IAJE 2005: Memories of Long Beach
Friday (and Saturday as well) began in the Regency ballroom with a conference highlight, the aforementioned New Music Reading Sessions. The rest of those days were spent, as usual, chasing down the big bands. On Friday, I managed to hear the Riverside Community College and Cal State Hayward Jazz Ensembles, the University of Northern Colorado Jazz Lab Band, the Hamilton Academy of Music (Los Angeles) Jazz Ensemble A (with a heart-stopping performance by guest soprano Chris Vadala on Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood"), the Jim Knapp Orchestra, and last but not least, the incomparable Bill Holman Big Band. Before continuing, a word more about that concert. Earlier Friday, as I said, I had seen and heard the Riverside Community College ensemble, which performed in the spacious Terrace Theatre for an audience of less than a hundred (perhaps less than fifty, but we'll give them the benefit of the doubt). For some reason known only to the IAJE, the Holman band, acclaimed far and wide (except perhaps in Manhattan, KS) as one of the world's foremost Jazz ensembles, loaded with world-class players and conducted by a legendary composer / arranger who cut his teeth with Stan Kenton and whose reputation among his peers is monumental, was consigned to the undersized and inadequate Regency ballroom, which was SRO long before the concert began. I managed to squeeze in between sardine-like rows of spectators and stood (happily) through the entire concert, but many others weren't as fortunate, and the hallway was packed with disappointed fans who may have been able to hear some of the performance but were unable to see any of it. The misstep reminded me of the fiasco several years ago in NYC when IAJE scheduled performances by two enormously popular big bands (one led by John Fedchock; the other I can't remember) in similarly cramped quarters, nearly precipitating a riot when the doors were closed leaving hundreds of fans out in the cold. A lesson learned? Apparently not.
On Friday evening, the National Education Association (NEA) presented its annual Jazz Masters Awards to seven Jazz giants, one of whom bandleader / clarinetist Artie Shaw passed away less than a month before the conference at age 94. The other recipients were guitarist Kenny Burrell, saxophonist / clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera, trombonist Slide Hampton, pianist Shirley Horn, organist Jimmy Smith and impresario George Wein. Helping celebrate the occasion were the Gerald Wilson Orchestra with guest vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater and the Geri Allen Trio (Allen, piano; Rubien Roger, bass; Billy Hart, drums) with guests James Moody and drummer Chico Hamilton. Ramsey Lewis served as master of ceremonies while Nancy Wilson and Dr. Billy Taylor presented the awards.
On Saturday, the final day of the conference, the rain finally came to stay in Long Beach (it had sprinkled on and off on Friday) but the estimated seven thousand attendees were not to be deterred certainly not this one, whose day began with the second of the instrumental New Music Reading Sessions and included performances by the Garfield High School Ensemble, the Brisbane All-Star Youth Big Band, the US Air Force Airmen of Note with guest drummer Peter Erskine, the Wesley College Big Band from Melbourne, Australia, with that country's greatest Jazz musician, James Morrison, as guest star, the Almaty Youth Jazz Band from Kazakhstan, the Frank Mantooth Tribute Jazz Orchestra, and the AAJC / HBCU Student All-Star Big Band. The Garfield High School ensemble returned to open the evening concert at the Terrace Theatre, followed by the Yellowjackets (Bob Mintzer, sax and EWI; Russell Ferrante, keyboards / piano; Jimmy Haslip, bass; Marcus Baylor, drums) and Goodwin's fiery Big Phat Band whose guest star, Daniels, earned a standing ovation with a series of breathtaking clarinet solos.
If that sounds like a full four days, it pales in comparison to what I missed seeing and hearing, and I suppose the same holds true for everyone else who attended the lavish event. For example, here's a partial list of the clinics, panel discussions and research presentations I had to pass up.