IAJE 2005 Notebook
Dick Johnson, current leader of the Artie Shaw Orchestra, accepted Shaw's award on his behalf. Johnson took the opportunity to argue for Shaw's place as not only a swing great but also a progenitor of bebop, and seemed on the verge of tears as he thanked Shaw for his rich musical legacy.
Geri Allen opened the concert program with a powerhouse trio featuring Billy Hart on drums. In a pair of opening tunes that rolled like thunder over the audience, Allen set a standard that few other moments of the three-hour concert could match. A later team-up between Allen's trio and James Moody, while yielding some attractive solos, failed to gel as the opening set did.
In the concert's second half, local favorite Gerald Wilson led his orchestra through a typically fierce set of modern swing and bop, with brief but intense solo features from trumpeter Jon Faddis, Wilson's son Anthony on guitar, and young saxophonist Kamasi Washington. A couple of guest spots by the "Mack Avenue All-Stars" Sean Jones on trumpet and Ron Blake on alto sax opened the ears of many to some new talents. Jones in particular was a bebop cyclone, making even Faddis shake his head in appreciation. A representative of Mack Avenue records told me that Jones' recent album was selling like hotcakes the next day in the exhibit hall.
DeeDee Bridgewater joined the Wilson group for the final set, inviting honoree Slide Hampton on stage to conduct some of his own arrangements. Focusing on the repertoire of Ella Fitzgerald, Bridgewater scatted and cooed her way to a satisfying conclusion. One might have wished for a few more guest performances from the Jazz Masters themselves, but this was their night to be celebrated, not to work.