Monday, January 15, 2007


Four days of extreme noise terror sitting on the JSL stand next to 60 or so music shops all demonstrating their instruments. Lovely. Then there was the scale of the light show on the neighbouring stand, which I hold solely responsible for this year's inevitable iceberg breakup and for me now appearing to have a tan. Also no voice - hoarse from shouting above the din to answer the endlessly repeated question 'what does jazz services do?'

Hours of hanging in the bar, catching up with lovely friends, musicians and promoters from London, NY and elsewhere, ducking, diving and collecting the flying business cards. Free-drink-friendly with the hotel bartender by Friday - fortuitous, as a glass of wine cost 13 dollars. Offered 4 jobs. Granted it was 4am and everyone was drunk, but at least two still seemed fairly promising at dawn. Tired and emotional took on new meaning as the sad news spread of the deaths of Michael Brecker and Alice Coltrane on Saturday.

Profound and moving acceptance speeches from all this year's NEA Jazz Master's Award winners. Phil Woods a born comedian. The Clayton Brothers Quintet performing, masters of stop-time, and that thing Americans do so well - jazz families. John's son Gerald Clayton on piano, only 22 - but a seriously talented player. Then Nancy Wilson - totally ageless onstage, extraordinary charisma and an amazing voice, which swoops and laughs and cries in the style of her mentor Jimmy Scott, who watched from the audience.

Last day. We pack up the stand and head to the ‘Europe’ reception. Walking with the lovely folks from Dune Records, stopping every few feet to chat to people on the way, it’s very slow progress. 7.30pm and alcohol has yet to pass our lips. Abram - ‘Do you want me to introduce you to Russell Malone?' Hmmmm. Russell Malone. Glass of wine. Russell Malone. Glass of wine. J and I – ‘errr no it’s okay thanks – some other time….’

Final gig at 1am - Avishai Cohen Trio. Have seen this band so many times. Have loved their music perhaps more than any other music over the last couple of years. But this gig was the ONE. The massive ballroom full, anticipation high. But nothing of the last 4 days had prepared anyone for the electric tension of these three world class musicians, communicating in so rare and magical a way that there was surely a sixth sense at work. Hundreds on the edges of seats with excitement. Everyone transfixed in the same moment. And somehow time, though pounding by as Avishai drummed the body and soul of his bass, was standing still. No industry conference cynicism here - the audience in a standing ovation frenzy. The trio. Mark Guiliana (of my previous Heernt ravings) definitely my favourite drummer in the world - always surprising, switching from style to style with ease and an inspired bravery, creating whole new styles on the way. And pianist Shai Maestro. A huge discovery. It's nothing short of ridiculous that someone only 19 years old can play with such assurity, creativity and wisdom. And therein lies the mystery of this music, which keeps us all locked in.

3am and the doormen at the Hilton are doing birdsong impressions to while away the hours, delighting in the confused faces of weary guests as they peer into the concrete darkness for signs of an aviary. On the corner of 53rd the ever present long line at a small roadside stall, as people wait in the rain for the chicken and rice we have all partaken of at some point during the week.

Back at home gorgeous vegetarian food awaits me as it has every night this week. The lovely Stevie has been staying, and L from Montreal. They cook. Loving these guests (and not just because they cook), and wishing I'd had a chance to see more of them.....


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