IAJE 2000 – Impressions

Impressions from
IAJE 2000
by Sidnet Bechet-Mandela

The 27th annual International Association of Jazz Educators convention was held January 11th through the 16th in New Orleans, Louisiana. If you weren’t there, chances are, since you’re obviously a jazz fan, you’ve should’ve been there. 9000 conventioneers descended on what is already a serious music town, and made the Crescent City even livelier.

Of the 9000 people who do show up, the estimate is that about 75% are actually jazz educators and students, who this year came from over 30 countries including Kazakastan, Austalia, Sweden, Brazil, Germany, South Africa and Finland. The rest are jazz journalists, broadcasters, promoters, managers, manufacturers, and serious jazz musicians, from the beginning pro up to Herbie Hancock and Nancy Wilson, I suspect that with each year, more and more, another category is beginning to show up, the jazz fan. And that should be the case. This giant five day party is so elastic that you can use it for your own purposes, including as a quasi jazz fair/jazz festival.

It would be impossible for me to detail all that’s to be learned at these events, no matter your interest in jazz. I imagine that most of the over 200 clinics, seminars, demonstrations and especially the concert would be a magnificent excursion for anyone interested in music. Without a doubt, the most widely talked about seminar at the IAJE this year’s was held by singer Kurt Elling and his pianist Laurence Hobgood. The seminar was titled “Jazz Vocals; From the Woodshed To The Spotlight,”

Now while all the folks interested in communication between a singer, his pianist and his audience were there, trombonists may have slated the Steve Turre session called “The Legacy,” or the one led by the great Ellis Marsalis titled “New Orleans Modern Jazz Players: Survivors in the Home of Traditional Jazz.”

I didn’t get to go to Elling’s affair, but by all accounts, it was packed. I did get to see Elling on a panel discussing NARAS’ role in jazz. The panel was moderated by Blue Note Records president Bruce Lundvall and also included pianist Eliane Elias, flutist Herbie Mann, and trumpeter Wallace Roney.

Turre provided one of the musical highlights of the IAJE for me. It was while I was walking through a very crowded Frence Quarter, and from this club called Storyville, I heard two trombonists tearing it up. It was the legendary Al Grey teaching Turre a thing or two about the slide. Other musical highlights for me included seeing what I think is the best contemporary jazz group in the country, Los Hombres Calientes with special guest Donald Harrison, singer Giacomo Gates, trumpeter Kermit Ruffins and the dazzling Danilo Perez.

Another highlight was seeing thousands of teen-age musicians perplexed as they left the show staring bassist Christian McBride, guitar-whiz Russell Malone and the OP-like pianist Benny Green. Many a young kid considered a career change that night. I only saw Joshua Redman’s sound check, and if it was any indication, the audience had to be devastated.

I couldn’t stay for Redman’s show, because there was just too much music to be heard on that particular day, which, no kidding, I saw six major jazz acts perform in an eight-hour span. Each night, the conference put on a huge concert, plus, this being New Orleans, there were numerous appearances by some of the biggest names in jazz all over town. In fact the only thing I hated about going to see Los Hombres Calientes was that it made me choose between Terrence Blanchard with Stanley Turrentine or Ramsey Lewis Trio with Count Basie Orchestra.

Another very cool sidelight to these affairs, that would probably be strictly for industry types, are the private parties given by record companies and artists. Being in New Orleans, the home of many jazz stars, some got to show off the town, like Blanchard who had a private party at his house in the Mission District of the city.

Billboard and BET threw Herbie Hancock a big party where two incidents reminded one that not only are execs and artists co-workers, but friends too. The first occurred when a potentially violent scene erupted between a Warner Brother trumpeter and Warner V.P. and producer Matt Pierson. The scene remained tense as the two ended up in a corner in a long conversation, that still didn’t seem to be pleasant. The other occurred the moment Hancock and Lundvall saw each other at the party. You could see from the embrace, that throughout all the bullshit and the long history these two have been through together, there is a genuine affection for each other. It was the kind of affection shown all over this incredible gumbo of jazz.

Next January, the IAJE will be held in New York City, followed the next year by Long Beach California. In 2003, for the first of what should be many times, the conference will be leaving the country, but only right over the border in Toronto. Even, if you’re just a jazz fan, you owe it to yourself to attend the major jazz event of the year for all jazz professionals.

For some great IAJE2000 pictures, check out the Dr.Jazz Website Photo Section!