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Big Band Report

The IAJE's Collapse: What Happened?

By Published: May 7, 2008
The truth is, we don't really know. What we do know is that in April, the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and will be turned over to a trustee, its assets parceled out to creditors. This deals a body blow not only to Jazz educators in this country but around the world, not to mention musicians, others in the music business and plain fans like me who derived pleasure from attending the annual IAJE conventions, even though I'd not been to one for four years.

At least a part of the problem, we've learned, was an ill-advised return to Toronto in January, where attendance was barely above half the average for conferences in New York City and other venues. Faced with a large cash shortage, the IAJE sent a last-ditch fund-raising letter to its members but brought in only about $12,000, which hardly made a dent in liabilities estimated at more than $1 million. Some are now saying that the IAJE, which held its first conference in 1973, overreached itself, especially with a Campaign for Jazz program that never got off the ground.

In a letter to the membership, IAJE President Chuck Owen wrote in part:

"In the next few days, a Kansas bankruptcy court will appoint a trustee to oversee all ongoing aspects of the association. This includes the ability to examine IAJE's financial records and mount an independent inquiry into the causes of its financial downfall as well as disposing of the remaining assets of the association with proceeds distributed to creditors in accordance with Kansas and Federal law. The board will no longer be involved in operation of the organization and will at some point resign. IAJE as it presently stands will no longer exist."

The only ray of hope can be found in the phrase "as it presently stands." In other words, the formation of another group to replace IAJE, even though unlikely, at least in the short run, is not entirely out of the question. Remember that until forty years ago there was no IAJE, which grew out of the National Association of Jazz Educators (NAJE). After lamenting its demise, it behooves members of the jazz community to determine what went wrong, pick up the pieces and move forward. Whatever its name or makeup, an organization such as IAJE is needed. Putting Humpty Dumpty together again won't be easy, but should prove well worth the effort.

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Out and About . . .

As there wasn't much jazz locally in April, Betty and I turned our attention elsewhere, starting April 6 with a splendid touring production of the Broadway musical "Annie" at UNM's Popejoy Hall. We returned to Popejoy in mid-month for a rollicking version of Gilbert & Sullivan's "H.M.S. Pinafore," and between them attended a zarzuela (Spanish operetta) at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, another of Albuquerque's treasures. "La Corte de Faraon" (The Court of the Pharaoh), set in Egypt, deals with the amorous attentions of the queen, Reina, and Lotha, a lovely virgin from Thebes, toward a captive slave from Israel, Casto Jose (Chaste Joseph, the same Joseph of the Coat of Many Colors). Lotha has been wed to the war hero Putifar, who is unable to perform his husbandly duties owing to a most unfortunate albeit well-directed wound suffered in battle. The operetta was well-staged and well-sung, making for an enjoyable evening. We'll return there on May 3 for a Cinco de Mayo celebration featuring the wonderful tenor voice of Armando Mora, one of our favorites.

Also in April, we attended an Opera Southwest production of Puccini's "Tosca" and an outstanding local production of Shakespeare's "King Lear," enlivened by Paul Ford's bravura performance as Lear and Alan Ware as his Fool. And speaking of bravura turns, they don't get much better than those of Nathalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez in Donizetti's "Daughter of the Regiment," which we saw on April 26 as a Metropolitan Opera simulcast at a local movie theatre. Not only does Dessay have a marvelous soprano voice, she's a remarkably talented comedienne who reminded me of such great ones as Lucille Ball or Carol Burnett, while Florez, handsome and dashing, brought the audience to its feet with a series of breathtaking arias in the role that made another tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, a star.

It's back to jazz on May 1 with a concert at the Outpost Performance Space by the Bobby Shew/Doug Lawrence Quintet backed by pianist Bob Fox, bassist Michael Olivola and drummer John Trentacosta. On May 4, we'll be at Popejoy Hall again for "I Love a Piano," based on the music of Irving Berlin, and on May 21 I'm off to Los Angeles for the L.A. Jazz Institute's four-day extravaganza, "The Stage Door Swings." Full report to follow in June. The Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra kicks off the annual Jazz Under the Stars series May 31 at the Albuquerque Museum of Art, but Betty and I will be in California that weekend to help her sister June celebrate her fiftieth wedding anniversary.

