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Convention welcomes jazz fans, vintage jazz collectors and the curious

By now we’ve all heard about the St. Paul record collector who found a rare Sun Records single and sold it for more than $10,000 on eBay. Last weekend a friend told me about someone who discovered a jazz LP at an estate sale and sold it for $400.

You never know what might happen when you start digging through boxes or bins. A good time to try your luck might be later this week, when the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors (IAJRC) holds its 45th annual convention at the Holiday Inn & Suites in Bloomington.

Founded in Philadelphia in 1964, the IAJRC has nearly 900 members in 26 countries around the world. Some 100 are expected to attend the 2009 conference.

Starting Thursday at 12:30 p.m., when convention chair Chuck Sweningsen gives his welcoming message, ending Sunday around 10 p.m., when Connie Evingson’s final notes waft over a members-only event, it’s the place to be if you still have a turntable and enjoy talking jazz with other enthusiasts.

If you’re a member, you already know about the convention. If you’re not a member, you can register at the door ($120) and enjoy all the privileges: presentations, listening rooms (including one with equipment to play 78s), live performances, and the Sunday banquet. Four live performances are open to the public for $15 each; if you happen to be in the area, you can pay $5 for entry to the record sales room, with vendors from New York, Philadelphia and around the region.

Presentations (for conventioneers only) include a talk by former “DownBeat” editor Jack Tracy; a program on Doc Evans by Mark Flaherty, who teaches jazz and trumpet at Northern Michigan University; a screening of rare films by Mark Cantor, who owns one of the world’s largest jazz film collections; a talk on Twin Cities jazz history and the Hall Brothers New Orleans jazz band by cornetist Charlie Devore; and reminiscences by reed player Percy Hughes.

These are the four live performances that will be open to the public ($15 each):

  • Thursday, Aug. 20, 1 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.: Saxophonist Irv Williams and pianist Peter Schimke. Williams (“Mr. Smooth”) just celebrated his 90th birthday.
  • Thursday, Aug. 20, 4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.: Twin Cities Hot Club. With guitarists Robert Bell and Reynold Philipsek, bassist Matt Senjam, and violinist Gary Schulte.
  • Friday, Aug. 21, 1p.m. to 2:15 p.m.: Butch Thompson. A master of traditional jazz, previously with the Hall Brothers and “A Prairie Home Companion,” current host of “The Jazz Originals” on KBEM.
  • Friday, Aug. 21, 4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.: Southside Aces. An authentic New Orleans-style dance-hall band, but based right here in Minnesota. Tony Baluff on clarinet, Eric Jacobson on sousaphone, Robert Bell on guitar, Steve Sandberg on trombone, Andy Hakala on trumpet, Dave Michael on drums.

Between presentations, performances, and Sunday’s closing banquet, people will do what they do at conventions: network, schmooze, hang out. Listening rooms will be “open ’til last ear standing.” Special IAJRC CDs — compilation recordings of archival tracks — will be available for sale at the registration desk.

Be sure to visit the record sales room. Although, on second thought, you probably won’t find anything that turns out to be worth a thousand times more than you paid. You’ll be buying from experts who know what they have. But you might find that Miles Davis LP you’ve been longing for, or the complete recordings of James Reese Europe.

Besides, vinyl is cool again. As Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus recently told jazz journalist Willard Jenkins, “The LP was the most perfect music delivery system yet. … Not all LPs sound better than CDs, but plenty of them do.”

IAJRC Convention, Thursday, Aug. 20, to Sunday, Aug. 21, Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites, Three Appletree Square (I-494 and 34th Avenue, Bloomington; 952-854-9000). Visit IAJRC’s website.

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