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Live Reviews

96 Hours in the Jazziest City on Earth: IAJE Conference in Toronto 2008

By Published: March 9, 2008

"Didja recognize it?" she asks. Esperanza cut class one day in Portland, started "messing around with the bass" and, she giggled, "it turned into a career somehow." Then came a Berklee scholarship; now, at 24, she's among the youngest faculty members ever. Her pure voice is airy, hypnotic, mysterious. Think wind chimes and waterfalls. She sings sweet melodies in three languages, often without words, while holding down a solid bass line. Her effortless singing on "Cantora de Yala" and "Perazuan" captivates the house. Offstage, laughing, flirting with fans, she flashes a joyful thumb's up, and you know she knows she's on her way.

Initial Public Offerings

Candido misunderstood Dizzy Gillespie's invite to join his band in New York. "He didn't speak Cuban and I didn't speak English. So we talked with our hands. "'Manana,' I told him, 'Manana.' When I didn't show up, the next day, Dizzy came back, and said, 'Where you been, man?' 'Here,' I told him, 'I have six more weeks.' After you're through with that gig,' Dizzy said, 'come play with me.' Candido did.

Jon Hendricks' turn. Charley Parker heard him singing in a Toledo nightclub. "'Come to New York,' Bird said.

"I don't know anybody in New York."

"'You know me.'

"How will I find you?"

"'Just ask around.'"

A bus ticket to New York put Hendricks outside Bird's club. "I stood there, afraid to go in. He wouldn't remember me. I started to leave, go home, and then stopped to think: the only man in the world who can help me is behind that door. "I walked in. Bird was playing. He stopped, and said: 'Hey Jon, howya doing? Wanna sing something?'"

On to Q. At 11, Quincy Jones, born on the south side of Chicago, broke into a house, saw a spinet piano ."..and touched it, and every cell in my body told me that's what you're going to do the rest of your life."

He taught himself piano and trumpet and fled to Seattle where he met Ray Charles, up from the Deep South. "He was 16. I was 14. But he was 100 years older than me. He had his own apartment, a record player and two girlfriends. I wanted to be like him." Together, Quincy on trumpet, Ray on piano, played weddings and parties.

To "do-de-oo-bop" is vocalese

For one hour, in plain English Jon Hendricks and Kurt Elling tried to explain how they do what they do: Create new melodies over old standards. Make voices sound like instruments.

"It's a feeling in the moment," Hendricks said. "Something spiritual, from the heart," Elling said.

"It comes to me all at once," Hendricks said. "It's a gift," Elling said.

"You can try to explain it," Hendricks said at last, "but it would take a great poet." Finally, what everyone hoped would happen did: Elling mimicked the sound of a bass. Hendricks a horn. They were—"bap bap da dee dee dee bed up"— reunited in their Brothers act, again.

Bang The Drum, Cymbal & Gong Slowly

The awfullest sound, a horrid cacophony, blares out of the music room of Exhibition Hall where saxophones, trombones and trumpets, drums, cymbals and gongs, pianos, guitars and even an ukulele, get put to the test by musicians, amateur and pro, courtesy of instrument makers. Yamaha wants you to play a baby Grand, Steinway a spinet, Conn-Selmer a horn. The music business is doing "bidness." Downbeat's giving away magazines. Vendors offer everything from drumsticks and sheet music to downloadable play along tracks. Berklee, Julliard, Peabody, and New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music are here. Even the US Army Blues Jazz Ensemble is out in force. You can get a free copy of CODA and Toronto Jazz magazines. Sign up for the Sienna Jazz Festival. Dig Danish and Nordic jazz. Visit the American Jazz Museum. And Kennedy Center. Get a free CD celebrating the first decade of Seattle's Origin Records. Order Ron Hudson's critically acclaimed book Right Down Front with foreword by ex-IAJE president Herb Wong. Register for Cornish College of Arts. Sign up for Port Townsend Jazz Workshop. Sign up for next year's IAJE.

All-Stars All Over

Inside Royal York hotel where the Queen of England always stays, past a lobby full of Martini-sipping swells, up in an Art Deco ballroom with three crystal chandeliers and a ceiling fresco of a blonde goddess in a swan chariot reining a wild bullock, I found Miguel and the band.

Teenagers with peach fuzz cheeks, the All-Stars wore black slacks and rumpled white shirts all but the trombone player, stylish in purple shirt with white collar and French cuffs. Susie Jones, the Mt. Hood Community College jazz band director coaxed music out of the drowsy All-Stars, pointed to each player to solo, and encouraged applause from a thin audience of folks with digital cameras who had to be parents.

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