DAVID MURRAY & THE GWO-KA MASTERS performing as part of the International Association For Jazz Education Conference at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (55 Front West), tonight (Thursday, January 9). Conference pass $370/adults, $155/students (with IAJE membership). 416-597-5189. www.iaje.org.
Given that the international Association for Jazz Education has chosen the theme Jazz -- Crossing All Borders for its 30th annual international conference, it's fitting that its first-ever gathering outside the U.S. is happening in Toronto in the dead of winter.Aspiring musicians will find the sub-zero temperatures they encounter at the four-day IAJE summit (January 8 to 11) -- gathering jazz artists, composers, educators, historians, journalists, label reps, programmers, publicists, students and travel agents -- only the first of many cold receptions the harsh and unforgiving jazz business has in store.
Saxophone colossus David Murray, signed and summarily dropped by Sony, knows the score, which is why he now lives in Paris and records the exploratory music he likes with whomever he wants whenever he wishes.
He's not at all the sort of artist you'd expect to find rubbing shoulders at the IAJE conference with commercial jazz radio smoothies like Dave Weckl, John Patitucci and the Yellowjackets. Nevertheless, David Murray & the Gwo-Ka Masters featuring Guy Konket are scheduled to perform at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre tonight (Thursday, January 9), which will undoubtedly be the highlight of the evening concert series.
You have to wonder exactly what Murray was thinking in springing his adventurous creole project on the IAJE conference delegates.
"Conference?" ponders Murray over the phone from Paris, "I didn't really know what the occasion was. To me it's a gig, a date on my calendar. I don't usually do conferences, so I guess this will be something new.
"Mostly I play festivals and concert halls. I do a lot of workshops at universities, but, um, I've been to a couple of conferences and I didn't see many musicians around. If they're there it's usually to do some kind of presentation, but that's not my business. I'm not a big networker. I have a team of people who do that so I don't have to."
If Murray didn't know about the conference, imagine his surprise when he discovers that along with the performance he's also slated for the Down Beat First-Person Project Live!, which amounts to a one-on-one grilling in front of an audience. However, since the interviewer is long-time Village Voice and Down Beat contributor Howard Mandel -- a dedicated Murray cheerleader -- you can count on more ass-kissing than -kicking.
Not that Murray would care what any jazz critic has to say about his work at this point. His recent experiments with musicians from Senegal and Guadeloupe have resulted in the most exciting recordings of his wide-ranging and exceptionally productive career. And he's about to top those with his hard-swinging new Now Is Another Time (Justin Time) disc, due January 28.
Recorded during two trips to Havana with two different Cuban big bands, one featuring the younger members of Irakere, the other with the NG La Banda veterans, the scorching sessions have more of the Shorty Rogers-type cinematic Cu-bop vibe of the early 60s than anything coming out of Cuba between the days of Antonio Machin and Jesús Alemañy.
But that isn't the reason why he decided to call this project his Latin Big Band instead of Cuban Big Band. Close inspection of the liner notes reveals that all references to the album being recorded in Cuba are absent. A clever cover-up?
"The truth is that it's a Cuban big band, but we kept getting these weird signals from the distributors that it might not be a good idea to say "Cuban.' It's like the word has a death ray around it because of some U.S. government policy. So we called it the Latin Big Band instead. Whatever, it's still a Cuban big band to me.
"Before we started recording I made two prior trips to Cuba to familiarize myself with the terrain and to study the music of Santería. There was an immediate connection for me because of my background in the Church of God in Christ -- that whole spirit possession thing is all up in there.
"But I didn't want to go down there just to try and play some different music, like putting on a new suit -- I hate when musicians do that. I wanted it to be all my own compositions, so what you get is my idea of how Cuban music fits into a jazz concept.
"I'm trying to take jazz all over the world and hopefully educating people with my music the way I've been educated by music of other cultures."email@example.com