Q+A with the Vail Jazz Workshop instructors: Wycliffe Gordon

Born in Waynesboro, Georgia, Wycliffe Gordon was raised in a musical family so it’s no wonder he first picked up the trombone at the age of 12. Wycliffe has dedicated his life to jazz on many levels; beyond interpretation and performance, he has served as a musical ambassador of America’s original art form, as a U.S. Statesman of Jazz and ambassador for the U.S. State Department. He is also a committed educator, and is a founding faculty member of the Jazz Studies Program at the Juilliard School.

Professionally Wycliffe has enjoyed a highly successful career as a soloist and in groups, playing with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Tommy Flanagan, and Wynton and Branford Marsalis, to name a few. He was recently featured on the cover of Downbeat Magazine, and has won the Critic’s Choice award for Best Trombonist three years running.



What is the best aspect of Vail Jazz? 

It’s about bringing great things to the community but playing it forward by having a program that allows select students to come study with masters of the art form. It’s a great opportunity for them and also great for us to meet the next bandleaders, composers, arrangers, and conductors.

What is the most memorable comment or compliment you’ve received?

All of the audience members who come up with tears in their eyes saying I played something that helped them get up through something. It’s what music does. It brings us all together.

What is your favorite pre-gig sipper?

A very dry martini, a little dirty with a blue cheese olive.

What is the most striking venue you have ever performed at?

Vail is certainly up there, looking at those mountains. Australia: the open land, Sydney, Melbourne… Australia might be number one.




Stay tuned for next week’s “Q+A with: Lewis Nash”!

This article is part of a 6-part series highlighting the Vail Jazz Workshop instructors, who comprise the Vail Jazz Party House Band. In it’s 20th year, the Vail Jazz Workshop recruits 12 of the nation’s most talented teenage jazz musicians who travel to Vail for a week of intensive, two-to-one learning with the instructors. The students refine their skills, learn the art of playing by ear and most importantly, come to own and hone their special talents. Thanks to their Vail Jazz mentors, nearly all of the students have gone on to become professional musicians.

Q+A with the Vail Jazz Workshop Instructors: Bill Cunliffe



Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist and composer Bill Cunliffe is known for his innovative and swinging recordings and compositions. Originally from Andover, Massachusetts, Cunliffe attended Duke University and studied jazz with pianist Mary Lou Williams and later received his master’s degree from the Eastman School of Music.

In addition to receiving five Grammy nominations, he is a two-time Emmy nominee. Cunliffe was awarded a Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement for “West Side Story Medley,” on the album “Resonance Big Band Plays Tribute to Oscar Peterson” (Resonance Records, 2009). On top of his other awards, Cunliffe’s other accomplishments include works with the great Frank Sinatra, James Moody, and Freddie Hubbard. He has also composed numbers for major orchestras as well as TV soundtracks.

The jazz pianist now calls Southern California home and is a Professor of Music at California State University Fullerton. Bill currently plays with his trio; his big band; his Latin band, Imaginación; and his classical-jazz ensemble, Trimotif. He performs in the U.S. and around the world as a leader and sideman as well as a soloist with symphony orchestras.



What is the best aspect of the Vail Jazz Party? 

It merges musicians presenting their own original material but also thrown together in unexpected ways to see what happens. You get a whole different sense of what the musicians can do.

Any on-stage or pre-gig sippers? 

I’ve seen many pianos fall victim to spilled beverages. We pianists tend to shy away from on-stage drinking. I always have water before I go up.

What about a post-gig beverage?

I have been known to engage in an occasional glass of wine. I like bigger reds.

And your favorite post-gig meal?


What is the most striking venue you’ve ever played?

The Vail Jazz Festival outdoor tent. There is no better audience than the Vail audience. You can hear a pin drop, they are listening so intently. They really care about the music.




Stay tuned for next week’s “Q+A with: Wycliffe Gordon”!

This article is part of a 6-part series highlighting the Vail Jazz Workshop instructors, who comprise the Vail Jazz Party House Band. In it’s 20th year, the Vail Jazz Workshop recruits 12 of the nation’s most talented teenage jazz musicians who travel to Vail for a week of intensive, two-to-one learning with the instructors. The students refine their skills, learn the art of playing by ear and most importantly, come to own and hone their special talents. Thanks to their Vail Jazz mentors, nearly all of the students have gone on to become professional musicians.

