Young musical talent is about to be amplified

Meet members of the 2017 Vail Jazz Workshop

Growing up listening to his Caribbean mother’s Calypso music, Marvin Carter knew that music was his calling. The high school senior spends five to six hours a day playing the alto saxophone, and it never feels like a chore.

“It’s a way of life, me playing the saxophone,” says the teenager from Brooklyn, New York, who is one of 12 students selected nationwide from a sea of 150 incredibly qualified applicants for the 2017 Vail Jazz Workshop. “I play as much as I can. It’s something I wake up to do.”

Over the last 22 years, the teenage musical prodigies that comprise the Workshop arrive in Vail with resumes more stacked than most adults at the end of their careers. Carter, for example, began playing the sax in fourth grade and performs with the Performance Music Workshop Big Band, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Youth Band, Arturo O’Farrill’s Fat Cat Band, the LaGuardia New Music Ensemble and the Brooklyn College Big Band.

He is himself an instructor to young musicians and has also taught the occasional adult. Before he was 12 years old, Carter began playing in a community band and met a retired police officer whom he began teaching.

“I was fortunate to meet David Coleman when he was working at perfecting his craft,” Carter says. “I helped him out with rhythms. For my 12th birthday he surprised me and gave me my saxophone that I’m using to this day. He’s still pretty much my best friend.”

Friendships certainly abound from the Vail Jazz Workshop, but first and foremost come the skills that the young musicians often don’t realize they possess. The Workshop hones in on intensive play-by-ear training with a team of award-winning musician mentors – John Clayton, who has led the program since its inception 22 years ago, Jeff Clayton, Bill Cunliffe, Wycliffe Gordon, Terell Stafford and Lewis Nash.

“It’s about balance,” John Clayton says of the Workshop, which has cultivated more than 200 young musicians since its inception, many of whom have gone on to become Grammy winners and successful professional musicians. “The person who can play by ear and read music and understand theory has more choices.”

Chris Ferrari, a tenor sax player in the 2017 Vail Jazz Workshop group, is eager to expand the choices of his repertoire. About to start his junior year at Denver School of the Arts, Ferrari has won multiple Downbeat Student Music Awards and was turned onto Vail after watching his friend, 2016 Vail Jazz Workshop alumni Gabe Rupe perform last year.

“Gabe was always one of those people to blow me away. Just seeing the level of talent that came out of the program, I was like, this is no joke. It’s ridiculous to be able to work with John Clayton and all the mentors with such intensity. There is no doubt it will change your outlook and ability as a musician,” Ferrari says.

Ferrari believes that the most important aspect of performing and particularly of improvising on stage is “creating a beautiful story.”

“A lot of times there’s so much vocabulary, patterns and scales … technical aspects to incorporate into our playing, far too often it gets overplayed,” the teen says.

Ferrari anticipates that the Vail Jazz Workshop will serve as a springboard for a flourishing profession of Lincoln Center and Blue Note performances.

“I think it’s always good to dream big. I’ve always had goals of playing on big stages,” he says. “I’ve been able to see people not much older than me doing that. You have to dedicate yourself. If you’re into music and it’s something you want to do, you should be able to share that with the world.”

In addition to Carter and Ferrari, the 2017 Vail Jazz Workshop is comprised of bass players Ben Feldman from Seattle and Colorado native Anthony Golden. Drummers include Kofi Shepsu from Richmond, VA and Peter Glynn from Maplewood, NJ. Clay Eshleman from Marietta, GA and Ari Chais from Tel Aviv, Israel are the group’s pianists, Geoffrey Gallante from Alexandria, VA and James Haddad from Brooklyn the trumpeters and Zach Guzman Mejia of Las Vegas and Sam Keedy of Greeley on trombone.

 

“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,” John Clayton says. “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.’”

