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.


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.


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.


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.

Make way for the next generation of jazz

In its 20th year, the Vail Jazz Workshop hosts 12 of the nation’s top teenage musicians preceding this weekend’s annual Labor Day Jazz Party

Luca Rodoni wasn’t one of those musical prodigies who sat down at his first piano lesson as a small boy and started playing a symphony.

“When I was young, I hated it,” says the high school senior, one of 12 teenagers selected from a massive pool of applicants to partake in this week’s Vail Jazz Workshop. “I went to every lesson crying. I went home crying. That went on for years.”

So the piano wasn’t his thing.

The trumpet was a different story.

On his ninth birthday, Rodoni’s Swiss grandfather brought him a trumpet. When he had to choose an instrument for school a year or two later, he picked it up. Right before he entered the seventh grade, Rodoni was exposed to a local jazz camp. Although it was “just a dinky thing,” he says the camp “opened my ears.”

Hypnotized by the magic of jazz harmony, Rodoni “got very serious” about music. He began playing his trumpet for hours every day and seizing every opportunity to learn more about jazz. He formed several performance groups, has traveled with the elite Jazz Band of America and even up and moved to Park City, Utah in order to further his blossoming jazz career.

Still, he applied for the Vail Jazz Workshop last year and was not selected.

Determined to make it happen this year, however, Rodoni proved his worth to Vail Jazz Workshop mentor and co-founder John Clayton by transcribing intricate solos of his trumpet heroes – Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard and Blue Mitchell. Among 140 extremely talented applicants from across the United States vying for one of 12 spots in the 2015 Vail Jazz Workshop, Rodoni made the cut.

In its 20th year, the Vail Jazz Workshop is a 10-day program in which Clayton – a Grammy winner and one of the world’s leading jazz bassists – and the five other members of the Vail Jazz Party House Band intensively mentor the students in technique and playing by ear. The workshop culminates in students transforming into the Vail Jazz All-Stars and performing multiple times throughout the 21st annual Vail Jazz Party, Sept. 3 to 7 alongside the Vail Jazz House Band and 40 other national and international renowned jazz stars. They perform two free shows – at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday in the Jazz Tent in Lionshead.

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

Led by fellow Vail Jazz House Band members and mentors Terell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe, Wycliffe Gordon, Lewis Nash and Dick Oatts, the 2015 Vail Jazz Workshop is comprised of 11 other teenage students, who, in spite of their youth, are also on the fast track to becoming professional musicians.

A California native, 17-year-old drummer Alec Smith is also a member of Jazz Band of America. He has won scholarships to the Stanford Jazz Institute and is part of several performing groups. TrumpeterEvan Abounassar (age 16) has already won outstanding soloist awards at the Monterey, Reno and Irvine Jazz Festivals and has played with the likes of The Grammy Jazz Band and National YoungArts Foundation. A brass multi-instrumentalist, trombonist Remee Ashley (16) has split his teenage years performing with the San Francisco High School All-Stars as well as the Berkeley High Chamber Winds & Orchestra and provides free music lessons to underprivileged children. The workshop’s two student bass players have ties to Berkeley as well. Solomon Gottfried (17) also launched his childhood musical pursuits on the piano but by the time he was big enough to handle a double bass, found his true calling, moving to Michigan to attend Interlochen Arts Academy and perform with the Academy orchestra, which included a tour of China. Bassist and Berkely resident Max Schwartz (18) was only 10 years old when he began arranging jazz compositions and now performs regularly at the San Francisco Jazz Center and popular jazz club Yoshi’s.

The piano stuck for Californians Lucas Hahn (age 15) and Luca Mendoza (16).

