IAJE 2005: Memories of Long Beach
Yes, I was at the 32nd annual conference of the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) January 5-8 in lovely Long Beach, CA. No, I can't summarize the event in twenty-five words or less or even twenty-five hundred. There was the usual head-spinning cascade of clinics, panel discussions, workshops, presentations, award ceremonies, exhibits, master classes, research papers, demonstrations, meetings, receptions, how-to discussions, and performances by a wide variety of groups large and small, professional and academic. More about them later, but first some personal highlights:
- Watching from a few rows back as a young girl who looked to be no more than seven or eight years old leaned over a balcony railing and barely moved a muscle during the hour-long closing concert Saturday evening by Gordon Goodwin's electrifying Big Phat Band with guest clarinetist Eddie Daniels
- Choking back tears as young Matthew Mantooth accepted the IAJE Humanitarian Award on behalf of his father, pianist / composer / arranger / educator Frank Mantooth, who died much too young in January '04
- Leaning through an open doorway and glimpsing the future as saxophonist Ann Patterson, trumpeter Willie Murillo, pianist Gerry Schroeder (fresh from a "Peanuts" cartoon?), bassist Karl Vincent and drummer Dean Koba "connected with kids" in grades two to four with an interactive and instructive rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In"
- Watching with admiration and amazement as seventeen world-class musicians nimbly sight-read their way through charts they'd been introduced to only moments before during the two instrumental New Music Reading Sessions supervised by bassist Lou Fischer and pianist Shelly Berg, one of the best parts of any IAJE event
- Shaking hands and trading one-liners with legendary drummer Stan Levey, who was there to help promote his biographical DVD, The Original Original, and seeing such other long-time favorites as Bob Florence, James Moody, Bill Holman, Gerald Wilson, Bill Watrous, Sammy Nestico, Bud Shank, Roy Haynes, Slide Hampton and Carl Saunders, to mention only some
- Listening in awe to director Clarence Acox's spit-shined Garfield High School Jazz Ensemble from Seattle, WA, and trying to convince myself that these young musicians really were students, not some ringers who only looked the part but couldn't possibly have learned to play Jazz like that in only sixteen or seventeen years
- Sharing lunch and hanging out with Mike Ricci and Nils Jacobson and fellow AAJ reviewers Bob Bragonier and Jim Santella during one of the brief respites that allowed barely enough time to grab a quick bite to eat, and standing first in line for the exhibit hall opening Thursday evening while comparing notes with another good friend, Herman Moreno.
This year's conference was held at the Long Beach Convention Center and adjacent Hyatt Regency Hotel. Some sprinting was required, as one had to go outdoors to reach the Hyatt's lobby and ballrooms as well as the Terrace and Center Theatres, Seaside ballroom and conference rooms, where some of the clinics, panels, presentations and performances were held. Truth be told, there is so much to see, hear and experience at an IAJE conference that someone able to move at the speed of sound would save barely enough time to scratch the surface. Even one who goes only for the music, such a I, is challenged to see and hear as much as he would like (especially as some groups are scheduled simultaneously, which means dividing time between them more sprinting).
California had been battered by a series of rain and snow storms (depending on the altitude) during the week before the conference, but the sky was fairly clear on Wednesday when I arrived in Los Angeles and grabbed the Super Shuttle to Long Beach and my motel, about six blocks south of the Convention Center. I liked being that far away, as it was not only less expensive but gave me the chance to walk briskly from motel to Convention Center at least twice a day, if not more, a welcome substitute for the daily workouts I would be missing.