Vail Jazz Workshop among America’s most promising outlets for young musical prodigies

It’s true that the key ingredient behind history’s most respected jazz musicians is innate talent. Of course, passion, heart and focus also play a role, but at some point along the way, each musician has learned from another.

The United States has famously produced many of the world’s greatest jazz artists through a slew of famous and elite programs and schools, but the Vail Jazz Workshop has flown under the radar as a springboard for young, prodigal musicians, although it has quietly helped shape the future of jazz for the past 20 years.

This summer, the Vail Jazz Workshop celebrates its 20th year and, as a telltale token of its success and growing reputation, a whopping 140 nominations were submitted for the workshop’s 12 slots.

It’s always a tough pick, said Howard Stone, founder of the Vail Jazz Foundation, which brings the lucky 12 to Vail every summer, providing full or partial scholarships. Stone has even shopped for dress shoes with at least one workshop student and run out to purchase a trumpet for another whose instrument could not hold up to the demands of the program, as many participants come from poverty-stricken backgrounds.

Look at any of the 238 artists that have attended the Vail Jazz Workshop over the last two decades and the vast majority has gone on to notch jaw-dropping accomplishments.

For example, Vail alumni and recent Labor Day Jazz Party returnee Tia Fuller is the band leader of Beyonce’s notoriously talented all-female band. Obed Calvaire drums for the San Francisco Jazz Collective and performs with Monty Alexander, Wynton Marsalis and many others. Saxophonist Grace Kelly has been featured on CNN, NPR and in Glamour Magazine, and of course you’ve all heard of Grammy-winning pianist Robert Glasper, who won the 2013 Grammy for Best R&B album and nabbed his second Grammy this year for Best Traditional R&B Performance.

“Getting to study and meet the incredible faculty was an experience I can’t quite put into words,” said Kelly, who returned last Labor Day weekend as part of the Vail Alumni Quartet.

“I learned so many important lessons musically at Vail and the most important thing is they didn’t teach out of music books. They taught right out of their life experiences,” Kelly said.


Vail Jazz Workshop faculty members are also the talent behind the Vail Jazz Party House Band — John Clayton, Terrell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe, Wycliffe Gordon, Lewis Nash and new this summer, Dick Oatts replaces 20-year Vail Jazz saxophone instructor Jeff Clayton, who is now living in Australia.

Unlike programs set up more like masters lessons, the Vail Jazz Workshop is focused on rounding out the students’ existing talent with the ability to play by ear, using memorization and no written music during the 10-day program.

“It’s about balance. The person who can play by ear and read music and understand theory — they have more choices,” said John Clayton, who effectively masterminded and launched the Vail Jazz Workshop 20 years ago along with Vail Jazz founder Howard Stone. “On that first day at the workshop when we get a feel for their level, through the years, our eyebrows go up higher and higher. We look at each other and say, ‘Wow. Not only are they doing stuff we could never do at their age, but they’re doing stuff we can’t even do now.’ Still, we offer them things they haven’t been exposed to and that they can really take with them even if they can — and I’m exaggerating a little bit — play rings around us.”

With six instructors and 12 students, each young musician gets ample one-on-one mentor time in the workshop, and in Fuller’s case, the introspective coaching she received from Clayton has truly shaped her career.

“What I value most from John Clayton is his ability to show you that you have the power,” Fuller said. “Whenever I’ve asked him a question about my playing or a problem, he always turns the question right around on me and I have had the solution the whole time.”

All students are nominated for the program by individuals who have taken stock of their talent … often a high school music teacher or band leader.

“It’s amazing to have a program that reaches out to the kids who would not be able to afford to participate in such an event,” said Calvaire, who learned to play drums by ear in his family’s church while growing up in Miami. “At 16, you’re still looking for a voice and looking for ways to find your musical journey and path, and that program really helps you find it.”

Vail Jazz Goes to School Sextet Performs Concert for Local Students!

Vail Jazz Goes to School wraps up its seventeenth year in Eagle County with three special jazz performances at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek on May 4 & 5 featuring the Jazz Goes to School Sextet. “This is such a rich and exciting performance and it’s a fabulous end to the lessons that have taken place throughout the school year to every 4th and 5th grade class,” said Robin Litt, executive director of the Vail Jazz Foundation.

