Here at the conference of the International Association of Jazz Education (IAJE) in midtown Manhattan, seven-thousand-odd jazz people are swarming in and between two enormous hotels. If life is a succession of choices, this is dramatic evidence. As I write this at 5:00 p.m., there are ten events on the schedule, six of which I am sorry to be missing. For three days, every waking hour has more or less that many concerts, clinics, demonstrations, workshops, panels and research presentations. The result is that, for most of us, there are many more waking hours and far fewer sleeping hours than usual.
Here are four highlights from what Iâ€™ve heard so far:
The WDR big band from KÃ¶ln, featuring guitarist BirÃ©li LagrÃ©ne, playing the arrangements of Michael Abene under Abeneâ€™s direction. This band dispels any remaining illusion that Europeans havenâ€™t mastered the art of swinging or havenâ€™t produced first-rate soloists. Alto saxophonist Karolina Strassmeyer and pianist Frank Chastenier are sterling improvisers. Chastenier resembles George on the Seinfeld show and plays like a direct descendant of Eddie Costa. The band contains two gifted Americans, trumpeter John Marshall and bassist John Goldsby.
The Sultans of Swing, led by David Berger. The Sultans are a New York big band that plays with a perfect balance of precision and looseness. Their â€œJumpinâ€™ At The Woodsideâ€ was the perfect twenty-first century manifestation of the legacy of Count Basie. Bassist Dennis Irwin, drummer Jimmy Madison and pianist Isaac ben Ayala are the powerhouse rhythm section manning the engine room.
Dan Morgenstern in an interview session with Steve Schwartz of WGBH in Boston, on Louis Armstrong:
He loved to make people feel good, to bring happiness. Thatâ€™s what motivated him. Thatâ€™s what made him such a universally admired person. People could sense that.
Clark Terry, interviewed by Nat Hentoff, on the hard work required to become a master of improvisation:
If you donâ€™t prepare yourself for all kinds of surprises, youâ€™re going to be surprised.