By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
By Ray Cummings
By Nicholas Pell
Such droll conviviality comes melded to the man's haunting, unabashedly robust compositions. While the bittersweet contrast has prompted comparisons to Otis Redding and Judy Garland, there's a canny precision to Antony's dubbing Divine his "self-determined guru." The departed femme fatalehis womanhood crafted from wholesale defianceexisted as a primal vision of the autonomous (though not untroubled) sexuality that fuels Antony's music and booming, keening voice. Disarmingly childlike, his stage presence twines innocence to decidedly polymorphous perversity, as precocious renditions of the Ronettes' "Too Young" (natch) and "Cripple and the Starfish" aptly demonstrated.
Likewise, in the Johnsons' latest reworking of Nina Simone's "Be My Husband," ambling cello and a breathtaking crush of violin stroked the jailbait sauciness of Antony's vocals. But "River of Sorrow" and the Julee Cruise stunner "Mysteries of Love" (Antony here clutching at words as if they were long-flown memories) conjured dusky cabaret melancholia, further mottling the night's coquetry. Still, the chanteuse caught in this dwindling spotlight couldn't give himself over entirely to gloom and doom. The sole encore ("Twilight," no less) found him plopping Dietrich-style into the lap of a potential sugar daddy. "Are you his wife?" Antony blithely inquired of the fellow's female companion. "I would've brought you a chocolate drop." Nick Rutigliano
Besides convening pedagogues and students for how-to music clinics, scholarly presentations, and collegiate big-band performances, the International Association of Jazz Educators Conference rallies the industry for its premier schmoozefest (more than 8000 people gathered January 10 through the 13 at the Sheraton and Hilton hotels). Publishers, label reps, presenters, retailers, and publicists crowded three floors of the Hilton's exposition center, where boothkeepers made anxious glances at visitors' name badges in swift valuations of their tchotchke allotments: cookies or key chains for students, CDs or books for industry professionals, and free horns or occasionally recording contracts for deserving musicians.
While the trade in goods and services continued apace, the trade in ideas rarely extended beyond the polite chatter of a tea party, at least in the Industry Track programs I caught. (I missed the popular Amiri Baraka and Quincy Jones panels.) Maybe it's the prevailing mood of Burnsian pride that lent most panels the thematic thrust of those bargain-bin "I Like Jazz!" CD compilations. Despite panelist James Carter's urging that everyone "get their freak on," even typically prickly attendees maintained the buttoned-down, deferential profiles of new parolees out on good behavior.
So IAJE's best industry forums took a tip from the educational element, offering practical musical or historical information from insiders. Dan Ouellette, a Downbeat magazine contributor and Schwann Insideeditor, wisely chose star musicians Joe Lovano and Greg Osby for his Live Blindfold Test. A rare Sun Ra recording stumped just about everyone, but both musicians instantly ID'd Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins, who was faded out mid-track. "No one ever turns down Sonny Rollins in the middle of a tune in my home," quipped Lovano, who was especially sharp-witted given the rigors of the previous night: He'd been limoed over to Town Hall for a guest solo with the Italian Jazz All-Stars between sets with his own Nonet at Birdland.
Another standout panel addressed the work of photographer Frank Wolff, the partner of Blue Note Records founder Alfred Lion. Both men were German immigrants, or "Hitler's gifts to us," moderator Dan Morgenstern cracked. Wolff's photos defined the era of 1960s jazz in New York; as photographer Jimmy Katz said, "You usually think about Lee Morgan or Hank Mobley through his eyes." Dr. Ruth Lion (Alfred's widow), Rudy Van Gelder (the recording engineer whose clean sound also defined the High Blue Note era), and producer-writer Michael Kuscuna took turns eulogizing Wolff, then joined in a collective oral-history session when they projected a series of his photos onstage. After, the audience shuffled out in a warm daze of nostalgia, but of the galvanizing variety: We were primed to see and hear the music that defines New York now. Michelle Mercer