The fourth and final session of the Jazz Goes to School educational program, entitled “Giants of Jzz”, features a selection of tunes that have shaped the history of jazz in America.

Local jazz musician and professional jazz educator, Tony Gulizia (keyboard and vocals), directs the Vail Jazz Goes to School program. “The concert includes legendary jazz tunes by Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and others”, said Gulizia. “We also perform a medley of blues compositions authored by the fifth graders as part of the concert – their lyrics are priceless!” said Gulizia.

Tony Gulizia’s brother Joey, also a professional jazz musician and educator (drummer), joins Tony on stage, as does Andy Hall (bass), Gary Regina (saxophone), Mike Gurciullo (trumpet) and Michael Pujado (congas and percussion). The sextet presents a dynamic, foot stompin’ show that pulls together all of the concepts taught in the first three classroom sessions, as demonstrated in some of Jazz’s finest works.

Vail Jazz Goes to School is presented by The Vail Jazz Foundation, a 501c3 charitable foundation dedicated to perpetuating jazz with a focus on young musicians and young audiences. The program educates over 1,100 fourth and fifth graders annually in the Eagle County School District RE-50J, plus the Eagle County Charter Academy, Vail Mountain School, The Vail Academy, Stone Creek Charter School, and St. Clare of Assisi. Vail Jazz Goes to School has exposed over 17,000 local school children to jazz music since inception.

Building on the success of Vail Jazz Goes to School, Vail Jazz will offer a summer hands-on musical experience, called “Jammin’ Jazz Kids” every Sunday in July. In conjunction with Vail Jazz @ The Market at the Vail Farmers’ Market, youngsters ages 4 to 12 will be able to explore the history of Jazz along with a fun learning experience with children playing a variety of percussion instruments – maracas, bongos, congas, tambourines and Orff instruments. Participating children will also listen to and join with jazz musicians in playing music and learning the art of improvisation. Sunday programs will be 45 minutes in length and offered at no charge.

Vail Jazz Goes to School is sponsored in part by Alpine Bank, Vilar PAC Community Use Fund, Colorado Mountain Express (Official Transportation Provider), all fifteen elementary schools’ PTOs, United Way Eagle River Valley, Vail Resorts Echo, Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, Antlers at Vail, Local Joe’s Pizza, East West Resorts, Lifthouse Lodge and numerous private donors.

Vail Jazz will announce its lineup and tickets will go on sale on May 1st for the 21st Annual Vail Jazz Festival. “The Festival will host nearly 50 free and ticketed concerts in different venues throughout Vail. And will host over 150 artists who will share their passion for this original American art form with locals and visitors to Vail. Our renowned artists are chosen for their broad appeal to all ages and audiences and are highly regarded for their stage presence and entertainment value. They have great appeal even for audiences who don’t necessarily wear the ‘jazz fan’ label!” Litt commented, “We hope youngsters who got a taste of jazz through Vail Jazz Goes to School will join us this summer at the Vail Jazz Festival!”

Eagle County students swing with Jazz Goes to School

VAIL — Jazz Goes to School, Vail Jazz Foundation’s jazz education program for fourth- and fifth-graders, returns to Eagle County schools Tuesday through Friday, Jan. 23. The program features a quintet of professional musician educators who travel to 16 local elementary schools to share their love of jazz and American history, and inspire young people to embrace jazz: America’s original art form.

While September’s Session 1 focused on the origins of jazz and the rhythm section with handmade bongos and drums, this second session of the four-part program adds in the horn section.

“We want to introduce the kids to the heart of jazz; the cool combination of drums, piano and bass forms the core of all jazz music,” said program director Tony Gulizia. “Now we add in the saxophone and trumpet to create a clean cool sound they love.”

Later in the Jazz Goes to School curriculum, the older students try their hand at writing their own jazz music. The final concert in May at the Vilar Performing Arts Center includes blues compositions created by the fifth-graders, performed in an exciting medley format.


Gulizia is not the only one who appreciates how Jazz Goes to School makes a difference for local kids. Vail Resorts Epic Promise, the company’s philanthropy program, has identified Jazz Goes to School as a necessary and valuable way to help bring the arts into our schools.”

