The Jazz.com Blog
January 11, 2008 · 0 comments
The I in IAJE stands for international: it marks the group's change, over time, from a high school bandleaders’ guild into the leading association in the jazz world. Almost any musician who makes a living in jazz is also an educator - supplementing performances with teaching gigs at summer camps, conservatories and clinics - and so is likely to be found at IAJE.
IAJE’s annual winter convention has become the one time of the year that the jazz community gathers under a single roof – usually in New York – to meet and greet, talk up new projects, and find new gigs. Its success has attracted rivals:this May, Jazz Improv Magazine launched its own New York convention, adding a twist by opening their doors to jazz fans, not just pros and their students.
By coming to Toronto, IAJE draws on its strengths – 8,000 members in 42 countries, involved at every level of jazz, of all ages. These aspects are front and center at this year’s IAJE, with an overflow of talented players, young and old, from around the world.
Ear-catchers have included Andy Milne and Gregoire Maret, who cast a spell over an afternoon crowd gathered in the glass atrium of the Intercontinental Hotel with compositions from their new Obliqsound CD, Scenarios. The two met in 1999 when Maret appeared with Milne’s hip-hop tinged ensemble, Dapp Theory. Both were surprised to discover a shared penchant for lyricism, which prompted them to meet in the studio to record a series of improvised compositions over two years.
“In a duo, you're really naked,” said Maret, who was born in Switzerland and has played with everyone from George Benson to Pat Metheny. “But you have a range of colors and textures that are harder to find in an ensemble.”
Milne, a Toronto native who studied with Oscar Peterson at York University before moving to New York in 1991, was pleased to see how many new jazz venues and education programs are now open to young Toronto jazz musicians. “It’s changed a lot since I was coming up,” said Milne, who spent a seven-year apprenticeship in Steve Coleman’s M-Base collective. “Back then, you really had to move to New York to get the challenge you needed. Nowadays, it’s different.”
Indeed, Toronto is bubbling with after-hours jazz activity at downtown clubs like the Rex, the Opal Jazz Lounge and The Trane Studio. There are so many talented young players that one New York bandleader, Darcy James Argue, was able to recruit a an entire eighteen-piece ensemble from local talent to perform his arrangements at IAJE.
Argue’s big band, Secret Society, plays in a style he calls “steampunk,” which sounds like a mash-up of Zappa and Brookmeyer. Argue’s wall of sound does not always shimmer, but it well deserves its many fans amongst jazz musicians, many of whom turned out to cheer the band on at the IAJE’s first evening show.
One standout composition by Argue was "Habeas Corpus," which he wrote about Maher Arar, the 34-year-old Canadian who was seized in 2002 by U.S. authorities while changing planes at JFK and deported to Syria. There, he was tortured and detained for four years before U.S. officials admitted their mistake and cleared him of charges. “I was haunted by his story,” said Argue, whose composition’s repeating death-march figures well evoke the claustrophobic conditions of Arar’s detention in a six-by-three cell. “It’s something everyone should know about.”
Saxophonist Courtney Pine hosted the evening's mainstage showcase of U.K. performers who rarely – if ever – perform in North America. “We are so proud of the positive effect jazz is having in the U.K. for young people,” Pine said, citing his nation’s growing number of jazz clubs, university programs and radio stations.
If the new face of U.K. jazz is Empirical, the first group Pine presented, then it is young, talented, multi-ethnic and outrageously photogenic. “These guys could be out playing with anybody,” Pine said. “Instead, they have chosen jazz - the path of most resistance.”
Since winning the prestigious EBU/North Sea Jazz Festival competition last year, the group has enjoyed heights of acclaim rarely enjoyed by young North American jazz musicians – their first release was voted Album of the Year by Jazzwise and Mojo magazines, highlighting their appeal to both jazz and pop audiences.
Trumpeter Jay Phelps, saxophonist Nathaniel Facey, and drummer Shaney Forbes all contributed compositions that combined a driving beat with a high-mindedness and impeccable musicianship that is reminiscent of Dave Douglas. These included “A Tyrant’s Tale,” which Phelps said he wrote in the aftermath of September 11th.
Up next was affable guitarist Martin Taylor, who mugged for the cameras and offered a glimpse of the U.K.’s trad jazz scene, with his group, Freternity. Taylor, who worked closely with violinist Stephane Grappelli, and has settled into a pleasing style on chestnuts such as Love for Sale and Skylark that falls close to the tree of Grappelli’s alter ego, Django Reinhardt.
Saxophonist Tommy Smith led a youth orchestra of twenty-one young Scottish talents, who played surprisingly engaging versions of Oliver Nelson’s "Hoedown" and other big band standards. One standout soloist was trumpeter Ryan Quigley, who brought the house down with his work on Gillespie’s "A Night in Tunisia." In contrast to Dizzy’s version, Quigley started with slow phrases and saved his pyrotechnics until the end, building the audience’s suspence and enthusiasm.
Trombonist Dennis Rollins’ Badbone & Co closed out the show with a glimpse of future jazz. Their funky set drew equally on Nicholas Payton, Trinidadian carnival, Fela and JamesBrown for inspiration. Rollins ‘ band brought the audience out of their seats with hgh-energy beats and sample loops, reworking pop and jazz classics,
This booty-shaking climax to the evening’s music demonstrated that jazz is united by a funky Afro-Carribbean continuum that stretches all the way from New Orleans’ Ninth Ward to South London, passing through New York on its way up to Toronto.
This blog entry posted by Tim Wilkins