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IAJE Annual Convention 2007

Jim McNeely and Paul Klee at the 2007 IAJE Convention
Written by Jamie Baum, flutist/composer

Fai click qui per leggere la versione in italiano

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There are always so many choices to make when attending the annual IAJE Convention and this year, 2007, was no different. As a composer, once I saw that Jim McNeely, a great jazz composer, arranger & pianist, was giving a clinic entitled "Paul Klee and Me", I knew I had to make sure to bypass all the schmoozing and other distraction to hear him talk about "the process he used to hear Klee's work".

wiss painter Paul Klee was one of the most original masters of Modern art in the first half of the 20th century and McNeely, pianist and Composer-in –Residence of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra in NYC and Chief Conductor of the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra among many other titles, was commissioned by the Swiss Jazz Orchestra to write music based on several of his paintings. Suggesting that more musicians have used his works to influence their writing than any other visual artist, he gave evidence that Klee was directly influenced by music as well. Aside from the many specific references to music in his work, some of the names of his paintings also alluded to this fact.

Jim began the clinic by giving a brief history and time-line of Klee's life as it related to his artistic development and then gave examples of paintings where he actually mentioned musical references. McNeely then showed slides of the chosen paintings and played excerpts from his corresponding big band charts, explaining in detail each creative and technical compositional process.

"I decided that the music I would write would not reflect the surface of a painting. Rather, I would need to penetrate inside to find its essence - to enable me to hear what Klee was seeing - then express that sound using two different palettes: rhythm, harmony and polyphony of jazz combined with the sound and energy of the Swiss Jazz Orchestra," said McNeely. Sometimes he would make a rhythmic grid based on the color grid in the painting; a tone row based on its frequency of shapes; or recurring clusters or voicings in conjunction with recurring objects or the intensity of the subject.

I found it to be very informative and inspiring and purchased the CD, Paul Klee, Swiss Jazz Orchestra and Jim McNeely, which can be found on the Mons record label.

click per ingrandire
Row 1 (Left to right). Jimmy Heath, Toshiko Akiyhosi, George Wein, James Moody, Nat Hentoff… Jimmy Scott, Frank Wess.
Row 2: LtR, Dana Gioia, Nancy Wilson, Tony Bennett, Gerald Wilson, Ahmad Jamal, Roy Haynes, Curtis Fuller
Row 3, LtR: Slide Hampton, Phil Woods, Chico Hamilton, Buddy DeFranco, Ornette Coleman, Barry Harris.
Row 4, LtR : John Levy, David Baker, Ramsey Lewis, Billy Taylor, Dan Morgenstern

A Glimpse at IAJE Convention Concerts
Written by Jamie Baum, flutist/composer, NYC

Whether your taste is modern jazz, gypsy jazz, fusion, swing or something in between; big band, small group or piano trio music; marquis names, indie or up-and-coming talent, you could find them all at the 2007 IAJE Convention held in NYC from January 10 to through 13th at the NY Hilton and Sheraton Hotels.

Of course, the big name groups performed in the Grand Ballroom evening concerts and featured the likes of Nancy Wilson, Michel Legrand, Randy Brecker, Doc Severinsen, the Dizzy Gillespie All-star Big Band, Richard Galliano and Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra, to name a few. But if you sifted through the multitude of daily offerings of clinics, panel discussions, interviews and school receptions there were a host of hour – long concerts offered throughout each day from 10am until 1:30am. Ranging from high school and college big bands to all styles of well and lesser-know musicians, the list of almost 100 concerts (I counted them myself!) ranged from Matt Wilson's Art & Craft, the Dave Liebman Group, Marvin Stamm Quartet, John Hollenbeck's Large Ensemble, John Patitucci Quartet, Joanne Brackeen, Charles Tolliver Big Band; and the list goes on. *

One of the daytime concerts I caught was Gary Thomas' Exile's Gate that featured the leader on tenor saxophone, George Colligan on Wurlitzer and John Bollenbeck on guitar. Like altoists Steve Coleman and Greg Osby, Gary Thomas developed his own fresh approach to improvisation, avoiding bop clichés and taking solos that are consistently personal and inventive. In the late '80s, he worked with both Miles Davis and Jack Dejohnette's Special Edition and recorded frequently with Greg Osby, Michele Rosewoman, and Wallace Roney, in addition to leading his own sessions. Despite some sound problems with the balance in the large ballroom that were quickly worked out, Thomas delivered a hard-driving, high-energy set filled with some odd-metered groove tunes, lots of chops and interesting solos all around. He played a couple of tunes by his band–mates and some tunes from his earlier CDs, Found on Sordid Streets and Pariah's Pariah.

Peter Apfelbaum, a multi-instrumentalist from the bay area though a fixture on the New York jazz scene for the past several years, performed with his 17-piece New York Hieroglyphics Ensemble in a well-attended set. He formed the group in 1977 - his senior year at Berkeley High - as a vehicle for composing and exploring non-traditional musical forms.

I met Peter many years ago at a ten-day intensive workshop led by The Art Ensemble Of Chicago held at Karl Berger's Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, NY. Even then, you could see a real spark of creativity and individuality in his playing. His approach to music, which transcended style and musical genre, developed and became more evident in the years he spent working in a wide range of musical forums. These included Don Cherry's "Multikulti" group, Carla Bley, David Amram, Eddie Jefferson. Phish frontman Trey Anastasio's band, to name a few; and he was hired by the legendary singer/activist Harry Belafonte to arrange and compose music for his 2003 European tour.

I thoroughly enjoyed the concert and it's eclectic, loose, collectively joyful vibe. The music was well written and the soloists were of a high level, reminding me that musicians like Peter and Don Cherry were some of the original purveyors of incorporating "world music" into a jazz and avant-garde framework.

A ritual at the IAJE is to give out awards to both established and up-and-coming musicians both in performance and composition This year's afternoon opening concert featured ASCAP awardees "emerging composer" Oscar Perez and "established composer" Rufus Reid. Cuban rhythms and modern harmonies characterized Perez's septet composition while Reid's piece written for big band followed a more traditional style. The Gil Evans Fellowship commission went Sherisse Rogers who though considered to be emerging talent, has been receiving quite a bit of recognition. Her big band chart was quite contemporary in feel and reminded of composers John Hollenbeck and Maria Schneider.

* For a complete list of the conference offering visit www.iaje.org

Greg Osby interviews Ornette Coleman for Downbeat
New York, Friday 12nd January 2007

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Publishing Date: 03/03/2007

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