The Jazzcat

The Jazzcat in New York at the International Association of Jazz Educators 2006

by on Jan.13, 2006, under News


Slide Show

New York, New York!!! I can't tell you how exciting

this year's IAJE conference is. I can only tell you that I won't be

getting any sleep for the next few days. Here is how the story goes…


The place where jazz is the focal point is always a place

where you want to be.  New York City is the greatest place in the

world to host a Jazz Educator’s conference. 

This year marks the 33rd year that the International Association of Jazz

Educators conference has been in existence. It is held in a different city each

year, but because of its stature, New

York seems to really create the most magical vibe for

the music.


 This is truly an

international conference as jazz fans, musicians, educators, students and

lovers of the music, literally come from all over the world to be a part of the

biggest jazz conference in existence.


The Hilton and Sheraton hotels in New York City hosted the event which spanned

of five days.  The conference consists of

performances, jazz industry track events, research presentations, clinics,

panels, meetings, technology, networking and lots of love for each other and

every area of the music. There are so many things happening at one time that

there's no way you can make it to see each and every event. The

Conference-at-a-Glance located inside each brochure works more like a treasure

map and everyone is off to find their particular gold.


For me, I kicked off the conference watching the performance

of the Daniel Priesto band.  Daniel is

the dynamite drummer from Cuba

whose playing is on the outside of rhythm with a heavy Cuban influence.  A 90° tic toc tempo of precise percussive

thunder.  He expresses the true sound of

the world in his music and his fire is the driving force behind his endless

arsenal of beats.


Then, I was off to see Ravi Coltrane perform.  Generous, humble, calm, respectful and truly

a tenor of our time that rides straight ahead on his own tracks, Ravi leads his own band for the first time here at the International

Association of Jazz Educators conference. 

He has just put out a brand new disc on Savoy Jazz called “In Flux”. Ravi’s band is a swinging pocket of tightness with a

tenor and soprano reminiscence only of thee. The ballads are warm, tender and

flow with a realness that represents the true beauty of romantic love. The cats

were getting down so hard that Drew Gress, the bass player broke a string. EJ

Strictland held down the fort solo on drums until Drew repaired his instrument.

Just like repairing the brakes while the car is rollin’. Everyone arrived

safely. Notes missed, 0. The genius of impromptu freestyle at its best!


Unconscious time is one of the true mysteries of the city,

and in the wee hours of the morning, Maria Schnieder packed the house to full

capacity for a show that began at 12:30am. Steve Wilson was the featured

soprano on one of the pieces as well as Ingrid Jenson on Flugelhorn. It was

Ingrid’s birthday and the entire place roared that familiar cadence. Maria

recently went hang gliding on a vacation and wrote a piece audibly visualizing

her experiences of soaring and floating with just the beauty you would imagine!


I ran into my main man Willie Jones, the free lance drummer.

Yes, it is true that Willie is no longer the drummer for Roy Hargrove’s band.

This week he was hitting with Kurt Elling at Birdland and of course I went to

check him out later in the week. That night, he convinced me to go uptown to a

late night jam session at Cleopatria’s Needle. There is a late night jam

session every night of the week and you never know who is going to drop in and

hit. Willie was the star that night and after we got down on some wings, he

turned the place out!


Coming from Los

Angeles just the day before, I have already been up 24

hours, but sleep is something that you might not get much of at this

conference. I decided not to overdue it and make sure I got my proper rest.

This was a week that was just like one big long day and it certainly could be

if you approached it that way. Many people stayed at the hotels and just rolled

right out of bed and right into the thick of the conference every morning. I

was staying in Greenwich Village which is one

cool epicenter of art, music and creativity that I got to experience a little

bit every day.


The 55 Bar is in the village and is a tiny spot where on any

given night you could see the best in the business perform. Gretchen Parlato,

winner of the Thelonious Monk competition in 2004, had a gig there with Lionel

Loueke, from Terence Blanchard’s band and you could feel the cool Copacabana

breeze in the pouring rain! Her voice is liquid love.


The hang at the conference is great! You will have just as

much enjoyment hanging out in the lobby as you will at any clinic, panel or

meeting. These are the real cats and history, past and present, is surrounding

you at every moment. I am having lunch at a restaurant, there is Kurt Elling. I

am walking across the street, there is Ron Carter waiting for a green light. I

am coming out of one of the hotels, there is my man Eric Harland. For whatever

it is worth, the energy you get from being in New York with all of your favorite jazz

musicians in a two block radius is astounding!


There was so much to see and do all at one time that I just

decided not to go over board and just take my time. Conversations are some of

the best things that happen at the conference. You may be on your way to a

clinic or a performance but, you can’t walk by Thelonious Monk Jr. and not say

hello. You can’t see some of the baddest drummers in the business and just keep

on going. You have to stop, spend some time, show some love, make some deals

and then you can proceed.


The Mingus Big Band was definitely a performance not to

miss. Of course the masterful music of Charles Mingus is amazing and I learned

that there are three working versions of the band. The trilogy consists of the

Mingus Dynasty, the Mingus Orchestra and the Mingus Big Band. Each band does

consist of some of the same players, but the many moods of the music were just

as different as the many sides of the man. As a beautiful composer and

arranger, Mingus’s compositions can range from the melodically lovely to the

brash and boisterous, my personal favorite. Craig Handy leads each of the three

bands and much of the storm happens when trombonist Frank Lacy steps in to

light the fuse to the cacophonic explosion! Borris Koslov arranged the first

piece and had the honor of playing Charles’s lions head bass.


One of the performances that everyone seemed to be geared up

for was Stefon Harris and Blackout!


They took no time at all igniting the stage

with monolithic tempos and enough adrenalin to light up Manhattan in a Blackout! Propane and matches

are only proper mates when the music is hot and Stefon with Blackout always

create the right spark to light it up and burn it down. This is just what the

audience of a few thousand needs pumped in their veins at 1 AM in the morning.

They say New York

never sleeps, well tonight is no exception. The lights and taxis are moving to

the odd meter love of the vibes with non-stop traffic. The performance is

peaking at such heights that “Evolution” is a walk on water in real time. They

have this electric piano groove that is so thick it is like a funky futuristic

Herbie on an Ndegeochello tip. Mezmorizing, hard grooving, slammin’!

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I have my weekly live radio interview show on KRML radio called

“Live with The Jazzcat”. It broadcast in Carmel

California and online all over

the world every Tuesday, but this week, Friday was the magic day. As the New York correspondent for

“Live with the Jazzcat”, I made sure to get two of the most interesting cats to

interview. Thelonious Monk Jr. and Kenny Werner are two players who have

witnessed the life, played the music and continue to be forces as far as music,

performance and technology are concerned. We all had some great conversations

about their involvement in the conference, upcoming projects and future


 To Be Continued!!!!!!!!!



image image

Here are some pics for now! Enjoy


LeRoy Downs


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