Vail Resorts supports Jazz Goes to School as an incredibly important program that teaches the wonders of jazz to the children of Eagle County,” said Nicky DeFord, manager of charitable giving for Vail Resorts.

Additionally, Alpine Bank’s grant to Vail Jazz provides funds to bring the accomplished jazz instructors into all elementary schools in the region.

“We encourage parents of fourth- and fifth-graders to attend their children’s programs to share their enthusiasm for what they’re learning. Their love for the program can be really infectious,” said Robin Litt, executive director of Vail Jazz.

Gulizia (keyboard and vocals) directs the Jazz Goes to School program for Vail Jazz. Gulizia is joined by his brother Joey, who is also a professional jazz musician and educator, on drums. Other musician educators performing this week include Andy Hall (bass), Roger Neumann (saxophone) and Mike Gurciullo (trumpet).


Jazz Goes to School, which is in its 16th year, supports and promotes the jazz art form with a focus on educating young musicians and young audiences. Jazz Goes to School is presented to Eagle County fourth- and fifth-graders, including all public schools plus the Eagle County Charter Academy, Vail Mountain School, Vail Christian Academy, Stone Creek Elementary Schools and St. Clare of Assisi. Jazz Goes to School reaches over 1,100 students each year and has exposed more than 15,000 students to the course about this uniquely American art form. To learn more, visit www.vailjazz.org.

Slifer Designs and Nina McLemore join together

VAIL — Beth Slifer and Nina McLemore are collaborating on Slifer Designs at Nina McLemore, a shared space at 183 Gore Creek Drive in Vail Village.

Slifer Designs is a home store that has become a must-see to many locals, visitors and second-home owners. It’s here that Slifer and her buying team create distinctive home designs. The Nina McLemore boutique opened in Vail Village in January of 2012. Owner and designer Nina McLemore has stores and sales consultants across the country, including Aspen. The collection features designer clothing for women. McLemore was featured in the July 3 issue of the Wall Street Journal as The Ultimate Power Dresser. McLemore’s clients include Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen and the president of Pepsico, Indra Nooyi.

“We are so excited to be in Vail,” Slifer said. “We’ve noticed a lot of Vail locals and guests want to get something while in Vail, be part of the Vail experience if you will. Well, we’re here to say, let us help you.”

Slifer Designs is entering its third decade in the valley and the new boutique is just one more way to stay true to its Vail roots.

“We are delighted to welcome Slifer Designs to our Vail boutique,” McLemore said. “I have known of Beth Slifer from years of visiting and skiing in Vail. We certainly share similar client profiles and believe in giving back to the community. To be able to give more to charity is one of the reasons I started this business.”


The store is already planning soirees and special offerings throughout the winter, allowing for new items and Slifer’s design know-how to pour through the doors. McLemore will be introducing her new spring collection in late January.

Slifer and McLemore are hosting an afternoon jazz event on Jan. 2 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. to benefit the Vail Jazz Foundation’s Jazz Goes to School program. A percentage of Nina McLemore and Slifer Designs at Nina McLemore will be donated to the foundation from Jan. 2-16 when Vail Jazz is mentioned.

Interview with Tony Gulizia: Vail’s 4th, 5th graders in sweet spot

Interview with Vail Jazz Goes to School Director of Education, Tony Gulizia

by Steve Chavis for KUVO Jazz, KVJZ


Pianist-vocalist Tony Gulizia (Tony G.) has spent the last 18 school years surrounded by fourth and fifth graders at every school in Eagle County via the Vail Jazz Foundation‘s “Jazz Goes to School” program.  Gulizia said that early age is the “perfect” time for jazz education.

“Kids that age are a little more aware of jazz music, and they’re getting ready to perhaps start an instrument in elementary school or middle school,” said Gulizia.

A hot number for Jazz Goes To School is Henry Mancini’s theme to “The Pink Panther,” including Plas Johnson’s sax solo.  “They hear a walking bass, they hear the swing style, they hear the improvisation.”  The JGTS curriculum includes the African roots of jazz and a jazz quintet performance.

“Vail Jazz Foundation founder Howard Stone has always had a deep appreciation for the importance of educating young students about America’s great music form,” said Gulizia.  “Jazz Goes To School” has reached nearly 20,000 fourth and fifth graders since 1996.

