By Jason Mueller
For four days every January, the International Association of Jazz Educators Conference (IAJE) is the center of the jazz universe. What started 32 years ago as a conference for jazz educators has now become the place to be for over 7,000 musicians, radio personalities, media, promoters and the jazz business community. This year the conference was held in rain-soaked Long Beach, CA, and as in past years, featured a strong Northwest jazz presence.
Held in the Long Beach Conference Center and the ad-joining Hilton Hotel, there was never a shortage of music to hear, though for the most part, it was hard to forget that you were listening in a hotel conference room. All of that changed when the Jovino Santos Neto Quinteto took the stage Thursday night, January 6 and transformed the sterile con.nes into a hopping nightclub.
The group, featuring Jovino on piano, Harvey Wainapel on woodwinds, Chuck Deardorf on bass, Mark Ivester on drums and Jeff Busch on percussion, performed a nearly flawless, intimate set comprised largely of Jovino's original music.
Jovino, always animated behind the piano, had the audience's complete attention throughout the 50 minute set. The rhythm section of Deardorf, Ivester and Busch were as tight and cohesive as anything heard during the conference.
Public Radio's Jim Wilke, who was in attendance for the performance said, "It is a band with a real concept and energy that grows out of the combination of musicians. I could feel it in the crowd. People were really diggin' it."?
This is a band that sounds as one and by the end of the set the audience was in complete agreement leaping out of their seats for a standing ovation.
The IAJE was a "big deal,"? as Jim Knapp called it, for it was his group's first performance outside of the Northwest. Fundraising during late-2004 and help from Cornish College of the Arts pro-vided the critical support to get the entire group to California for the showcase performance.
With newly updated arrangements and a band packed with Northwest jazz all-stars Mark Taylor, Jay Thomas, John Hansen, Phil Sparks and many others, the Jim Knapp Orchestra performed Friday night in the Convention Center Ballroom to an audience largely unfamiliar with Knapp's compositions.
With the Ballroom doors open to the rest of the Convention, as soon as the band started playing you could tell this was something different. The respect-able crowd soon swelled with people eager to hear more.
"People heard a unique sound coming out the door, and really felt they heard some real original writing. Marvelous dynamics, different textures moving in-and-out, it is very fresh,"? said Wilke. "The soloing was absolutely first-rate."?
In a setting which caters to pick-up groups and all-star Basie-esque big bands, The Jovino Santos Neto Quinteto and the Jim Knapp Orchestra clearly stood out as groups to watch and had those unfamiliar with the Seattle jazz scene definitely taking notice.
Said Jim Wilke, "What I hear a lot from Seattle groups are fresh original concepts, new ideas, new ways of put-ting things together that you wouldn't expect."?
Other Northwest jazz participation included:
The award-winning Garfield High School Big Band was prominently featured during Saturday's events. First, performing an afternoon concert with guest soloist Terell Stafford, and later performing first on the final concert bill with The Yellowjackets.
Earshot director John Gilbreath participated on a panel discussion entitled, The Evolution of an International Touring Network, which featured comments from many of the top presenters in jazz today.
Seattle Times and Downbeat Critic Paul de Barros held a review-writing clinic sponsored by the Jazz Journalists Association and later participated in a panel discussion between music critics and jazz musicians. Had it not been held near the end of the conference, the lively back-and-forth between the two professions (with some invigorating input from the audience) would have had more people talking.