IAJE 2008: Cool Jazz in a Cool City - Take 2
I made it to only two workshops, though I ended up purchasing CDRs of both full sessions before leaving town. I enjoyed watching nylon-string acoustic guitarist Gene Bertoncini explain how to develop ear training, incorporating singing a phrase and finding it on the guitar, altering a piece by playing it in thirds, then fifths, sevenths, etc. In addition to his fascinating variations on "All the Things You Are," he offered a complete rendition of Dave Gruisin's "A Love Like Ours."
Vocalist Catherine DuPuis held a workshop to demonstrate how Native-American music could be blended with jazz. Starting with a chant, DuPuis gradually added musicians as an arrangement took shape, with a strong rhythm section including pianist Bill Mays (who did some of the charts based on the singer's concepts), bassist Neil Swainson and drummer Terry Clarke, plus cedar flautist. One Native-American piece ending up with a cooking "Killer Joe" vamp underneath, while "All the Things You Are" was transformed into a Native-American setting. Finally, arranger Russ Kassoff's chart of "Who Will Buy?" (from the musical Oliver!) was fueled by the rhythm section playing "All Blues" behind the leader.
I missed the first half of the Disklavier session involving the remaking of Art Tatum's historic 1949 solo concert at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, documented in uneven sound on the Sony CD Piano Starts Here. The original transcription was edited and resequenced, with a medley cut down (evidently to save royalties). Fortunately, the edited portion was located, an original ten inch disc of the music enabled the correct sequence to be determined. Then a complex computer program was devised to not only learn which keys Tatum played, but to mimic how much pressure he used and how much pedal. In one brief hearing, it seemed like the live playback I heard on the Disklavier during this session sounded very close to Tatum's recording. The revamped concert, recorded from the Disklavier's playback on the very same stage used by Tatum, will be issued this summer. It still isn't the same as hearing the pianist's own performance, but it is a fascinating technology.
Panel discussions have always been a hit-or-miss affair at IAJE and I missed most of them this year. Dan Morgenstern's chat with drummer Roy Haynes didn't seem to catch fire and I ended up leaving halfway through it. Some of the other sessions looked promising but I missed them for various reasons. While hanging out with Bill Mays, he suggested a Jazz Anecdotes panel for a future IAJE. Considering some of the great stories told during past conferences (anyone remember Ray Drummond telling about Hank Jones deliberately introducing a difficult singer to a Japanese audience as "Miss Onita A'Day" during the 2003 IAJE? ), that sounds viable to me.
Sadly, there were far fewer exhibitors present, though it probably enabled attendees to talk at greater length to those who invested their money and time. Fortunately, people seemed to know to turn off cellphones (unlike in Long Beach) so I don't recall hearing any going off during concerts or sessions.
It was odd not running into the usual gang of All About Jazz contributors (though I doubt that I was there alone), though I naturally ran into quite a few folks associated with Coda. One thing I have forgotten to do in the past: thank the many volunteers who put in so many hours to enable IAJE to take place. Without you, the conference wouldn't exist.
See you in Seattle in 2009!