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Big Fun at the IAJE
The annual IAJE conference is the only yearly gathering of the Global Jazz community. This yearís festivities, held in Long Beach, California, which has all the verve and panache of Atlantic City sans the gaming, brought together over 5,000 students, educators, musicians and assorted Jazz industry professionals.

Iíve attended a number of these get-togethers and itís always big fun. The combination of live music (literally hundreds of musicians performing, from high school bands to the Dave Brubeck Quartet), master classes, seminars, panels and networking always leaves me feeling optimistic and energized.

But this yearís gathering wasnít quite up to last yearís New York extravaganza, at least from an industry perspective, perhaps because of 911, the economy and the fragile state of the Jazz business itself. These arenít exactly banner times for record labels, club, festivals and performers. However, this event isnít just for the Jazz industry. Itís for the students and the educators but mainly the young musicians who make up the largest segment of the attendees.

While visiting the Dreyfus Records booth in the Exhibit Hall, I encountered three high school musicians from Arizona, who were totally pumped. Theyíd just met Jon Faddis in the corridor and were proud to display their autographs from the trumpeter. Itís the interaction between students and professionals that makes the IAJE such a significant annual event.

For me, itís an opportunity to visit with friends I no longer encounter on a regular basis. I left the New York metro area last July, and this conference is really my only chance to go elbow to elbow with the musicians, writers and other assorted Jazz aficionados who are largely absent from my new life.

Highlights:

Moody. James Moody is one of the real joys of Jazz, one of the funniest, effervescent beings on Planet Earth. Moody guested with a smoking aggregation, Gordon Goodwinís Big Phat Band, and as usual, played the saxophone with the majesty of a Greek God.

Arthur Blythe with the Rodney Jonesí Soul Manifesto. What a surprise. I havenít heard the rotund altoman live in decades and when I popped in Jonesí groove oriented get-together, there was Black Arthur, cooking.

Marc Carey. Mr. Carey, no relation to Mariah, whose twenty eight million dollar record contract buyout from EMI/Virgin made me want to puke, is one of the undiscovered gems of Jazz. New York based, the pianist has recorded several CDs on different labels, offering his creativity in a variety of genres, yet the public, and the asute critics whose priceless prose propagates the pages of our three major Jazz magazines, are still asleep on Marc Carey. Eventually, theyíll understand.

Percy Heath and Frank Foster. Percy and Frank, together with McCoy Tyner, were this yearís recipients of the NEA Jazz Masters awards. Percy and Frank held forth on a panel hosted by David Baker, telling stories and sharing their wisdom. Both are heroic storytellers whose wit and breathe of experience rendered this hour, spellbinding.

Artie Shaw. Speaking of wit and experience, the former clarinetist and bandleader is just the other side of ninety, but hasnít lost his ability to go for the jugular. Listening to Shaw talk about his life in music and his philosophy of life was enlightening and totally enjoyable. My favorite quote: ďThereís no reason for a bass solo.Ē

Jason Moran. Mr. Moranís late night set with Greg Osby demonstrated heís one of the most exciting young musicians on the planet. It came as no surprise that the twenty six yearís old latest CD, Black Stars, has been on everyoneís Best of List for 2000.

Next year, itís on to Toronto, where the weather will be a lot colder than sunny Southern California, but the festivities themselves, will probably burn a little brighter than this yearís proceedings. In the words of that eminent American sage, Francis Albert Sinatra, the best is yet to come. Hopefully.

Bret Primack

Sun Jan 20 2002 (7:39:15 PM)


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