 

Vail Jazz @ Vail Square Aug. 31

To kick off the 2017 Vail Jazz Labor Day Weekend Party, it’s a triple bill grand finale of Vail Jazz @ Vail Square begins at 6 p.m. on Aug. 31 with the Vail Jazz Workshop All-Stars followed by the Vail Jazz Workshop Alumni Quintet (?). The extravaganza wraps up with the mentors themselves, the star-studded Vail Jazz Party House Band – John Clayton, Jeff Clayton, Terell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe, Wycliffe Gordon and Lewis Nash. For tickets, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

Meet the 2017 Vail Jazz Workshop

Each year in late summer, a dozen of North America’s most gifted young jazz musicians come to Vail for one of the nations most highly regarded pre-college study programs. Now in its 22nd year, the Workshop is conducted exclusively, and uniquely, without any written music, emphasizing listening skills, improvisation, and playing by ear. Over ten very long days and nights, these twelve young jazz wunderkinds learn and perform in a high pressure environment of talented peers, world-renowned instructors, and legendary professional musicians at the Vail Jazz Party over Labor Day weekend.

By anecdote, reputation and word-of-mouth, the 12 annual Workshop slots are among music’s most coveted scholarships for high school jazz players. The Workshop professors are legendary jazz artists including Workshop director John Clayton (bass), Jeff Clayton (saxophone), Bill Cunliffe (piano), Wycliffe Gordon (trombone), Lewis Nash (drums), and Terell Stafford (trumpet).

Once again, there were a record number of Workshop hopefuls—more than 150 this year—vying to join the distinguished cadre of 250 alumni. This year’s twelve students are: Marvin Carter (alto sax), Ari Chais (piano), Clay Eshleman (piano), Ben Feldman (bass), Chris Ferrari (tenor sax), Geoffrey Gallante (trumpet), Peter Glynn (drums), Anthony Golden (bass), Zach Guzman Mejia (trombone), James Haddad (trumpet), Sam Keedy (trombone), and Kofi Shepsu (drums). Learn more about the students who comprise the 2017 Vail Jazz Workshop.

Many Workshop alumni have advanced to highly successful careers, garnering Grammy® recognition, recording opportunities, and tours and performances at notable jazz venues and music festivals throughout the world. The success of our Workshop graduates, and their glowing accolades for the Vail experience, provide ever greater reinforcement for the stellar reputation of the Workshop as one of the finest performing jazz incubators in the world.

Vail Jazz honored for paving educational path

Founder Howard Stone receives prestigious Downbeat Jazz Education Achievement Award.

Howard Stone has served as more than just a springboard for many young musicians’ career paths. But you’d be pressed to get him to admit it.

Try asking him about all the years he hosted the crew of Vail Jazz Workshop students in his very own home or about the time he personally bought shoes for a particularly necessitous young student and he consistently plays down his role.

So it’s no surprise when asking him about the extremely prestigious award he won this spring – the Jazz Education Achievement Award from Downbeat Magazine – that he immediately deflects all credit.

“I’m not an educator,” he says. “There is no question I started the program, but I want the individuals who actually educate to be recognized. It’s one thing to sit in a room and dream up an idea. Sometimes you want to slap idea people.”

Nobody wants to slap Stone. They just want to give him the award.

The education program he “dreamed up” is the Vail Jazz Workshop, launched 22 years ago when Stone realized after one year of organizing the Vail Jazz Festival that he should also establish a tideway for the future of the art form, enlisting famed bassist John Clayton as head mentor.

Each year, the Workshop hosts 12 of North America’s top teenage musical prodigies for 10 intensive days of focused training, all without the help of written music. Since the inaugural workshop, the team of educators has included John Clayton and his brother, saxophonist Jeff Clayton (whose role was temporarily filled by Dick Oates for two seasons), as well as pianist Bill Cunliffe. Trumpeter Terell Stafford and drummer Lewis Nash joined the mentor team 21 and 17 years ago, respectively, followed by trombonist Wycliffe Gordon six years ago.

“There is a healthy understanding of the importance of “giving back, moving things forward and investing in the future,” John Clayton says of the Workshop.

“Some of it gets to be pretty emotional because you see the students at the beginning of the week and share so much,” Stafford adds. “You get to watch incredible relationships blossom.”

