Wednesday, September 14, 2016

2016 International Jazz Meeting in Boston, Field Notes

This just in from saxophonist and teacher Morgan King, who accompanied A-JAM awardee, guitarist and San Antonio College student Francis Stromboe, to the 2016 Jazz Meeting of the International Association of Schools of Jazz (IASJ)...
IASJ Jazz Meeting, Boston 2016, participants
"We landed at Boston’s Logan airport and found the shuttle to the subway’s blue line. The blue line goes to Government Center. At Government Center we switched to the green line and took a train to the Auditorium stop. This stop is across Boylston Street from Berklee College of Music, the host of the IASJ conference. For me this was familiar territory but for our student, Francis Stromboe, it was a new experience.

The first business, after checking in, was registration and a welcome reception at the 1140 Boylston building. The lobby was full of students and teachers from the U.S., Europe, and South America. I knew no one, but David Liebman recognized me, and introduced my wife Joan and me to his wife and daughter. This was the perfect way to “break the ice”. That evening Liebman would perform an opening concert with, Kenny Werner, John Lockwood, and Bob Guillotti.

The opening concert was performed in the auditorium of the newly acquired Boston Conservatory. This acquisition makes Berklee the largest music school in the world. After a brief introduction Liebman announced that the group would “take off” and “may or may not land”. This was a facetious way of informing the audience that the performance would be Free Jazz. Indeed, they performed for over an hour with no breaks or pauses. However, the flow and communication provided a gratifying ad hoc structure. The encore was a paraphrasing of the thematic material from Wayne Shorter’s Footprints.

The first full day began, as each subsequent day, with a general meeting. This was followed by student auditions. The results were used to assign students to ensembles. Teachers were assigned to faculty ensembles as well. We then began our respective rehearsals. Student ensembles were team taught. My teaching partner was pianist Chris Wiesendanger from the Musik Hochschule in Lucerne Switzerland. Interestingly, we have much in common, such as an interest in baseball. In the rehearsals we complimented each other perfectly. The selections were all original student compositions. We used basic lead sheets and worked collectively to construct arrangements; the goal being a recording session and a final concert. That evening the faculty ensembles performed. I performed with musicians from the Sibelius Academy, Musik Hochshule in Mannheim Germany, UMass Amherst, and Argentina.
Francis Stromboe in foreground. Photo by Joan Carroll.
Each morning there was a seminar that followed the group meeting. Two notable topics were “Effortless Mastery” by Kenny Werner, we brought our books so he could sign them, and a panel discussion about jazz in Boston featuring the writer Bob Blumenthal. Bob talked about some of the venues and events that occurred during the 1970’s that I happen to remember (I was there!). After the seminar we met for our respective workshops. The saxophone workshop was led by Dave Liebman. The first clinic I ever attended, by a major artist, was given by Liebman at Berklee in 1974. The concepts he covered then are the concepts I still use and teach today. The workshops, topics, and fundamentals shared with the students each day were a kind of completing the circle for me. The rest of each day was spent rehearsing with the students and a jam session in the evening. The schedule didn’t allow for any sight seeing much less a trip to Fenway for a Red Sox game. Being at Berklee with great players, teachers, and students from around the world was tremendously rewarding and seemed like old times."

Next year in Italy...

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