The IAJE Crosses the Border
Things were so slow on Thursday morning (no big bands performing) that I sat in for a while on a workshop at the Fairmont entitled “Who Asked You Anyway?” sponsored by the Jazz Journalists Association and conducted by Paul de Barros and Dan Ouellette. The three-part workshop covered the rudiments of Jazz reviewing, but as I wasn’t up to doing any homework (participants were asked to review a concert performance and bring it to the next session for a one-on-one critique with Ouellette or de Barros), I didn’t stay for the whole session, choosing instead to go downstairs to the hotel’s Imperial Room to hear an exciting noontime concert by the University of Toronto’s Ten O’Clock Jazz Orchestra (conducted by Paul Read) whose well-shaped program opened with Gershwin’s “But Not for Me” and closed with Bob Mintzer’s splendid arrangement of Herbie Hancock’s “One Finger Snap.” Then it was upstairs again to the Concert Hall for one of the day’s most pleasant surprises, the ESMP(École Secondaire Monique-Proulx) Big Band from Warwick, Quebec, which must be somewhere near Montréal. The ensemble was quite good, especially considering the fact that it was made up of students ages 13-16 in grades 7-11. And here’s the kicker the trumpet, trombone and reed sections, fifteen members strong, were all girls! What a refreshing sight that was! And to ice the cake, they were terrific. There were a few guys in the band as memory serves, most of the rhythm section but the soloists were girls too, and one of them, sixteen-year-old flutist Carolaine Doyon, was not only good, she was outstanding, playing with warmth, maturity and a feeling for Jazz well beyond her years on a Jeff Jarvis tune that I got the composer to spell for me only to lose the scrap of paper on which it was written. After scribbling Carolaine’s name, I said to her, “Carolaine, stay with music. You really have a bright future. Here’s my card; go to that web site next month to see your name mentioned.” So Carolaine, here it is. And the advice still stands; stay with music. I expect to hear your name again a few years down the road.
As is usually the case, I skipped the grand opening session at two o’clock in favor of lunch, returning at three to see and hear the Scott Gwinnell Jazz Orchestra from Detroit with guest soloist and resident nice guy David Liebman (if you’ve not heard the band’s CD, Basement Vibes, it’s worth checking out). As no big bands were scheduled from four to five, I opted for a trio session in the Fairmont Ballroom (one of the more listener-friendly venues) led by pianist / vocalist Dena DeRose, and was not disappointed. Without making any comparisons (we’ve already had that debate online), let’s just say that Dena can sing, and she can play.
With the Exhibit Hall scheduled to open at six o’clock Thursday evening, as it always does, the IAJE had chosen in its wisdom to schedule two of the best bands at the conference, The Dave McMurdo Jazz Orchestra and Navy Commodores, side-by-side at five o’clock, McMurdo at the Fairmont, the Commodores at the Convention Centre. Much as I longed to be in both places at once, I had to see Dave and say hello, so I stayed at the Fairmont, hoping to catch at least some of his concert before sprinting over to the CC to sample the Commodores (by that time I’d learned that there was an indoor walkway between the Fairmont and Convention Centre, which are separated by about three long city blocks, a useful piece of information for one who’d brought only a light jacket to Toronto in January). By the time I reached the Centre the line for entry to the Exhibit Hall was already quite long that I decided to join it and catch the Commodores some other time (that time, as it turned out, was on the plane ride home as I listened to one of the finest service-band albums I’ve ever heard, The Commodores Live! ).
Friday evening’s performances in Constitution Hall began with the IAJE Sisters in Jazz Collegiate All–Stars (Nicole Johaenntgen, alto and soprano sax; Jennifer Kruppa, trombone; Kara Baldus, piano; Ashley Summers, bass; Elizabeth Goodfellow, drums) directed by Christine Jensen, and the John Patitucci Group with pianist Renee Rosnes, drummer Billy Drummond and vocalist Luciana Souza. I skipped those but managed to find a seat in the crowded auditorium for a highly praised performance by the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra, conducted by Jim McNeely and again featuring Rosnes at the piano. That was enough for one evening, as I had no interest in seeing David Murray and the GWO KA Masters. B> So it was back to the hotel to prepare for Friday.