Eagle County students swing, learn music history with Jazz Goes to School

EAGLE COUNTY — Jazz Goes to School, the Vail Jazz Foundation’s jazz education program for Eagle County fourth and fifth-graders, returns to schools starting Monday. The educational program features professional musician/educators who visit 16 local schools to share their love and knowledge of jazz and American history, and inspire young people to embrace jazz: America’s own art form.

“Childrens’ eyes light up when Mr. Gulizia works with them on the introduction to jazz,” said Vail Jazz Foundation’s Executive Director Robin Litt. “There’s nothing like Jazz Goes to School elsewhere in the country, and we are so lucky to have such a talented teaching staff lead the program.”

Promoting Art

Jazz Goes to School, now in its 17th year, supports and promotes the jazz art form with a focus on educating young musicians and young audiences, fulfilling the mission of The Vail Jazz Foundation.

This first session of the four-part program traces the evolution of the music from its origins in Africa and the American south through to today’s jazz.

“We look at the geographical movement of Senegalese, Yorbuba-Dahomean and Ashantis slaves to the United States. We examine their customs and culture with a particular emphasis on the musical traditions they brought to America,” said local jazz musician and program director Tony Gulizia.

The history of great jazz giants, such as Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, W.C. Handy, Scott Joplin, King Oliver, Kid Ory and how the migration of the black population brings the blues to New Orleans is also featured in this lesson.

History of Instruments

Additionally, the history of many musical instruments is discussed, and students are encouraged to try their hand at playing special handmade percussion instruments from West Africa. Students learn about African rhythms, which found their way to New Orleans, where they began to blend with European church music.

Gulizia (keyboard and vocals), has directed the Jazz Goes to School program for all of its 17 years for The Vail Jazz Foundation. For this first session, Gulizia is joined by his brother Joey, also a professional jazz musician and educator, on drums and Michael Pujado, on percussion. Subsequent sessions include up to six jazz musicians as they share their various functions within the jazz band.


Jazz Goes to School is presented by The Vail Jazz Foundation to Eagle County fourth and fifth graders, including all public schools plus the Eagle County Charter Academy, Vail Mountain School, Vail Christian Academy, Stone Creek Charter School and St. Clare of Assisi. Jazz Goes to School reaches over 1,200 students each year, and has exposed over 16,000 elementary school students to a course about this uniquely American art form. The final session in the spring is a true jazz concert performed by the Jazz Goes to School Sextet at the Vilar Performing Arts Center.

For more information visit www.vail jazz.org.

Interview with John Clayton: “Vail Jazz Workshop – 12 of the best HS players in U.S.”

Interview with Vail Jazz Workshop Director of Education, John Clayton

by Steve Chavis for KUVO Jazz, KVJZ

Only 12 slots exist at the annual Vail Jazz Workshop.  For this year’s class, a committee had to pare down a record number of applicants – 130 of them –  so that Workshop director / bassist John Clayton and his faculty could select the finalists.  Clayton visited “First Take with Lando and Chavis” to talk about his own jazz education and the climate at this year’s 10-day jazz intensive.

“These are 12 of the top high school players in the nation,” said Clayton.  “It blows our mind how much vocabulary and insight they have at such a young age.”

Profiles of the 2014 class at the Vail Jazz Workshop and the performance schedule is posted at www.vailjazz.org.

Music on this feature is by The Clayton Brothers, “This Ain’t Nothin’ But A Party,” from the CD The Gathering.

Vail Jazz Workshop is sculpting the next generation of stars

VAIL — When Isaiah Thompson’s parents decided he “needed a hobby” at the age of 5, unlike many small kids who are led to a piano bench, he did not think it was a chore to sit down and play. Not only did he not dread his weekly classical lessons, he relished them.

It wasn’t until he was about 11 and heard famed cornet player Nat Adderley play jazz music that Thompson was introduced to what he now knows is his life calling.

“I wanted to figure out how to do that,” says the 17-year-old New Jersey native, who now equates playing the piano — something he does every day for at least two hours — to finding true solace.

“It calms me,” he said. “When something sad or bad happens, going to the piano is the first thing I do to take my mind off things. It’s the one thing I can go to that makes me really happy and calm.”

