Here I am, paying $165.00 just to enter this conference in New York and all I can do all day is try to retrieve old phone numbers and attempt to see all the people who I've hosted at the Underground in Pittsburgh.
So far only Ari Hoenig has given me the time of day (not surprising since I let him sleep in my bed while I slept on my kitchen floor the night after his show at the Underground. His trio mates got the couch and my extra crappy IKEA bed in the guest room....did I mention I slept on the kitchen floor?). But I digress.
The two 9 AM sessions that I rushed up to NY last night to attend, I slept through. I did leave Anthony's house at 9:40 but it took a while for the bus to get me to the subway line and with my suit bag and backpack walking was not really an option. The 5 train to the 2 train to the Hilton was a LOOOOONG ride. But I did get to listen to some good Donald Harrison off of his latest CD on Nagel-Heyer Records Free Style with Vicente Archer on bass, John Lamkin on drums and Glen Patscha on piano on a couple tracks (two bonus cuts with Ron Carter and Billy Cobham from a forthcoming album (possibly an old one?). I played it a bunch last year on the station but really hadn't listened to it much at all since Ben Karp stole my personal copy and I rarely listen to anything on my iPod these days.
I'm always at the computer listening to iTunes or in the car listening to the radio. I sometimes wonder why I even keep my iPod. Although, I did just buy an equivalent to the iTrip which allows me to play my iPod through my car radio or any radio within a 10-ft radius of the iPod. I have to say I've been using this since I've been home in DC.
Anyways, back to the conference. The first session I attended was about rhythm, tempo, and time signatures. It was a clinic featuring Steve Wilson on saxes, Bruce Barth on piano, Adam Cruz on drums and Ed Howard on bass. I thought that Steve and Ed had the most useful insights. Some of the audience got too involved and tried to hijack the conversation at times. One such example was Steve Kirby (NOT THE GUITARIST - this Steve Kirby is apparently a former bassist with Elvin Jones which he noted; also according to his bio here he has played with Wynton M, Roy Hargrove, Cyrus Chestnut, Donald Harrison, and Brian Blade - now he's Director of Jazz Studies at University of Manitoba - go figure). Anyways this clinic was good but not great. I would have just preferred if they had played for an hour without any explaining. When jazz musicians try to explain what they are doing when they play, usually the conversation devolves into expressions comparing such concrete concepts ranging from 'one thing' to 'that right there' ('bag' is frequently used).
The next session I went to involved leaving the Hilton and journeying across 53rd St. to the Sheraton where the rest of the events are going on. I met up with a cat from a jazz station in Rochester (Derrick Lucas if you must know) and after briefly chatting, we decided to attend the talk by Larry Appelbaum (sound engineer at the Library of Congress) who recently uncovered Blue Note's smash hit of 2005, the Monk/Coltrane tapes from a 1957 performace at Carnegie Hall (its official title is Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane - Live at Carnegie Hall). It is on virtually every Top 10 list of this past year. Not mine strangely enough....This talk also featured Blue Note Records' legendary producer and writer, Michael Cuscuna, Bob Porter (John Coltrane biographer and music ubergeek), and of course T.S. Monk, the elder Monk's son (who only spoke once - but for about 20 minutes straight). I didn't learn much from this as I had heard this same spiel from the interview disc that was sent to radio and I played a few times when working needlessly late at WRCT. I would give the session only about a 6 out of 10 just for the fact that in the room, a few rows from Derrick and I, were Bernard Stollman (founder of ESP Records) who I exchanged business cards with, and Dr. Billy Taylor (who needs no introduction).