Attending the Vail Jazz Workshop has become such a benchmark achievement that organizers receive more than 140 applications from up-and-coming musicians for the 12 spots each year. All arrive with resumés reading like those of accomplished pros and leave with the distinctive, incomparable ability to play by ear.

The Vail Jazz Workshop has cultivated 250 students over the past two-plus decades and many have gone on to illustrious musical careers, including Grammy Award winner Robert Glasper, Beyoncé band member Tia Fuller and award-winning documentary Keep On Keepin’ On star Justin Kauflin.

“The Jazz Workshop allowed me to learn from some of the greatest jazz musicians around and gave me the chance to learn alongside peers that challenged and inspired me to strive to always improve,” Kauflin said during a return visit to Vail in 2014 with various other Vail Jazz Workshop Alumni.  “I’ve been able to keep in contact with faculty and students after the workshop and am so fortunate to be a part of such an elite network of musicians.”

Workshop days are intense. Step into any one of them and you are likely to find students glued to their instrument in heavy concentration of each note or clustered around the mentors, hanging on their every word. After the week of training, Workshops students graduate to the status of Vail Jazz All-Stars and get to take their freshly cultivated skills to the stage, opening the annual Vail Jazz Party over Labor Day weekend, followed by a set from Vail Jazz Workshop Alumni and the mentors themselves, dubbed the Vail Jazz Party House Band.

 

But the education efforts of Vail Jazz continue all year. Following the advent of the Vail Jazz Workshop, Stone teamed up with local piano paragon Tony Gulizia to launch Vail Jazz Goes to School, a four-part educational series delivered to every elementary school in the valley. Here, fourth and fifth graders learn the art of syncopation, the 12-bar blues and improvisation as well as lessons in the history and evolution of jazz music. Since its inception in 1998, Vail Jazz Goes to School has educated more than 18,000 young students. Gulizia’s team is comprised of his brother, Joey Gulizia on drums, Andy Hall (bass), Roger Neumann (woodwinds), Mike Gurciullo (trumpet) and Michael Pujado (congas and percussion).

In 2013, also with Gulizia in the instructional seat, Stone’s next brainchild came into fruition. Vail Jazz introduced Jammin’ Jazz Kids, a free, hands-on class offered to 4 to 12-year-old children every Sunday in July preceding the weekly Vail Jazz@ The Market performance. Gulizia and fellow musician/mentor Brian Loftus equip the crowd of youngsters with xylophones, congas, tambourines, bongos and maracas, and within a few magical moments, the kids are thundering out amazing rhythms. For several children, the experience is pivotal in encouraging instrumental hobbies.

True that Stone is not the teacher conducting the hand-to-hand and ear-to-ear exchanges in these educational sessions, but they wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for him.

“There’s something to be said for creators and something more to be said for doers,” he says.

But doers cannot do until the creation is in place. The musical community, young and old, novice and pro, have Stone to thank for this.

Altogether, Vail Jazz delivers more than 50 educational programs every year, imparting musical knowledge to more than 1,400 students annually.

2017 Vail Jazz Gala July 10

Vail Jazz’s educational programs would also not exist if it weren’t for the generosity of donors and supporters. The annual Vail Jazz Gala serves as the organization’s No. 1 fundraiser for its educational programming.

The July 10 event, From Bridge Street to Bourbon Street is bound to do exactly that –  transport audiences to the heart of New Orleans. Starring iconic, New Orleans-based vocalist John Boutté and a colossal combination of Vail Jazz Workshop Alumni, the evening delivers a soulful performance as well as an exquisite dinner, cocktail and appetizer reception. For more information or tickets, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

2016 Vail Jazz All-Stars CD available for preorder

The pre-order of the 2016 Vail Jazz All-Stars double CD is now available for purchase! CDs will be shipped no later than December 1, 2016.After 10 days of intensive study, the 12 students that are selected every year to participate in the Vail Jazz Workshop are proudly billed as the “Vail Jazz All-Stars.” This double cd features the 2016 Vail Jazz All-Stars, and their performances from Thursday, September 1 – Sunday, September 5 at the 22nd Annual Vail Jazz Party.

Listen to a preview of the tracks here!