Thompson is one of 12 teenagers selected from at least 125 young musical prodigies nominated for the Vail Jazz Workshop, the Vail Jazz Foundation’s 10-day intensive program directed under the mentorship of the Vail Jazz Party House Band — John and Jeff Clayton, Lewis Nash, Terell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe and Wycliffe Gordon. It culminates in a series of Vail Jazz Party performances, the teens transforming from workshop students into to the Vail Jazz All-Stars.

“I’ve heard of the Vail Jazz Workshop and Festival in the past few years, but I didn’t realize how great this festival was. I’m so grateful to be part of the workshop this year,” says Californian Kanoa Mendenhall, 16, who is well-versed on the cello, trombone and the Japanese shamisen but has truly found her heart in the bass.

“When I started playing classical cello, in my free time, I would actually pretend to play jazz bass lines,” Mendenhall says. “Sooner than later, my father, a jazz pianist, taught me how to “walk” a blues scale on the cello. I think what drew me to the bass was the deep sound it produced and the role it had in the band supporting others. It took some time to start playing the bass (because) I’m quite short, but eventually I graduated from pretending to be a bass player to getting a real bass in middle school. That was one of my happiest moments.”

All 12 of the workshop students, in spite of their youth, already have resumes that read like accomplished pros. They’ve all taken top honors at some major national competition or other, led charity coalitions and play in high-profile youth bands. Pianist Chris Fishman has played at Disney Hall, tenor sax player Morgan Guerin has played the Atlanta Jazz Festival, trumpeter Anthony Hervey has won the Louis Armstrong Award. Kevin Jiang is lead trombonist for Jazz at Lincoln Center Youth Orchestra. Drummer Christian McGhee earned outstanding soloist recognition at more than one major jazz festival. Trumpeter Michael Werner has toured France and the Netherlands with a brass ensemble. Saxophonist James Robertson is a featured artist at the Atlanta Jazz Festival. Bassist Chris Palmer plays local restaurants and jazz clubs with his own quartet. Mendenhall has won multiple Outstanding Soloist awards. Drummer Jared Silverstein as well as Thompson have even played Carnegie Hall and trombonist Nick Lee has toured through Japan with Monterey Jazz Festival’s Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.

When speaking of his experience with Next Generation, Lee, 17, said, “It was amazing. The musicians in the big band were all incredible, and we did cultural exchanges with a few high school big bands in the cities we visited. It’s also a really special feeling to know that we inspired so many young Japanese musicians.”

These accomplishments are but a small sample from each teenager’s lengthy resume. But they all have very specific goals for the Vail Jazz Workshop, now in its 19th year, which among many others skills, teaches students the art of playing and improvising by ear, without any sheet music.

By the time the week is up and the big stage awaits, both students and mentors have struck profound chords.

“Some of it gets to be pretty emotional because you see the students at the beginning of the week and share so much throughout the week. You get to watch incredible relationships blossom in five days,” said Terell Stafford, who has been a mentor and a performer at the Vail Jazz Party for all but three or four of the festival’s 20 years. “By the time you get to performances, you just feel so proud and motivated. So when it’s time to play, you feel all the energy and warmth. You just want to give it all. At many festivals, you just play your set. This is about playing your set in front of people who have shared so much with you and you’ve shared so much with them.”

The last Jazz @ Vail Square of the season features a triple bill grand finale at 6 p.m. tonight. The evening begins with the 12 teenage prodigies performing as the Vail Jazz All-Stars, then the Alumni Quintet — comprised of former students and current stars Justin Kauflin, Katie Thiroux, Bryan Carter, Grace Kelly and Alphonso Horne and culminating with the mentors themselves — The Vail Jazz Party House Band. The evening kicks of the 20th anniversary Vail Jazz Party, running from today through Monday with nonstop live performances featuring more than 40 nationally acclaimed contemporary jazz artists. If you miss the Vail Jazz All-Stars today, they will perform for free on Saturday and Sunday at 11:30 a.m. in the Jazz Tent in Lionshead. For more information, visit www.vailjazz.org.

Shauna Farnell is a freelance writer contracted by  Vail Jazz to write this story. Email comments to cschnell@vaildaily.com