Also in the Pipeline . . .

If I could be in two places at once on June 1, the second would be Studio City, CA, for the twenty-second annual Big Band Reunion Luncheon & Concert sponsored by the Big Band Academy of America. The main reason (besides the food) is that the special guest is one of my comedy heroes, the one and only Stan Freberg, whose quirky sense of humor I have enjoyed for many years. Also on the program are the Modernaires (featuring Paula Kelly Jr.) and singer and TV personality Peter Marshall (of "Hollywood Squares" fame), backed by the 18-member Big Band Academy Blue Ribbon Band directed by Pat Longo. Admission includes the luncheon and concert. To get in touch, phone 818-301-2378, or e-mail bigbandacademy@yahoo.com

On October 17, the Pittsfield (MA) City Jazz Festival returns to the Colonial Theatre for "Jazz Meets the Symphony," featuring the New Black Eagles Jazz Band and the Pittsfield City Youth Orchestra. The festival itself, established in 2005, runs from October 10-19 with a "Jazz in the Schools" program from October 14-17. Details will be announced later this spring, with periodic news updates at www.PittsfieldCityJazz.org

Already under way and set to continue through May 9 is "Swinging Europe 2008," a series of concerts by the seventeen-member European Youth Jazz Orchestra, conducted this year by German bandleader/composer Niels Klein. The five-country tour began April 25 in Denmark and winds up at the Moers Festival in Germany. The ensemble also has concert dates in Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg. Three concerts scheduled in Egypt had to be canceled for security reasons. The final concert, in Moers, should produce a CD, as is done every year.

The Monterey Jazz Festival has announced the membership of the 2008 Next Generation Jazz Orchesta, comprised of high school students from around the country. The NGJO is slated to perform at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, July 9-11, and at Boston's Berklee School of Music on July 15. The twenty-one young musicians who comprise the orchestra hail from a dozen states. Among its former members are pianists Benny Green and Patrice Rushen, saxophonists Josh Redman and Dave Koz, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Chad Wackerman. More information about the NGJO can be found at www.montereyjazzfestival.org

Some Solemn Farewells

Happiness was tinged with inevitable sadness in the past month, during which a few more of the jazz world's brightest lights were extinguished. Taking them in chronological order:

Gene Puerling, a noted vocal arranger and former leader of the popular quartet the Hi-Lo's, died March 26 at age seventy-eight. Pianist and TV host Steve Allen called the Hi-Lo's "the best vocal group of all time," an observation with which few would argue. The group was formed in 1953, and three years later its album "Suddenly It's the Hi-Lo's" was among the top twenty best-selling albums of the year. A follow-up, "And All That Jazz," was a critical if not a commercial success. Puerling won a Grammy Award in 1981 for his arrangement for the Manhattan Transfer of "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square." Besides the Manhattan Transfer, other groups who cited the Hi-Lo's as an influence included the Beach Boys, the Gatlin Brothers, Take 6, and the Mamas and the Papas.

Allan Ganley, a first-call drummer for British groups large and small for more than half a century, died March 29, eighteen days after his seventy-seventh birthday. Ganley, wrote Steve Voce, was "the perfect Jazz drummer. He could play with faultless instinct and delicacy in any style and had what seemed to be a supernatural understanding of how the giants of Jazz wished to be accompanied." Among those giants were Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Art Farmer, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Stephane Grappelli, Annie Ross and Peggy Lee. Ganley played in many British big bands and smaller groups led by John Dankworth, Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott, Ambrose, Jack Parnell, Kenny Baker and Ronnie Ross, among others. He was also a busy session player who worked with composers Nelson Riddle, Robert Farnon, Henry Mancini and others. Until the week of his death, Ganley had a regular Sunday lunchtime gig at Jag's in Ascot, where he lived.