Pre-order your CD today:

ALTO COMBO

Austin Zhang (alto sax), Joe Giordano (trombone), Zaq Davis (trumpet), Jake Sasfai (piano), Philip Morris (bass), Nick Kepron (drums)

TENOR COMBO

Alex Yuwen (tenor sax), Jasim Perales (trombone), David Sneider (trumpet), Carter Brodkorb (piano), Gabe Rupe (bass), Brian Richburg Jr. (drums)

TRACK LIST INCLUDES:

Shaw ‘Nuff (Dizzy Gillespie)
I Mean You (Thelonious Monk)
How Deep is the Ocean (Irving Berlin)
Stone Age Shuffle (John Clayton)
Driftin’ (Herbie Hancock)
12’s It (Ellis Marsalis)
Hymn to Freedom (Oscar Peterson)
Flee, as a Bird, to Your Mountain/When the Saints Go Marching In (Mary Dana Schindler/traditional)
You Do Something to Me (Cole Porter)
Body and Soul, in the style of John Coltrane (Johnny Green)

Vail Jazz launches Vail Jazz Party with Thursday triple bill at Vail Square

“There is no better audience than the Vail audience. You can hear a pin drop, they are listening so intently.” -Workshop piano instructor Bill Cunliffe

The musical experience in Lionshead on Thursday is as full-circle as it gets. The triple bill serves as the grand finale of the summer’s Vail Jazz @ Vail Square series but is also the mighty kickoff of The 22nd annual Vail Jazz Labor Day Weekend Party. It begins with 12 of the country’s top teenage jazz musicians, freshly minted “Vail Jazz All-Stars” having just graduated from a workshop with six of the world’s most respected and established jazz pros. A selection of Workshop alumni, now professional artists themselves, take the stage after the teenagers. The ultimate culmination of talent wraps up the evening with a performance by the mentors themselves, the Vail Jazz Party House Band.

“There is a healthy understanding of the importance of giving back, moving things forward and investing in the future,” says John Clayton, leader of the Vail Jazz Party House Band and Workshop. “The Vail Jazz Party has committed to simultaneously presenting first-class performances as well as being responsible for a high level of jazz education.”

Besides helping launch the inaugural Vail Jazz Party 22 years ago and the educational workshop a year later, Clayton’s repertoire of positive impact and star-mingling spans decades. Like the 250-plus students he has mentored in Vail (and thousands of others across the globe), Clayton tapped into his musical talent as a small child. By the time he was 16, he was playing bass at UCLA in a class taught by Ray Brown. In the 1970s, he joined the Monty Alexander Trio, then the Count Basie Orchestra before crossing the Atlantic to settle into a decade in Amsterdam as principal bassist for the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and instructor at Holland’s Royal Conservatory. He returned to California to juggle a number of successful touring ensembles, educational workshops and jazz festivals as well as arranging, conducting, performing and recording with a long list of big name artists. It was Clayton who arranged Whitney Houston’s rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the 1990 Super Bowl. He has collaborated with Diana Krall, Natalie Cole and Whitney Houston. He won a GRAMMY for Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist for Queen Latifah’s “I’m Gonna Live Til I Die” and seven additional nominations.

Regardless of which hat he’s wearing – be it composer, arranger, mentor, or performer – Clayton claims that the most rewarding interactions he has are the variety that confirm a powerful connection is made.

“When an audience member lets me know that my music touched them, made them feel great or made them cry, it makes me feel like I was successful in sharing my expression,” he says.
But Clayton’s certainly not the only member of the Vail Jazz Party House band who’s been places. New to the Vail Jazz Party House Band as of last year, saxophonist Dick Oatts has performed and recorded with an amazing array of stars, including Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Mel Tormé. He is a former faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music and a professor alongside trumpeter Terell Stafford at Temple University.

Stafford is Director of Jazz Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia and leads his own quintet, which will perform this weekend in Vail. He’s performed and recorded with many GRAMMY winning artists, including Diana Krall, Bobby Watson and Herbie Mann.

A Vail Jazz Workshop mentor for many years, Stafford views the triple bill Vail Jazz Party kickoff performance as “a big reunion” and says that there is something unquestionably validating about such a “family affair.”

