Liberal arts faculty member Fred Bouchard shares his impressions of Berklee’s January trip to a big national conference for people in the jazz field.
Risen from the ashes of IAJE under the auspices and hard work of Dr. Lou Fischer and Mary Jo Papich and their loyal board, the St. Louis-based Jazz Education Network hosted well over 2000 attendees in the Crescent City over winter break. The venue was the historic Hotel Roosevelt, which, sore-hit by Hurricane Katrina, had been smartly refurbished to its former glittery art deco glory. Attendance topped 2000, an encouraging feat, even if attendees from Europe were off. Soon came the first jam at Sazerac Bar, named for Cocktail #1 invented there.
Among Berklee’s substantial contributions were several faculty workshops. Vocal coach Roberta Radley explored practical applications from pop chord patterns to ease ear training. Bassist Bruce Gertz, aided by guitarist John Baboian, reviewed colorful stylistic approaches to bass via masters like Ray Brown and Jimmy Garrison. Africana Studies director Bill Banfield and Dr. David Baker detailed plans for the Quincy Jones Foundation’s ambitious and ennobling national grade-school initiative, the American Popular Music Curriculum. Dean Darla Hanley, aided by JEN secretary José Diaz, charmed kids and adults into joyous musical expression.
Berklee’s performances were sharp. Pianist Mark Shilansky’s Latin-edged sextet featured Fernando Huergo (bass), Bertram Lehmann (drums), Taylor Haskins (trumpet), James Pisano (reeds), Jay Ashby (trombone), and Kim Nazarian (voice), performing from his CD Join the Club.
The college’s new international initiative, the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, showcased its inaugural class’s Red Group, an impressive septet comprising Shinichiro Sakaino (bass), Hailey Niswanger (alto), Felix Peikli (clarinet), David Neves (trumpet), Ricardo Giaquinto and Isaac Hazelkorn (drums, percussion), Christian Li (piano), Andrew Burglass (guitar), and Tom Wilson (tenor). Their playing was uniformly high-level, if the compositions somewhat same-sounding.
Thelonious Monk Institute‘s Class of 2011 boasted four alumni: Billy Buss, trumpet; Nicholas Falk ’06, drums; Victor Gould ‘09, piano; Hogyu Hwang ’05, bass; Godwin Louis ‘08, alto saxophone; Matt Marantz, tenor saxophone. That band swung convincingly, not “conventionally.”
President Roger Brown and Provost Larry Simpson co-hosted a Berklee dinner in the Roosevelt’s stylish Italian restaurant. Celebrators enjoying the convivial scene and spectacular cuisine included student and faculty performers, BGJI director Marco Pignataro, Kris Adams, Jan Shapiro, Carl Riley.
Publicist Jim Eigo reports: “Overall I thought it was a tremendous success. I encountered musicians, students, fans of jazz from all over the world, indie record label execs—Darby Christenson [Summit], Randall Klein [Jazzheads], Peter Gordon [Thirsty Ear]—instrument manufacturers, schools and colleges dedicated to teaching jazz, publisher Jamey Aebersold, DownBeat, JazzTimes.”
Berklee faculty polled agreed on several points regarding the conference: New Orleans is a superb venue; the BGJI was a highlight; 2011 needs more technology workshops; Café du Monde’s beignets and coffee? Magnifique!
In 2011, JEN ventures to a venue closer to the heartland: Louisville, Kentucky. Brace yourselves for jazz education with a backdrop of horseracing, Slugger Hall of Fame, bourbon, hick’ry barbecue, and bluegrass.
—Fred Bouchard, Liberal Arts