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2003 IAJRC Convention - Ann Arbor, Michigan 

Convention Report by Charles Sweningsen

It seems a bit strange, the overwhelmingly fond memories I have for IAJRC conventions over the years, including Ann Arbor this year...

My first one was in Chicago in 1968 when I joined. I got into an argument with President Bill Love. I said I thought that the piano player, whom we had arranged to entertain us, should be paid. Paid, Bill, as in money. Bill didn't see it that way at all.

"We're just one big happy family," was the way he looked at it.

Then a couple of years later there was New York City. I worked at night so caught an early plane from Chicago that stopped in Detroit, where I became awash in hippies headed for Woodstock. My convention destination was the Diplomat, an original-equipment hotel in midtown Manhattan.

My cabdriver at LaGuardia, through artful conversation and brilliant bonhomie, determined to his satisfaction that I had no bloody idea where I was going and took me there by way of Brooklyn, charging me accordingly.

My room was not ready, nor was it so at any time that day. So I settled in for the convention, fighting sleep, and succeeding in spilling a full bottle of Schaefer's on my pants, the only pair I had with me.

And I liked that convention in Los Angeles, when we had the Benny Goodman reunion band play, and Louise Tobin forgot the words to "And the Angels Sing" and Somebody on the Trumpet Section foozled Elman's solo so badly that a few members in the audience were seen slowly slipping slowly to the floor.

I don't remember all IAJRC conventions thusly, for they all have those times of luminescence, and Ann Arbor was no exception. For me there were particularly three, and each highlighted different forms of jazz.

To have the driving explosive bop of the Walden Quintet out of Detroit the first day, then the swinging big band (as in 15 pieces) of member Gary Herzenstiel expertly serving up the cream of that era's crop the next night and have the convention wrapped up on banquet night by the authentic 10 piecer conducted by Jim Dapogny playing from the classic-jazz repertoire . . . . that's programming!

It also represents the diversity of the associations membership, as was further represented by the many other programs during the three days--Dick Raichelson's discographical forum, Bob Porter's Soul Jazz, Jim Kidd's Where the Sounds Were Born, the bebop concert with Don Walden's quintet, Lars Bjorn and Jim Gallert leading the Walden group in a panel discussion, Anders Svanoe on the life and times of saxophonist Sonny Red, author Chris Albertson on his life in jazz, pianist Mike Montgomery reviewing the published blues in sheet-music form and accompanying Kerry Price as she sang some of it.

I missed much of Alan Scharf's presentation of the seminal Jazz at Massey Hall concert but, from what I did hear, wish I had been on time. What can I say about missing Hazen Schumacher's World War II Revisited? I wanted to hear it; I lived through it. Alas, I slept.

But these programs were wonderfully enlightening (Kidd's photographic sights of where jazz history happened, largely before the wrecking ball struck); charming (Raichelson practically reconstructing the life of a midcentury jobbing musician through unstinting research); enthralling (Walden and quintet members, Derrick Gardner, Marion Hayden, Rick Roe and Bert Myrick, telling about those days in Detroit, getting Elvin Jones to pull back the Bluebird club window curtain so they could dig the music better as they stood outside on the sidewalk); heartening (Svanoe giving unheralded Red a place in the music's history that he deserves); amusing and informing (Albertson, the person who got the Bessie Smith death story right, describing the broadcasting, writing and record-producing adventures in jazz); exhilarating (Price bringing to life the words for pianist Montgomery's faithful blues reproduction); amazing (Porter--how does this guy know so much?).

Er, there was that matter of the Detroit historic jazz tour whose time overlapped much of that for Mark Cantor's movies one night. Even Cantor wanted to take the tour. (The convention planners apologized profusely for the error.) The original schedule prevailed and each event went forward. I picked the movies (Cantor's stuff is simply too good to miss).

But I wanted to hear what I missed on the tour. I asked three friends who went. Their responses: "Oh, just wonderful!" - "Yeah, Fine." - "Disaster, start to finish!" - Ah, diversity.

If you didn't attend, don't miss another convention.

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