Truthfully, I'm not really a conference-going kind of guy. However, I had a blast at Jazz Ahead in Bremen, Germany last week. Having gone there to perform with the Sunna Gunnlaugs Trio, it was nice to have the show to look forward to amidst all the schmoozing. Not that I don't like to schmooze, but it does take a lot of energy. I think especially when the subject matter of your schmoozing is your art, there is a level of emotional investment that can be exhausting.
I was walking around the convention center for a day and a half talking to festival organizers and booking agents on Sunna's behalf, but I was also a secret agent for ASA Trio. It was a learning experience for sure.
We had the privilege and honor to perform at Sendesaal, which people routinely reminded me was where one of Keith Jarrett's amazing solo albums was recorded. The expectations were high, and we were not disappointed. The acoustics in the room are so perfect it's eerie. And the drums I got were ridiculously nice: a set of Sonor Delite's with a vintage Phonic snare.
At the convention there is a lot of talk about trading bands amongst the various countries' music export organizations. As in, if we book a band from Iceland, you book a band from our country. It got me thinking about the possibilities of this sort of thing. Right now the attitude is pretty rough, like "what's in it for my country?" But this could develop into a jazz artist residency whereby each participating country agrees to host a visiting musician who would then collaborate with the locals on a project. Just a thought.
But I have to say, I was very encouraged to see all the different countries going all-out for their brand of jazz. The music is important and the people and nations that took part in Jazz Ahead seem to realize its value.