“One particular year, the parents of a student came up to me and let me know their son had a rough year and that the Vail Workshop was the highlight of his year. You always hear growing up that music is powerful and healing, not just from a listening standpoint, but from a mentoring one,” Stafford says.

Wycliffe Gordon, who has won Downbeat Magazine’s Critic’s Choice award for Best Trombone numerous times and has performed with the likes of Wynston Marsalis, Dizzy Gillespie and Tommy Flanagan describes the triple bill experience as “playing it forward.”

“It’s a great opportunity for us to meet the next bandleaders, composers, arrangers and conductors,” he says.

Not only are the students and musicians focused on the energy afoot when the Vail Jazz circle of past, present and future comes together, but the audience is completely enraptured.

“There is no better audience than the Vail audience. You can hear a pin drop, they are listening so intently,” says GRAMMY-winning composer and pianist Bill Cunliffe, who is a Professor of Music at California State University Fullerton and has shared the stage with Frank Sinatra, James Moody and Freddie Hubbard.

Lewis Nash, the most recorded jazz drummer of all time, has performed and recorded with everyone from Clark Terry to George Michael, Hank Jones to Bette Midler. He says he was once approached by a Vail fan who told him, “I never liked drum solos before hearing you play.”

So again, the fire of talent burns in a complete ring, heated up by the 12-piece ensemble of teenage protégés – the Vail Jazz All-Stars, comprised of pianists Carter Brodkorb and Jake Sasfai, trumpeters Zaq Davis and David Sneider, bassists Philip Norris and Gabe Rupe, saxophonists Alex Yuwen and Austin Zhang, trombonists Joseph Giordano and Jasim Perales and drummers Nick Kepron and Brian Richburg. The Vail Jazz Alumni Quintet then ramps up the flames, featuring pianist Adam Bravo, bassist Russell Hall, drummer Lucianna Padmore, trumpeter Benny Benack III and saxophonist Braxton Cook. The fire reaches inferno proportions as Clayton, Stafford, Cunliffe, Oatts, Nash and Gordon take the stage as the Vail Jazz Party House Band.


Catch the triple bill of the past, present and future, featuring the Vail Jazz All-Stars, Alumni Quintet and House Band at Vail Jazz @ Vail Square from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 1 inside the all-weather jazz tent in Lionshead. General admission tickets are sold out but premium seating is $40 in advance. The All-Stars also perform FREE sets at Vail Square at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For tickets or more information, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

Vail Jazz in the news

22nd Annual Vail Jazz Festival

The 22nd Annual Vail Jazz Festival is two months away, and already making headlines!

“The Vail Jazz Festival has recruited numerous internationally known jazz legends for more than two decades, and this season, which kicks off in July, is slated to be its biggest season ever.” -Westword

Check out a special DownBeat article on Colorado Jazz Getaways, focusing on Vail Jazz along with Telluride and Aspen, as must-see jazz festivals in the High Rockies. Covering highlights of the Vail Jazz Festival, Vail Jazz Party, and the Vail Jazz Workshop, the article gives a tantalizing glimpse into what is in store for attendees this summer. Read the article here.

You can also catch more coverage of the Vail Jazz Festival in Denver-based magazine Westwordarticle here.

Vail Jazz Workshop Alumni

Vail Jazz Alumni have also been making waves in national news. A recent in-depth article features Keyon Harrold (’97) and his role as the trumpet player behind actor Don Cheadle in the new Miles Davis biopic, Miles Ahead. The article also covers his relationship with alum Robert Glasper (’97), who composed the music for the project. Read the article here.

Robert Glasper (the composer on Miles Ahead) was also at the New School around the same time, but Harrold and Glasper actually met at a the Vail Jazz Foundation summer camp [sic] in Vail, Colorado years prior.  Glasper was the one who initially got Harrold the audition.  Funny how things work out.

Also in the news, Terrace Martin (’97), the saxophonist behind rapper Kendrick Lamar’s multiple GRAMMY-winning album To Pimp a Butterfly is garnering attention for his own album Velvet Portraits (NYTime review) and is playing at some of the biggest jazz venues around – including an upcoming sold out performance at SFJazz.

