Monday, October 01, 2007

48 Hours In New York

From left: Moderator Howard Mandel, Stanley Crouch, Ben Ratliff, Alain Derbez, Seda Binbasgil, Gary Giddins, Christian Broecking, Alex Dutilh, Francis Davis, Kazue Yokoi, Gwen Ansell, Greg Tate.

Photo by Sy Johnson © Copyright 2007

It really shouldn’t surprise me that the highlight of the one-day international symposium of jazz journalism, held Saturday at the Columbia University School of Journalism, was a piece of film that’s almost 50 years old. Amid more than 20 presentations – including my own on the cultural, economic and esthetic imperatives shaping contemporary jazz musicians – the most captivating few moments were delivered courtesy of a Swedish television program featuring Sonny Rollins, drummer Eddie Jones and bassist Wilbur Ware. Rollins – looking impossibly young, fit and patient with his Swedish host – was a breath of unfiltered, unquestioned and unadulterated fresh air – among many barbed comments, snipes, sidetracks and self-serving commentaries.

It never fails at these cultural symposia, music trumps scholarship – and the rarer the better. Even the longest-toothed among us had never seen this Rollins clip, and Swedish jazz historian Lars Westin wasn’t about to let it leave his hands, despite entreaties from my new friend Alain Derbez, who's about to launch a jazz television program on Mexico’s public broadcaster.

Ah, hey, we’re jazz journalists: over-caffeinated, over-opinionated, and over-stimulated by 48 hours of hanging with our peers and related brethren at the first-ever of these globally focused gab fests. Hats off to George Lewis (who is as adept an arts/academic administrator as he was a trombonist) and my pal Howard Mandel for making this happen. The vibe at the opening night cocktail party and hang at Harlem’s famed Lenox Lounge was electric. As British jazz writer and philosophy professor Andy Hamilton told me, “I’ve never met so many people I know through their bylines or email addresses.” If you weren’t catching up with someone you hadn’t seen in months, you were comparing notes with someone whose life revolves around the same central love.

Sometime in January, when Lewis’ new jazz studies program at Columbia gets its official launch, the daylong proceedings will be available as a streaming videocast (I’ll post details here). Until then, if you’re interested in an overview of the proceedings, log into the online discussion we posted during the event at the Jazz Journalists Association site. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to add them: Mandel, myself and others will be monitoring the open discussion and adding comments, answers and second thoughts, as required.

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