After that session it was 1:00 and I headed over to another uninformative though engaging session concerning JAI (Jazz Alliance international). They were so clueless, I had to tell them the URL of their own blog (which for your info is here) which I have read from time to time. They have an iniatiative going right now to survey as many people as possible (especially you non-loyal listeners of the jazz genre) and see how they can increase jazz' listenership. I think some of the most interesting discussion was focused on getting the NARAS Foundation to include at least some of the jazz-oriented Grammies on the Grammy telecast rather than just in the pre-TV show. I mean, last year or a couple years ago Dianne Reeves (whom I recently blogged about) won a Grammy and she wasn't even recognized on TV. Bruce Lundvall (CEO of Blue Note Records and EMI Classics and a founging member of JAI) made the good point that Chick Corea playing with the Foo Fighters at last year's Grammy award show did nothing positive for Chick Corea.....or the Foo Fighters. After the meeting I chatted with Tim Zak (who moderated and happens to be a CMU alum and adjunct professor in Tepper), and pianist Geri Allen whose album "The Life of a Song" did very well at WRCT last fall. I also got a chance to meet Father Peter F. O'Brien, SJ (don't ask me what SJ stands for), who managed jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams in the final years of her life (I seem to recall that she had a religious rebirth late in life and even wrote a jazz mass). Father O'Brien recently started an independent record label to preserve and honor the music of Mary Lou Williams. He was really sincere. He gave me their first release to play on the air in Pittsburgh, Mary Lou's home town. "But not before February 19!" It features Billy Hart, Andrew Cyrille and two others. I will blog about it later when I have listened to it.
After that session, I think I hung around for an hour while they prepared the room for a much bigger session and an historic one at that. It was billed "DownBeat Magazine Presents A First-Person Interview with Sonny Rollins by Ira Gitler." Gitler, probably the first or second most famous jazz writer of all time, said he was disappointed to report that he first heard of Sonny in 1949 (which apparently was late?). Anyways, Sonny was sick with a head-cold, the guy just lost his wife of over 50 years, Lucille, who handled all his business affairs in addition to TLC and he's over 80 years old, so he talked VERY SLOOOOWWWWLY and DELLLLIBERRRATELY. It would have sounded boring if one wasn't listening closely, but since no comprehensive biography of Sonny has been written, there was a lot of information I found out about that I had not previously known. For instance, he grew up in Sugar Hill with Art Taylor, Kenny Drew, Jackie McLean (who Gitler quoted saying Sonny used to play his alto with a tenor reed trying to sound like Coleman Hawkins). Though I left a little early to beat the rush, I enjoyed this talk immensely. However, my stomach beckoned.
Little did I know that filling a tray at the 53rd St. Deli would run me $12. That's Mid-Town Manhattan for ya! While eating my food, I gave a non-attentive and noticably distressed Paxton Baker my comments on what aspects of BET Jazz I do actually like about it (he is Executive VP for the BET Jazz Channel). Ahhh the beauty of IAJE. When I got up I ran into Aaron Cohen, the new associate editor of DownBeat whom I met in Chicago last winter when I was visiting my friend Raphael and I randomly struck up a conversation with him not knowing he was a jazz writer. Long story short, he said I should send him my stuff and he would give me comments and even try publishing some of my stuff if its good enough. (Now I have to work on word limits.)
At 5:00 I peeked into John Fedchock's NY Sextet which was a heaping dose of pretty tame white-boy jazz so I decided to saddle up back across 53rd St. to see Lionel Loueke at the Hilton. It was his group Gilfema, a trio featuring him on guitars and vocals, Massimo Biolcati on bass, and Ferenc Nemeth on drums. While at the performance I met up with Joe McCarthy, a terrific DC-Annapolis area drummer whom I did an interview with for All About Jazz during my year off. You can read it here. I got to chat with Lionel and his label people (who are from Germany) after their mesmerizing set and I got another bunch of promos from the label - Obliqsound.
Then it was over to the "cyber cafe" to check my 500 email accounts. Note: the cyber cafe was neither cyber nor a cafe.
Now I am in Brooklyn at Solomon's apartment blogging for you when I should be writing reviews of the 8 million things I have for review. Congratulate me! Console me! Feel my pain! Eat me.
Now Listening to: nothing.