Phil Urso, a smooth, Lester Young-influenced tenor saxophonist who was best known for his mid-50s association with trumpeter Chet Baker, died April 7 in Denver, CO. He was eighty-two years old. Earlier, he had played with Woody Herman, Miles Davis, Jimmy Dorsey, Terry Gibbs and Oscar Pettiford, and in 1954 co-led a quintet with valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer. Although little was heard from Urso nationally after the fifties, he remained active in his adopted home of Denver well into the 1990s. A few years ago, he and trumpeter Carl Saunders recorded an album titled "Salute Chet Baker" for Colorado's Jazzed Media label, and Urso was part of an all-star big band that played for KUVO Radio's 20th anniversary concert in 2005 whose headliner was pianist Marian McPartland.

Jimmy Giuffre, who will long be remembered as composer for the Woody Herman Orchestra of the jazz classic "Four Brothers," died April 24, two days before his eighty-seventh birthday. More recently, Giuffre was known for his modernist compositions for the Jimmy Giuffre 3 with guitarist Jim Hall and bassist Ralph Pena (or Jim Atlas), and later with pianist Paul Bley and bassist Steve Swallow. Giuffre played about half a dozen instruments from bass flute to soprano sax, but was best known as a clarinetist whose low-register tone was instantly identifiable (as were his tasteful tenor and baritone saxophones). On his breakthrough album, "Tangents in Jazz" (1955), Giuffre eschewed chordal instruments such as piano and guitar, and his trios from 1956-61 were recorded without a drummer. From the mid-50s on, Giuffre taught music, first at the Lenox School of Jazz and later at the New School, New York University, Rutgers University and the New England Conservatory of Music. In the 1980s he began a productive association with the French saxophonist Andre Jaume, with whom he recorded a duo album, Momentum. His earlier albums 1961 and Free Fall were well-received when reissued in the '90s. Even though his music underwent dramatic changes during his long career, Giuffre will always be associated with one of the gold standards of big-band Jazz composition, "Four Brothers," a song that introduced the unique Herman sound (three tenor saxophones and a baritone).

And last but by no means least, Humphrey Lyttelton, trumpet player, bandleader, radio personality, journalist, raconteur, humorist, calligrapher, cartoonist and stalwart standard-bearer for jazz in Great Britain for more than six decades, died April 25 at age eighty-six. Even a cursory review of Lyttelton's long and distinguished career gives one pause, as he truly was a Renaissance man. In the words of Steve Voce, in London's Independent newspaper, "Humphrey Lyttelton excelled at everything that he chose to do." And he chose to do a lot. Lyttelton formed his own band in 1948, a couple of years after completing military service in which he was wounded, and shortly before he joined the London Daily Mail as a cartoonist. Lyttelton's band, which recorded often for Parlophone Records, served as a way station for such future standouts as saxophonists Tony Coe, Danny Moss, Alan Barnes, Joe Temperley and Karen Sharp, trombonists Roy Williams, Pete Strange and John Picard, and a large number of pianists, bassists and drummers. In 1949, the band accompanied American jazz clarinetist Sidney Bechet in a London concert. In the mid-50s, "fed up with continually being accused of being a traitor [to trad jazz]," Lyttelton left the style behind and started playing more modern Jazz. In his spare time, Lyttelton wrote a restaurant guide, worked on his calligraphic hobby, and hosted radio programs, beginning in 1967 with "The Best of Jazz," which ran on BBC Radio 4 for more than forty years. Five years later, against his better judgment, he signed on as host of Radio 4's "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue," which proved to be one of more popular radio programs in Great Britain. He also wrote books including I Play As I Please (1954), Second Chorus (1958), Take It From The Top (1975), The Best Of Jazz 1 (1978), The Best Of Jazz 2 (1981), Why No Beethoven (1984) and It Just Occurred to Me . . . (2006). In 1983 he formed his own record label, Calligraph, and recorded many of his musical associates, British and American. At the time of his passing, Lyttelton was working on another book, this one about calligraphy and titled Delivered by Hand. He not only helped Voce write his obituary but fashioned a perfect closing line when he said to Voce, "I do wish I could be there to read it when it's published."

And that's it for now. Until next time, keep swingin'!



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