Where else but New York City can you feel so completely immersed in music talk and actual listening that you can imagine yourself in a world where music is the lingua franca and larger problems simply disappear? Uptown, where Paul Blair led an historical walking tour of Harlem; Midtown, where the Association of Performing Arts Presenters delegates took over two large hotels; and Downtown, where the Winter JazzFest filled five West Village clubs to capacity (and beyond, onto the frigid sidewalks)—Manhattan felt like it was buzzing, despite weather that was almost too much like home for me.
One of the more jaded of the compatriots I spent three afternoons discussing jazz business with thought that the APAP confab was like a scaled-down version of the late, lamented International Association of Jazz Education conference—which used to take place at the same two Midtown hotels—but the scale seemed just right to me. On a purely selfish level, it meant you could get a table at the Hilton's bar to chow down on amazing street food and chew the fat about the fortunes of jazz.
On another level, it meant that the discussion within the conference went beyond jazz to other branches of art, allowing dance presenters to trade notes and experiences with new music promoters. Within our own group, it meant—for one of the first times I can remember—young bucks like National Public Radio's Patrick Jarenwattananon and relative gray beards like Gary Giddins exchanged ideas. The most-productive of the Jazz Journalists Association's three session I participated in was the setting for energetic discussions between writers, Webcasters, publicists, label owners like Pi's Yulun Wang and musicians like bassist Melvin Gibbs. Invigorating stuff! As JJA president Howard Mandel and I pondered at the end of a small cocktail party: How do we keep this dialogue flowing?
If we can do that, I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that we may be on the verge of a rejuvenation of the jazz journalism business that might be on the level of what happened in the 1960s, when magazines like Rolling Stone changed the face of music journalism. No one has any doubt that there is no shortage of vital music to report on. Numerous artists who participated in the two-night Winter JazzFest marveled from the stage about the great music going on and the terrific vibe among the large audiences.
My full report on Winter JazzFest will be in a future issue of DownBeat.