Odds 'n Ends Before Dashing Off . . .

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Happy New Year! Clearing the desk on the eve of my departure for the 32nd annual conference of the International Association for Jazz Education in Long Beach, CA . . .

Speaking of the IAJE, one of the seven outstanding figures in Jazz to be honored this year as Jazz Masters by the National Endowment for the Arts won't be there to accept the award. Artie Shaw, the last of the great Swing Era bandleaders of the 1930s, died this week at age 94, thus depriving the audience of what may have been the best acceptance speech they'd ever hear.

The other Jazz Masters, Class of '05, are guitarist Kenny Burrell, saxophonist / clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera, composer / arranger / trombonist Slide Hampton, vocalist Shirley Horn, organist Jimmy Smith and impresario George Wein. The awards will be given at a ceremony and concert on Friday, January 7, at the Long Beach Convention Center. The presenters are Nancy Wilson (Jazz Master '04) and Dr. Billy Taylor (Jazz Master '98), with performances by the Gerald Wilson Orchestra featuring vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, and the Geri Allen Trio with guests James Moody and Chico Hamilton.

I received a notice from NEA which says it plans to announce a major new Jazz education initiative at a Friday afternoon press conference preceding the Jazz Masters award program. Dana Gioia, chairmen of the NEA, is to outline an educational initiative and corporate sponsorship to help support new and expanded Jazz Masters endeavors. Slide Hampton (if I am reading the press release correctly) is to premiere a new work during the musical performance that follows.

If you don't see me at the presentation or during the conference, that's because there'll be more than 7,000 musicians, educators, industry executives, students and fans like myself attending, and it's pretty easy to get lost in a crowd that large. But if you'd like to see me, look for an elderly gentleman (I use the word "gentleman" advisedly) wearing an Albuquerque Isotopes baseball cap, brown jacket and white tennis shoes (my conference uniform). I'll have a few more words to say about the event next month.

Turning to other matters . . .

Here's a good idea you may not have heard about — Project Iraq & Roll, an effort to collect CDs to send to U.S. military personnel stationed in Iraq. Many soldiers have written to say that music is quite important to them as a way to combat the boredom that is part of life on the front lines. Project I&R has gotten several record labels to agree to contribute promo CDs, and would like to get bands, indie labels and others involved. I don't know how this applies to Jazz, but surely there must be a handful of U.S. soldiers whose musical taste hasn't been totally obliterated, and they may appreciate hearing some honest-to-goodness music (and exposing their buddies to it). In any case, more details are available at the Project I&R web site, www.mondogordo.com. Donations may be sent c/o Rev. Keith A. Gordon, 826 Old Charlotte Pike East, Franklin, TN 37064.

And while on the topic of good ideas, news has reached us that the Count Basie Theatre's Cool School has renewed its successful collaboration with American Jazz Ventures, providing a third eight-week program for promising young musicians in central New Jersey (as you know, the Count was born and raised in Red Bank). The workshop uses the teaching techniques of nationally known musicians of American Jazz Venues, led by Jazz Hall of Fame member Clem De Rosa.

The program is open to twenty young adults ages 11-18 who successfully complete an audition on trumpet, trombone, saxophone, bass, piano, drums or guitar. Classes are held on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with emphasis on small-group instruction and large ensemble rehearsal, playing big-band Jazz repertoire.

The initial program has been expanded to include classes in music theory, Jazz improvisation, and ensemble band rehearsal. The faculty is sprinkled with well-known names including pianists Allen Farnham, Eli Yamin and Andy LaVerne; trumpeters John Bailey, Mike Ponella and George Rabbai; saxophonists Claire Daly, Gerry Niewood and Joe Temperley; trombonists John Fedchock, Conrad Herwig and Pete McGuinness; bassists Rufus Reid and Michael Moore; and drummers Clem De Rosa, Richard De Rosa, Bill Goodwin and Randy Jones — with others to be named later.

Information about tuition and audition materials can be obtained from Yvonne Scudiery, 732-224-8778, ext. 306, or by writing to Yvonne c/o the Count Basie Cool School, 105A Monmouth St., Red Bank, NJ 07701. The Cool School's web site is www.CountBasieTheatre.org. To reach American Jazz Ventures, phone Ed Bride, 413-442-7718, or visit the web site, www.AmericanJazzVentures.org

Like June, Jazz education seems to be bustin' out all over. Jazz at Lincoln Center is continuing WeBop!, its series of Jazz education classes for pre-schoolers. Classes for children ages 2-6 years (you heard right) will continue on Tuesdays and Saturdays from January 11 through March 5 in J@LC's Frederick P. Rose Hall, Broadway at 60th St. (more specifically, in the Irene Diamond Education Center, Louis Armstrong Classroom, which is on the fifth floor).

WeBop! features classes in which children and their parents or care-givers sing, move, and play to, it says here, "the soulful rhythms and melodies of great Jazz." Drawing upon the best of America's music and the expertise of early childhood development, "WeBop! instructors lead children to a greater understanding of Jazz and their national musical heritage." Sounds good to me. The earlier the better, I say! The three age groups are Stompers (2-3 years), Syncopators (4-5) and Gumbo Group (whoever's left).

WeBop! is produced in collaboration with Early Childhood Music Education, Teachers College, Columbia University. The Louis Armstrong Classroom was made possible by a generous gift from the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation. For more information, phone Lindsay Brust, 212-258-9868, or send an e-mail to lbrust@jalc.org

And that wraps things up for now. Until next time, keep swingin'!

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