IAJE 2005: Memories of Long Beach
After visiting the media room to pick up my press badge, I checked out the Center and environs, joined Bob Bragonier for a pizza, then returned to the Convention Center ballroom for the "official" opening of the conference, a pleasurable hour with super-trombonist Bill Watrous and his exciting big band. I had a chance to say hello to Bill, whom I'd last seen in the summer of '04 when he was guest soloist with the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra in its annual Jazz Under the Stars concert at the Albuquerque Museum. The band was terrific, as expected, with dazzling solos by Watrous, fellow trombonists Bruce Otto, Bob McChesney and Charlie Morillas, pianist Berg, trumpeter Jeff Bunnell, and tenors Glen Berger and Robbie Marshall, the last an undergraduate at USC where Watrous is an instructor. I was trying my best to take notes during the performance, only to find afterward that they were barely legible. The older I get, the harder it is to scribble notes with the lights out, so after that I simply stopped trying. Whatever follows is from memory.
The main concert that evening featured the Thelonious Monk Institute ensemble with pianist Herbie Hancock; a tribute to Antonio Carlos Jobim with some great musicians including vocalist Flora Purim, guitarist / vocalists Dori Caymmi and John Pizzarelli, saxophonist Dave Liebman and drummer Alex Acuna; and the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band. I took a pass and returned to the motel.
Thursday morning was set aside for the "homeys," and my day began with performances by the Cal State Long Beach Studio One Ensemble and Long Beach Polytechnic High School, the latter enriched appreciably by guests Wayne Bergeron (trumpet), Andy Martin (trombone) and Tom Kubis (tenor sax). Before the exhibit hall opened at six o'clock that evening, I also caught all or part of performances by the Cal State Fullerton Jazz Ensemble (with Martin again the guest), the East Midlands Youth Jazz Orchestra from Derby, UK, the Cal State Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra, and the Fullerton College Jazz Ensemble (with Bergeron sitting in on trumpet). Between times, I also attended the Conference Opening Session, at which the Milt Hinton Award for Excellence in Jazz Photography was presented to K. Abe; James Miley's composition, "There," the 2005 Gil Evans Commission prize-winner, was brought to life by the Fresno City College Jazz Composers Orchestra; and the Bob Florence Limited Edition performed the winning compositions in the IAJE / ASCAP competition honoring Count Basie, emerging composer Sherisse Rogers' "Chacagliatu" and Florence's own "Eternal Licks & Grooves," which earned top honors in the established composer category.
Florence's big band returned that evening to highlight the concert program at the Terrace Theatre, an invigorating event that included appearances by drummer Roy Haynes' Fountain of Youth, the IAJE Sisters in Jazz (Delandria Mills, flute; Lakecia Benjamin, alto and soprano sax; Jacquelyn Coleman, trumpet; Carmen Staaf, piano; Maeve Royce, bass; Hanne Pulli, drums) and the IAJE / NFAA Clifford Brown / Stan Getz All-Stars (Peter Reardon-Anderson, Ben Van Gelder, saxophones; Simon Millerd, trumpet; Eldar Djangirov, piano; Colin Stranahan, percussion).