Monday, January 08, 2007

Converging on New York

Unquestionably, the biggest annual event in jazz is the IAJE Conference, which will take over the Midtown Hilton and Sheraton this week (1/10-1/13). Expect light blogging here during that time—real light. One of the highlight’s of the show is the annual awarding of the NEA Jazz Master Awards. NEA Chair Dana Gioia will be in town to make the presentations. Under previous administrations, jazz has been a low priority of the agency, but the Bush appointee reinvigorated NEA jazz programming. Gioia’s efforts have included publicizing the Jazz Master award—he is one of the few NEA Chairs I’m aware of who is frequently interviewed in the jazz press. He will be reaching out to a more eclectic audience on WNYC's Soundcheck, heard terrestrially in the New York area at 93.9 FM or on the net here, for an interview I’ll have to check their archive for later.

If you’re not planning on attending IAJE, there’s another great show upcoming this week. Deanna Witkowski is a fantastic musician who is playing a night of Mary Lou Williams’ jazz liturgical music at St. Peter’s (Lex and 54th) on Friday at 8:00 PM. She faces stiff competition that night from the NEA Jazz Masters Awards, so if you are not credentialed for IAJE please check her concert. She’ll also be playing earlier that day at IAJE with the BMI Big Band.

IAJE is always a trip. It’s invigorating to hear high school kids talking about jazz great like Sonny Rollins and Monty Alexander—the sort of names that generate blank stares when I mention them around the office. Look for reports over the weekend.