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Live Reviews

Cool Jazz in a Cool City: IAJE in Toronto 2003

By Published: January 28, 2003

By the early evening, I was too tired to head back to the convention center. I hung out with singer E. J. Decker, who I had shared a table with the night before, we had a drink and a few laughs with pianist Bill Mays, and eventually ended up chatting and playing pool with Dena DeRose and fellow writer Bob Bernatos until closing time (2 am) in the hotel pub. Yes, there were several sets I regretted not attending, but it was a great time for me.

There was one major scheduling snafu. Why was the interview with Oscar Peterson scheduled at the same time as Denny Zeitlin's performance, and also in such a small room? I generally vote for live music over talk, and since I had interviewed both musicians, but had never seen Zeitlin perform (yes, I've seen Peterson on two occasions), it was an easy choice. Another minor headache was that the room where the Peterson interview (as well as McPartland's and possibly others) had horrible sight lines due to a poorly placed column in the front and center of the room. Also, some of the panel discussions were scheduled in rooms without a platform, so it was hard to see the participants unless you were seated in the front of the room.

The other problem was with the cavernous Constitution Hall, where many of the evening concerts took place. Unless you started waiting in line well before the 8 pm start time for each night's festivities, you were likely stuck in the rear of the room, where both the visuals and the sound were very disappointing. As a result I ended up skipping nearly all of these sets after the first night.

One thing I am particularly grateful for is the noticeable lack of ringing cell phones in the middle of performances and panel discussions, a puzzling problem that was all too frequent at the 2002 IAJE conference in Long Beach. Unfortunately, there were too many concert attendees that weren't well mannered enough to know that taking a seat or leaving in the middle of a song was rather rude to both the musicians and everyone they inconvenienced as they entered or exited at their leisure. Another change which would be helpful during panel discussions would be requiring audience questions to be submitted on paper, where the host could choose the best of them during the limited time at the end of session and put an end to those who would stray from the subject or make self-promoting speeches.

Special thanks to the on-site music retailer, L'Atelier Grigorian. After the scheduled CD seller cancelled on short notice, this Toronto store was asked to step with just a few days warning, and their selection was the best I've seen during the past four IAJE Conferences I've attended. Even though I was already filling suitcases with promotional CDs and LPs and CDs purchased in the city, this store's great inventory and incredible prices (Verve's Jazz in Paris series of reissues were just $9.99 in Canadian money, or about $6.50 each in American dollars!) helped make my packing for the trip home even more challenging.

Am I already making plans to attend next year's IAJE in New York? You bet!

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