrument technically and in terms of bass PR are inarguable. The trio was JP, Antonio Sanchez, and Adam Rogers. Sanchez was a drummer of impeccable time and a deep pocket. I recall at least on Rogers composition that just floored me. I wish I had more to say, but time and the medication has fogged the memory a bit.

The next morning/afternoon was filled with touristy exploration of Times Square, followed by a quick jaunt to Moby‘s Teany and lunch in Chinatown.

Regrettably, I missed the Industrial Jazz Group‘s 12:00 hit, because I had no idea who they were. I would have gone were I in the know.

I caught the 4:00 hit of the Avishai Cohen group, but was dismayed to discover it was the wrong Avishai Cohen! Having not seen the “real” Avishai Cohen in person, I thought that one of my favorite bass players had changed his appearance and taken up trumpet. Though dismayed, I must admit that this was one smoking set! Had it not been painfully crowded, I would have gladly stayed for the whole set.

After pressing flesh for the exhibit hall grand opening, I took a nap (as the Evening Concerts didn’t appeal to me that much). I had planned on waking in time for the Will Calhoun/Native Land set, but slept until almost half an hour into it. I went down to the hall, figuring I’d catch the last couple minuted and have decent seats for the next show (wait for it….), but wound up walking in during the first song of the set!

Will CalhounWill’s performance fused electronic and traditional percussion (drumset to udu), Creating loops on-the-fly and dopping truly infectious grooves on a waning audience. I was very glad to have caught it.

After Calhoun, the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble set up. Unbeknownst to me, the cats at USF were hipper than I thought and already knew who JH was. I, on the other hand, was only aware of him via Gary Versace, who appeared as a part of the CJC Jazz Masterworks Series last semester. Gary told us he was working with this really hip percussionist/compser in NYC named John Hollenbeck.

I’ll admit I was there to hear Gary, a phenomenal multi-keyboardist (organ, piano, accordian) who plays like nobody’s business and is completely down to earth. What I got with this concert was the whole package! In Hollenbeck’s writing, I heard a big band sound I had never experienced. Thanks in particular to vocalist Theo Bleckmann‘s lilting falsetto, I was at times reminded of Sigur Rós. It was at times symphonic; at others, almost pop. I’m sure there are a lot of people holding their heads in their hands and wondering where in the world I’ve been, but I have to tell you, I was just in awe this entire (very, very) late night concert. If you get a chance, check out “A Blessing,” a setting of the Irish Blessing, from the prayer card at Hollenbeck’s grandmother’s funeral. Knowing this context imparts a particulary poignancy to the work. This was easily the highlight of IAJE for me.
John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble

As an interlude to manning the Booths Friday morning, I caught most of “Excuse the Musical Disruption with Christian McBride and Bob Blumenthal.” This was a a repeat from last year (so the program said) and was an entertaining tri-logue between McBride, Blumenthal, and a moderator whose name I could not uncover. Topics ranged from the best type of venue for jazz to the gov’t handling of NOLA. There was suffiencient chest-pounding from both sides and, while I typically stand on the liberal side of these things, I found both panelists to have generally similar and agreeable views on many of the musico-political views. It doesn’t take partisan politics to see why jazz thrives in Europe and not America. Well, maybe it does.

Later in the day, I checked another one-on-one: “The Groove Electric 1:1 With Marcus Miller and John Scofield.” This one seemed more like “Marcus Miller interviews John Scofield.” As a bassist, I would have appreciated more of a balanced focus on both artists. That is not to say that I didn’t take in every Sco word with electric ears. I really admire Scofield’s willingness to move in new directions, which he explained to be an inate part of his personality. I especially enjoyed the few Jaco anecdotes both artists shared. What can I say, I’m a bass player.

Next was “Jazz in Myspace: Online Community Building.” The program lists moderator Michael Ricci ( and Panelists Michael Goldberg (, Chris Lewis (, Brian Lynch, Lonnie Plaxico, and Vinson Valega. I think all of these were there, but I can tell you that Darcy James Argue and one of the members of the Lascivious Biddies (help me out if you were there). I thought about writing all the names down, but I figured they were in the program.

Anyway, blogging, myspace, podcasting (the Biddies, in particular) and were the primary forms of digital promotion discussed (at least until I left). Though I was familiar with all but mog (now I have one, check it out), it really got me excited to updaye the Bendelow Road Myspace (hold on to your britches, it’s coming) and blog more (which this sickness is slowing down). THis was one of my favorite sessions.

After that, I caught some of the Clayton Brothers’ set at the NEA Jazz Masters ceremony. It was very hot, very packed, and very long. I was standing for all I caught and I finally stepped out, as it got to be too much for me. The Clayton set was really hip, though. I really admire John Clayton and have been inspired by him (he is a great proponent of ditching the Real Book). I regret stepping out.

I caught part of “Jam Session Ettiquette,” which I expected to be entertaining and possibly pretty funny. It was none of the above.

After that was Matt Wilson’s Arts and Crafts. What a group! I had never heard of Wilson, but some of my colleagues insisted I check him out. His quartet included (yet again) Gary Versace, bassist Dennis Irwin (who also played clarinet!) , and trumpeter Terrell Stafford. They were helped out by the “Swayettes” (check the disc out to understand). What really kicked it for me was the finale, where instrumentalists came up from the audience with their own horns (and one to play floor tom) and started a New Orleans-style parade, chanting “All we are saying is ‘Give peace a chance.’” Not only was it entertaining; it was extremely moving!
Give Peace a Chance

Saturday morning, I caught a couple minutes of “The Art of the Rhythm Section” with Jeff Campbell, Rick Haydon, Harold Jones, and Reggie Thomas. It was very informative and was a great primer in Basie/Ellington/Standards rhythm section playing.

mw with the LaFaro PrescottThe rest of the days was spent manning the booths and finally getting to take my own jaunt throught the exhibit halls. I saw the Kolstein booth (with the LaFaro Prescott), the Acoustic Image booth (the best amp I’ve ever played), the Gage booth (where I played a Czech-Ease|very nice) among many non-bass booths. It was a blast.

I missed a lot for the booths, but it was worth it for the chance to attend. I ate and rested that evening before attending Chucks’ party (more on that later). What a blast the weekend was.

Next year I hope to have a much nicer camera and live blog the event (DJA was quite an inspiration). See you next year!

Guess who!
Lynn Seaton and mwmw and Jay Leonhart of "The Bass Lesson"mw and Reggie Workmanmw and Sue Mingus

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