April 23, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Meet Paul Barbarin, one of the most important people in the history of New Orleans music, and the "how" we call jazz.
The Barbarin family constitutes one of the original lines of Creole musicians who were present at the creation of a new music. Paul's father, Isidore, played the alto horn in The Onward Brass Band, one of the early traditional brass bands in the city.
Before I moved to New York, I used to work at WWOZ in New Orleans. I started as a volunteer, operating the board for a woman named Betty Rankin. Every Saturday morning, while most people my age had hangovers from Friday night, I was in a tiny peach-colored building in Louis Armstrong Park, playing LPs, cassettes, and the occasional CD for a lady who wanted no business with those details. She spent her ninety minutes as "Big Mama," the host of "The Moldy Fig Jam." I was 22, and this was the most amazing radio I had ever heard in my life. She told stories about every jazz musician in the city who had ever picked up an instrument with the purpose of playing traditional New Orleans jazz.
As it happened, Big Mama was an associate curator of the Hogan Jazz Archive. She handled the extensive oral history of New Orleans' music, and she knew both the collection as well as the musicians' whose lives she had helped to document. On any given Saturday, she talked about Paul Barbarin as if he were in the studio with us. It was the beginning of my post-college, real world education. On one such occasion, it was the first time I had ever heard his song, "Bourbon Street Parade." She told her audience about the street parades, how Barbarin kept that tradition alive. In the 1960s, he revived the Onward Brass Band, the name of the group that his father played a part. In fact, Paul Barbarin died in a parade, leading the band. [While I'm no fan of death, that's a great way to shuffle off this mortal coil.]
Years later, on the cusp of 2002, I was the field producer for NPR's Toast of the Nation. We're at the Village Vanguard, with Michael White and The Original Liberty Jazz Band. Hear them play "Bourbon Street Parade" from that evening.
When I hear this song, I remember how I got this far into jazz. Because I live with music.
PS Watch the video of Paul Barbarin's funeral. The musicians are playing "Just a Closer Walk With Thee."
Watching that is knowing why New Orleans matters. Onward.
© 2008 WBGO
April 21, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
A Billy Strayhorn melody is so very nice to hear on solo piano. A Billy Strayhorn medley is even better when there are two pianos. In 1983, at the Jazz Forum in New York, the lyrical master John Hicks and the underrated Albert Dailey put Strayhorn's music on display for more than twenty-three minutes. 'Star-Crossed Lovers' (aka "Pretty Girl") and 'Chelsea Bridge' were songs that I always believed Strayhorn had tailor-made for their respective soloists, Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster. However, these are such tremendous songs, all they require are the hands of any master musician. On this particular evening in September, they received four master hands, and 176 piano keys.
Listen to the Billy Strayhorn medley, from the WBGO Archives.
© 2008 WBGO
April 20, 2008. Posted by Angelika Beener.
Sigh. What a drag. I was just talking to a friend and about this yesterday. He was telling me that IAJE is where he first met mentors like Kenny Garrett, and the peers that he works with today. It's sad for the jazz community at large, and for all it means to the young upcoming musicians. A personal sense of loss for sure. Details are below...
American jazz gathering, planned for Seattle, is canceled
By Paul de Barros
Seattle Times jazz critic
The most important American jazz gathering of the year, scheduled to take place in Seattle in January, has been canceled because its presenter is declaring bankruptcy.
In what is being described as a "perfect storm" of bad luck, unchecked growth, fundraising and management failures, the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) - an important link to Seattle's successful school jazz-band scene - has collapsed.
According to IAJE's legal counsel, Alan Bergman, it will go into Chapter 7 bankruptcy and be turned over to a trustee, its assets parceled out to creditors.
A letter from the group's president, Chuck Owen, is scheduled to go out to members as early as today, announcing the bankruptcy - and essentially the dissolution - of the 40-year-old organization.
"It's a dark day," said band director Clarence Acox, whose award-winning Garfield High School jazz band has performed at IAJE's gathering four times.
"It's one of the best jazz events in the world, for the performances by great musicians, clinics, meetings, a place for people to network and exchange ideas. It was the one event when all the people in jazz could get together and have fellowship."
Roosevelt High School band director Scott Brown, whose band has played the conference as well, agreed.
"I'm bummed," said Brown. "We had hoped to perform, but it's way more global than that. It's exposure to so much music that's going on around the world, to information about the business, networking, clinicians."
IAJE meets in different cities each year, but often in New York.
It began in 1968 as a modest professional gathering of jazz-music teachers, holding its first conference in 1973.
In 1997, the conference embraced an "industry track," absorbing another convention previously sponsored by JazzTimes magazine, which brought in record companies, agents, managers, radio professionals and high-profile performers such as Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones.
Since then, the organization has formed chapters worldwide and has become the site for the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Awards ceremony; commissions of new works; an academic conference; programs to promote women in jazz; and a wide array of other programs, including a teacher-training institute.
In a good year, the conference attracts 7,000 to 8,000 people, a must-attend for anyone involved in jazz.
Rumors that the organization was in trouble surfaced after this year's dramatically underattended conference in Toronto, down 40 percent.
In a March 25 letter to 8,000 members, Owen announced the suspension of IAJE's magazine, its search for a new executive director, its scholarship programs and its summer retreat.
The letter also explained that the organization's ambitious capital campaign had spent more money in startup costs than it took in.
Owen asked members to donate $25 and netted about $12,000 from 250 donors, according to Bergman. Greg Yasinitzy, IAJE's Northwest division coordinator, said he had been told IAJE liabilities exceeded $1 million.
Bergman said he felt the organization's rapid growth had outstripped the expertise of its founders.
"A bunch of jazz musicians formed this organization and it grew into a multimillion-dollar operation with a huge convention and a big staff and big journal, but it was still run by a volunteer board elected by the membership that met twice a year."
Though the conference in Seattle has been canceled, there is already talk of a regional conference that may take place instead.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
© 2008 WBGO