Jazz Connect-ing Like It’s 1989


A couple of weeks ago, I attended the two-day Jazz Connect conference here in New York, a one-off event which brought together members of the jazz community for a series of panels, workshops, and events. Months earlier, the invitation had been posted on Facebook by Lee Mergner, my former editor at JazzTimes magazine (“former” as in the early ’90s) and the conference was in fact co-sponsored by JazzTimes. The other sponsor was the Jazz Forward Coalition, an organization focused on “building, curating and providing tools, knowledge, and programming to the jazz music industry for audience and market development.”

What with the hotel venue and the panels and events scheduled, the vibe was exactly like that of the former JazzTimes Conventions. Held annually in various cities for many years, those conventions were multi-day events presented by JazzTimes which also brought the jazz community together. It was at the 1985 convention–my first–where I met the JazzTimes editors, which started my entertainment journalism career! (See How I Became A Music Journalist). Plus which, every year I worked the convention registration desk–a perfect opportunity to meet pretty much everyone in the industry.

At the Jazz Connect conference, it wasn’t long before I was reconnecting with old friends whom I hadn’t seen in 20 years or more. Among them: bassist Gerald Veasley, a former client for whom I wrote promotional materials; Howard Mandel, president of the Jazz Journalists Association, which brought back memories of those meetings we had to plan its formation; concert promoter Julius (Julie) Lokin, on the eve of his 71st birthday; Hank Bordowitz, co-editor with me of the Music Writers’ Caucus News, a publication we’d founded through the National Writers Union.

And of course I made lots of new friends, from radio personalities to artists to promoters and publicists–happily, too many to name.

The whole scene greatly reminded me of the JazzTimes Convention, especially in the way that it could take three hours to travel ten feet: You’d start off down the hall, then meet someone, stand there chatting, then another someone would come along and join the conversation, then introduce you to someone else who was passing by. Walk, stop, repeat. So good. So magical.

After so many years away, it was the perfect setting in which to get updated on the current state of jazz–and the musicians’ positive attitudes despite it. It was nice to hear how musicians have reinvented themselves in the face of all the changes taking place in their industry. All were passionate about their work, their gift, and their reinventions.

And get this: it was so wonderful, I forgot to take photos! As consolation, I went through my old JazzTimes Convention photos and decided to post a few of those instead. Too lazy to scan so I shot photos of the photos. (Don’t judge me, lest ye be slapped!) Different era, but same vibe. Click and enjoy!