 

Before you go!
If you haven’t already heard the news, alum Grace Kelly (’08) recently joined fellow alum Eddie Barbash (’05) to play with Jon Batiste and Stay Human on Late Nite with Stephen Colbert!

@jonbatiste and Stay Human getting the crowd warmed up. Any minute now! #LSSCLXXXVII

A photo posted by Late Show with Stephen Colbert (@colbertlateshow) on

Workshop alumns in Vanity Fair

Two recent articles in Vanity Fair Magazine focused on today’s bright new generation of jazz musicians, and featured a dozen Vail Jazz Workshop alumns in the ranks of the best young musicians on the scene.

Grace Kelly (’08, sax) appears alongside Vail favorite Cyrille Aimée in an article about Millenials who are shaking up the jazz world. (Robert Glasper, ’97 piano, gets an honorable mention but misses the age cutoff).

In another article about the parade of sensational young jazz players on today’s scene, dubbed the Jazz “youth-quake” ,  another nine Vail Jazz Workshop alumns are mentioned.

Congrats to Elena Pinderhughes (’11, sax), Luques Curtis (’00, bass), Russell Hall (’10, bass), Hailey Niswanger (’07, sax), Lakecia Benjamin (’99, sax), Erica Von Kleist (’98, sax), Sullivan Fortner (’02, piano), Marcus Gilmore (’02, drums), and alumn of the original 1998 Workshop class, Miles Mosley (bass).

Photo for Vanity Fair by Mark Seliger.

 

 

2015 Vail Jazz Party photos now online

Pictures from the 21st Annual Vail Jazz Party are now online! Featuring pictures from nine sessions over Labor Day Weekend, with incredible solos, group performances and once-in-a-lifetime jam sessions. Check them out below:

 

 

Vail Jazz All-Stars CD now available for preorder

2015-All-StarsEach year, a dozen of North America’s most dedicated, gifted and promising young jazz musicians are chosen from a broad field of talented applicants, receiving scholarships to participate in the Vail Jazz Workshop. After 10 days of intensive study, the students are proudly referred to as the “Vail Jazz All-Stars,” performing on several occasions as part of the Vail Jazz Party.

This double cd features the 2015 Vail Jazz All-Stars, and their performances from Thursday, September 3 – Sunday, September 6 at the 21st Annual Vail Jazz Party. Over the Vail Jazz Party, the Vail Jazz All-Stars performed in two sextets, the Alto Combo and the Tenor Combo, and all together as a whole.

The songs they performed ranged from well-known jazz favorites to original pieces composed by the students themselves, including Jerome Gillespie’s “What I Meant to Say,” Max Schwartz’s “Mountain Bounce,” Ethan Santos’ “Softly,” and Luca Mendoza’s “Escape.”

Buy your copy today and you will be stunned by the incredible talent of these young musicians, as composers and performers. All sales benefit the 2016 Vail Jazz Workshop; help us support the future of jazz!

 

 

Please note that this is a preorder and the CDs will be ready to ship by December 1, 2015.

 

‘Unrehearsed brilliance’ at the annual Vail Jazz Party on Labor Day weekend

In the early 20th century, musicians began combining Caribbean and African drumming, creating a new sound ingrained in American history: jazz.

“Jazz is America’s unique musical art form,” said Owen Hutchinson, development manager for Vail Jazz. The genre has become a quintessential part of American culture, making the Vail Jazz Party, taking place Thursday through Monday, Sept. 7, a fitting way to celebrate the Labor Day holiday weekend.

The party is the culmination of the 12-week Vail Jazz Festival, which runs from June through September. Approximately 30 world-renowned jazz musicians, such as John Clayton and Roberta Gambarini, will play over the long weekend. Eleven sessions of multiple sets span the five days of festivities and allow the audience to see jazz legends, young professionals and the most talented jazz students in the country.

