Friday 17th May, 2019
The afternoon of the second day of the ISJAC Symposium 2019 was to be ‘poster session’, in which I was going to be able to present my music to any delegates who wanted to listen. There were a few of us on the shuttle bus that morning with cases, bags and (in Sebastian Bailey’s case) huge cardboard tubes! I wasn’t sure how my display board would compare with others’ but it was clearly going to be an interesting afternoon.
First though, was the small matter of presentations by Christine Jensen, Dave Rivello, Ron Miles and Bill Frisell! Christine talked about some music that made up the “Under The Influence Suite” which she had written for the Orchestre National de Jazz Montreal. Her focus on the story that inspired the music was fascinating, and seemed almost more important than the musical or technical aspects of the work. The recording of this suite, and her album ‘Habitat’ immediately joined my listening list!
After Christine’s talk we headed upstairs to the Panorama Room for a talk on the compositional exercises of Bob Brookmeyer, presented by Dave Rivello of the Eastman School of Music (pictured). He had studied with Brookmeyer and spent many hours interviewing the great composer about his approach to writing. Dave’s talk was very professional, extremely well prepared and got everyone in the audience scribbling in their notebooks or tapping on their laptops! He shared with us some of Bob’s own sketches as well as his own efforts at the exercises Brookmeyer was teaching. You can find more about Dave’s project “Bob Brookmeyer in conversation” on ArtistShare. Later in the day I had the opportunity to speak to Dave and thank him for his talk. He was very gracious and I told him how I hope to include some of the material from his talk in my own teaching from September.
Following Dave’s presentation we all headed back to the glamorously named ‘Muli-Purpose Room” for an intimate presentation by trumpeter Ron Miles and Guitarist Bill Frisell (pictured right). They started by playing a couple of tunes, highlighting their wonderful musicianship and Ron’s ability to write songs (as he called them) that don’t follow traditional forms. He showed us how he presents his tunes across full pages of A3 manuscript. Neither man was particularly keen to talk on the microphone but they both took time to talk about their approaches to composition and answered questions from the audience. I even put my hand up to ask Ron about how he balances the demands of instrumental practice and composition, and whether knowing that he is going to have to play his own compositions effects what he writes. At the end of their time I waited to speak to Bill Frisell because I knew that my mentor Mike Gibbs would never forgiven me if I didn’t take the opportunity to introduce myself to Bill! He was very friendly and keen to talk about Mike. He seemed pleased that I had taken the time to stop and chat.
It was then time for me to head to the room being used for the Poster Session to set up my display in readiness for the afternoon. Having never presented a poster before I didn’t know what to expect and I had brought a whole suitcase full of items that could possibly get pinned to the board. It took me a long time to get my display right but eventually the board was full, as you can see in the picture below! Before heading off to get some lunch I took the time to walk around the room and look at the other boards. Fellow presenters included Sebastian Bailey (who I had met on the bus in the morning), Robert Beasley, David Binkley, Sarah Jerrom, Derek James Molacek and Greg Runions – who had the stand next to mine. I was amazed by the quality of everyone’s presentations and the amount of research that so many had put in to their work.
After lunch there was one more talk to attend before the poster session was due to start. This was the small matter of Vince Mendoza and John Clayton offering their feedback to six composers who had offered up their music as part of the New Music Workshops. This was a fascinating session and I was really interested to see how Vince and John would respond to the difficult task of giving ‘live’ feedback to the composers involved. We listened to each piece and followed a PDF score that was projected on the big screen. I made my own notes as we listened and then compared my views with those of the two experts. I was reassured that many of the comments I would have made to the composers were reflected in what John and Vince were saying. In particular, Vince’s emphasis on the “energy” and “flow” of the works were very interesting.
The time had come for the poster session and I was really looking forward to talking to anyone who would listen about my writing for the Ed Puddick Big Band since 2002. When the doors were open, a large number of people came in to the room and (after helping themselves to some of the free snacks) made their way around the room. I was determined to give away as many CDs as I could and was very pleased when several people stopped to listen to tracks on the headsets and look at scores. Richard DeRosa came over to say hello and give me one of his CDs. He introduced me to Richard Sussman (who also had a poster session discussing the book that he wrote with Michael Abene) and it turned out that all three of us were former students of the great Mike Gibbs!
The other person that I spoke to during the afternoon was Rick Lawn, who I had been in touch with prior to the Symposium as I was hoping to get a copy of his new book “Jazz Scores and Analysis“. Rick was very interesting to speak to and offered to meet later that evening to swap a copy of his book for a copy of my Guys & Dolls CD! This was an offer I could not refuse so I made sure I kept hold of one copy of my album…I managed to give away all the others.
My poster board was much quicker to take down than it was to put up so Greg (Runions) and I were able to head back to the hotel to drop off our cases so we didn’t have too much luggage with us for the concert in the evening. The concert was to be the Colorado Jazz Orchestra with Vince Mendoza. This performance was fantastic, and deserves a post all of its own! As well as the amazing compositions of Vince, it was great to hear the playing of Drew Zaremba as he and the rest of the band made some very difficult music (which I had heard in rehearsal just a couple of evenings previously) sound so easy! Watching Vince direct his music was interesting. His conducting style is quite unique and a great demonstration of how a large jazz ensemble should be directly – something for my GSMD conducting students!
The atmosphere in the hotel bar after the concert was euphoric as everyone was so inspired by the day’s activities and what they had just witnessed. It was great to spend a few hours chatting with new friends and looking forward to the third and final day of the Symposium tomorrow.