Every evening we were in the Terrace Theater of the Long Beach Convention Center for the concerts. Quincy Jones addressed the universal core of jazz music when he said, "Every American child can share the musical heritage they have been left by playing jazz."
We were privileged to hear James Moody play with Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band; the U.S. Air Force Band of the Rockies "Falconaires," the Bob Florence Big Band; the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra; and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra with Dee Dee Bridgewater. When Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band played their last two salsa numbers, almost everyone in the 1,758 capacity theater was on their feet dancing.
The highlight of the conference was the Dave Brubeck Quartet. As Dave Brubeck carefully shuffled onto the stage his eyes were focused only on the piano bench. He spoke to us in a slow, raspy voice as he bent over the grand piano keys. When he began to play, he was suddenly 29 years old again. His fingers moved instinctively up and down the keyboard. He smiled and his head bobbed in complete satisfaction and delight as he and his partners sent musical signals to each other by nodding, smiling wider and winking. Alec Dankworth, the bass player, whose bushy white eyebrows wiggled up and down as he hunched over his large instrument, plucked unceasingly throughout the one-hour concert. Every seat in the theater was taken and people leaned against the walls and stood in the aisles. As Bobby Militello soloed on his saxophone, the audience gasped in startled amazement as he proved to be a genius of improvisation. Randy Jones, on the drums, had white hair also, but was clearly the youngest group member. He kept the same big sweet smile that grew even wider during his solo.
They were the masters of fingering, breathing, articulation and performance. They didn't play notes written on paper; instead, music flowed spontaneously from their souls out their fingertips. The applause was deafening as the those in the theater showed their admiration and gratitude.
Thank you, Mr. Fragale and Miss Jones, for approving the trip to Long Beach. Thank you, Mrs. Baker for having the forethought to know how much the students would enjoy the conference, arranging the trip and making it possible to take part in such a wonderful learning experience.