IMMERSED IN IMPROV

Each set is performed by a collection of musicians who have never before played in that specific mixture. Each combination of artists will improvise in front of an average audience of more than 500 people. This focus on spontaneity that has long characterized jazz is one of the party’s features that brings jazz lovers back to Vail each year.

Clayton, a bass player and former student of bass legend Ray Brown, said on-stage improvisation and connecting with old friends and young musicians off stage are the best parts of performing in Vail.

“That connection is inspiring” he said, suggesting that it helps develop his creativity. “I have to dig into a deeper place and combine my efforts and experiences” to play with these musicians.

While this creative process may seem like it will yield unwieldy results, Hutchinson said the results of the combinations and different styles are “unrehearsed brilliance.” And the continued success of the Jazz Party corroborates that stance.

The on-stage communication that makes jazz so unique is one of the features that Clayton associates with the genre. One of his earliest musical memories is of watching Brown on stage with other musicians in a Los Angeles club, communicating with their bodies and eyes.

“They were communicating with each other and having a joyous time,” Clayton said. This approach to music affects his playing even today, as he learned early to associate fun with music.

MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS

The Jazz Party weekend will provide audiences with endless opportunities to see musicians having fun.

  • Opening night, Thursday, welcomes back artists Bill Cunliffe and Lewis Nash, among others.
  • Friday is largely dedicated to celebrating women in jazz and begins with a showing of the award-winning documentary “The Girls in the Band.” After the film, there will be a multimedia tribute to women in jazz. Seven female performers, including Gambarini, Sherrie Maricle, Niki Haris and Lauren Falls, will perform and discuss their forerunners.
  • Saturday, Sept. 5, focuses on the contribution Brown made to jazz and the influence of drum rhythms.
  • The Gospel Prayer Meetin’ performance on Sunday, Sept. 6, will highlight the importance of gospel sounds to jazz. Since many of the artists developed in a gospel setting, Hutchinson said, this will be a high-energy and fun show.
  • The Jazz Party ends on Monday, Sept. 7, with an all-day session showcasing some of the festival’s greatest artists, including Gambarini, George Cables and others.

Along with fun, the Jazz Party also provides “edutainment,” or entertaining learning opportunities, said Robin Litt, of the Vail Jazz Foundation. Several performances throughout the five days are in a multimedia format, educating the audience about the lives of jazz legends through music, video and still footage. Litt said she hopes these shows will allow the audience to leave performances inspired to learn more.

FUTURE OF JAZZ

The Jazz Party also provides opportunities to hear the future of jazz. Clayton said he enjoys listening to the young musicians at the festival because of their varied and contemporary musical vocabulary, incorporating hip-hop and New Orleans-based sounds.

“I love a lot of what they do,” Clayton said, “and I want to grow in that way, as well.”

To encourage the future of jazz, Vail Jazz offers the Vail Jazz Workshop each year during the Jazz Party. Twelve high school students are invited to study in Vail with the professionals playing in the festival. These students go through a rigorous audition, and the workshop aims to provide a focused, technical education different from what they receive at home with their regular teachers. Through this process, Clayton also hopes to solidify their passion for jazz.

“They already come in love with the music and with the idea of pursuing the music at the highest level they can, and they’re only in high school! But they’ve already got that focus,” Clayton said.

With a professional per every two students, these young musicians receive the attention they need to take their music to a higher level. The teachers are also dedicated to breaking some of the constraints with which many contemporary students approach music. Because of an increased dependence on sheet music in universities and conservatories, many students never develop the confidence to improvise.

But at the Vail Jazz workshop, no sheet music is allowed and independent creativity is encouraged. Playing on stage with professionals reinforces this skill, which, according to Litt, is a “very inspiring experience for the students because they’re seeing a life in jazz.”

The Vail Jazz Party is also a place for adults who don’t yet appreciate jazz to learn that it’s more than the classic ballad crooner sounds of Bing Crosby and Sinatra or the free-form elevator music pervasive in shopping malls. It includes genres such as swing and Dixieland, with danceable beats and high energy. So whether you are a jazz skeptic or aficionado, a traditionalist or contemporary jazz listener, there is something for everyone to enjoy at the Vail Jazz Party.