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If jazz audiences in New York City seem a bit larger, better educated and more diverse than usual during the third week of January this year it will be because they probably are. The International Association for Jazz Education is holding its 31st Annual International Conference here, scheduled to attract more than 7,000 jazz musicians, teachers, students, afficionados, and industry representatives from all over the world to the New York Hilton and Sheraton hotels January 21st-24th. This year's conference celebrates its return to the city, after three years away, with the theme, "The Big Apple: Jazz To The Core", meant, in the words of IAJE director Bill McFarlin, to indicate a "strong identification with New York City being the center of the jazz universe."
McFarlin proudly asserts that the Manhattan, Kansas based association has worked hard to make it return to Manhattan Island "programmatically the strongest event we've ever put together," with over 300 performances, workshops and panel discussions. The series of evening concerts presented each night from 8 pm to midnight certainly rivals any of the annual jazz festivals held here and will include sets by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Afro-Latin Orchestra, Michel Camilo Trio, David Sanchez Sextet and Take 6 (Wednesday); the Clifford Brown/Stan Getz All Stars, Dave Holland Quintet, Paquito d'Rivera and New York Voices, the Maria Schneider Orchestra and Jason Moran’s Bandwagon (Thursday); the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, Heath Brothers with Clark Terry, and Saxophone Summit featuring Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano and Dave Liebman (Friday); and Nicholas Payton’s Sonic Trance, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Bob Brookmeyer and New Art Orchestra and Sisters in Jazz Collegiate All Stars (Saturday).
There are also plenty of early shows each day including performances by Mulgrew Miller, Matt Wilson, Bob Hurst and Bobby Watson and Horizon. Even the Jazz Ambassadors of the U.S. Army Field Band will make an appearance joined by Phil Woods. And of course there will be a variety of college and high school big bands performing daily (often with guest soloists like Randy Brecker, Jon Faddis, Wycliffe Gordon and John Fedchock), because that is still the primary focus of the IAJE. According to McFarlin, "In its earlier incarnation the organization (founded in 1968 as the National Association of Jazz Educators) was predominantly about jazz in the classroom and high school and college music educators were probably 90% of the membership, but now a much larger percentage of our membership are working artists and there is much more connectivity between the bandstand and the classroom and a recognition that there's a real symbiotic relationship between the two...It has also evolved to include more people in the industry in our ranks and I think that that is a real positive and natural evolution. There is no question that there is a connection between jazz education and the development of a future consumer base."
The IAJE has evolved to become, as former NEA chairman Bill Ivy noted at the last New York convention, "the only arts organization that provides a forum for the education community, the artistic community and the business community to come together under one roof and work together to grow the artform." McFarlin is proud that the association has managed to grow and evolve without compromising its classroom education roots. He shows an equal amount of pride in the expanded industry track that will include 24 sessions this year and address many of the most important issues confronting the jazz business; and a technology track that will help artists deal with the great number of innovations in the fields of electronics and recording.
Perhaps the most exciting event of the convention will be the nationally televised reception honoring the 2004 recipients NEA Jazz Master awards: guitarist Jim Hall, drummer Chico Hamilton, pianist Herbie Hancock, arranger-composer Luther Henderson (1919-2003), singer Nancy Wilson, and music critic Nat Hentoff. This year's ceremony will bring together more than 25 past honorees, a virtual who's who of the music, including Dave Brubeck, Ron Carter, Benny Golson, Barry Harris, Roy Haynes, Jimmy and Percy Heath, Elvin and Hank Jones, Marian McPartland, James Moody, Anita O'Day, Max Roach, Billy Taylor, Cecil Taylor and Clark Terry. Another important event, the 4th Annual IAJE Gala Dinner honoring Jazz at Lincoln Center Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis with the IAJE President's Award and Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein with the Lawrence Berk Leadership Award, will be hosted by Nancy Wilson all proceeds benefiting the IAJE Global Outreach Fund.