The talk at yesterday afternoon's opening reception for the 2nd Annual Jazz Times Convention was aimed at the future and rooted in the past. As close to 100 conventioneers crowded into Blues Alley, Jazz Times publisher Ira Sabin surveyed his handiwork. His reward was a Jazz Contribution Award from club owner John Bunyan. Quipped Sabin, "Does this mean I don't have to pay the cover anymore?"

That line got a big laugh from the perpetually beleaguered jazz buffs in the crowd. The four-day convention at the Shoreham will bring together musicians, record company executives, retailers and promoters under a unifying theme -- "Working Together for Jazz" -- addressing basic economic and artistic issues. Yesterday, conversation ranged from innovation to renovation, from doctors ("I finally found I couldn't live on the road") to doctorates (". . . and the government pays us to stay in school"). And buffs caught up with news of musicians and radio programmers ("How many hours does Rusty have each week now?" "Not enough.").

Trumpet player Donald Byrd, who developed the highly regarded Black Music degree program at Howard University before moving five years ago to North Carolina Central, greeted old friends and accepted belated recognition for helping start jazz-funk fusion as early as the mid-'60s. Like Byrd (who was accused of selling out for higher sales in the pop market), young trumpeter Ted Curson has also recently moved toward a more commercial sound. As he squeezed by Byrd, Curson shouted in mock envy, "Just give me $100,000 and shut up!" Byrd gave in to a knowing smile.