Specializing in both jazz and classical, Mendoza has, among many other honors, won Best Composition for the DownBeat Student Music Awards and was NextGen Finalist at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Hahn trains with renowned pianist Taylor Eigsti and was selected for the elite Stanford Jazz Workshop Jazz Camp and Residency program at the age of 12. Trombonist Ethan Santos (17) won a DownBeat Student Music Award (for Outstanding Performance) and has been a part of Stanford Jazz Institute, the California Band Director’s Association Honor Concert Band, the California Orchestra Director’s Association Honors Symphony Orchestra, the Cal Poly All-State Music Festival Honor Jazz Band and the 2015 GRAMMYCamp-Jazz Session big band. Both of the saxophone players at Vail Jazz’s 2015 workshop hail from the tri-state area. Growing up in Brooklyn, 17-year-old Rodney James-Spann established an inseparable bond with the tenor sax in middle school after years of piano lessons, earning him a spot in the Julliard Music Advancement Program. Having won many other scholarships to elite nationally recognized programs, he was the youngest member selected for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Youth Orchestra. New Jersey native Alex Laurenzi got his start on violin from the age of 6 before switching to alto sax at age 9, going on to win a DownBeat Student Award for best junior high school soloist, an Essentially Ellington Outstanding Alto Saxophonist Award and a spot in the 2015 Grammy Band. Jerome Gillespie (17) also started out on the violin as a very small boy but gravitated to the drums by the time he was 6. Having won the MusicDoingGood scholarship all-star award and selected as Outstanding Soloist at the Moores School of Jazz Festival, he attends Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

Clearly, each of this year’s workshop students is a rising star already. For students like Rodoni, however, this week with Vail Jazz presents the most pivotal learning and performance experience yet.

Although it brought on all those tears as a child, the piano is now a crucial composition tool for the trumpet player, who dedicates five hours a day to playing jazz. Allowing both his talent and passion to guide him, the Bozeman teen has already played with Vail Jazz veteran Wycliffe Gordon, fellow trombonist Robin Eubanks and trumpet great Brian Lynch. He even performed with a band that opened for rock group Journey in front of 45,000 people at a music festival in Salt Lake City. But he views this week’s workshop and upcoming performances in Vail as his next major career step.

“I have so many questions that range from technical stuff to concepts,” Rodoni says. “It’s a great time to ask those questions when you’re around a world class faculty. The accessibility of these very accomplished musicians is really the big thing. I’m theirs for a week and they’re mine. There’s incredible inspiration that comes from that.”

Q+A with the Vail Jazz Workshop Instructors: John Clayton

Mastermind behind the Vail Jazz Workshop and a pioneer of the Vail Jazz Festival, Grammy winner John Clayton grew up in California learning bass from jazz master Ray Brown, whose bass he now plays.

He toured with the Monty Alexander Trio and the Count Basie Orchestra before taking the position of principle bass in the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Upon his return to the states he founded The Clayton Brothers with his brother (and long-time Workshop instructor) saxophonist Jeff Clayton. John is an avid music educator, and currently serves as Artistic Director for no fewer than five jazz organizations, and has composed or arranged for the likes of Natalie Cole, The Tonight Show Band, Quincy Jones, Whitney Houston and Diana Krall.


What is the most memorable comment you’ve received?

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.

What’s your favorite on-stage or pre-gig sipper?

I don’t drink on stage. I spent two years in the Count Basie Orchestra and five years in the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Both insisted that you hydrate before playing, so I am a bit “Old School” in that regard.

What about a post-gig drink?

Afterward, I’m a wine guy!

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

It’s hard to mention only one! The list would include the Acropolis in Athens, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Carnegie Hall, The Hollywood Bowl, and a long list of small venues around the world with intimate acoustics.



Watch the six Vail Jazz Workshop Instructors in action this Vail Jazz Party, together as the Vail Jazz Party House Band and on their own throughout the weekend!

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 Festival welcomes students from across the nation

Carolyn Pope for “Vail Valley Scenery,” Special To the Vail Daily

If you see some high-schoolers wandering around Vail this week, instrument cases in hand and a bounce in their step, you might give them a high-five and welcome them to the world of Vail Jazz.

This week, 12 young men from across the nation are in Vail honing their skills with some of the best jazz instructors and musicians in the country. Education is the cornerstone of the Vail Jazz Foundation. It’s not just about bringing in world-class musicians for all of us to enjoy; it’s about passing the torch to the next generation, and the folks of the Jazz Festival, under the watchful eye of Howard Stone, have been doing just that for the past 20 years.

“This may be the most talented group we have ever seen,” said Owen Hutchinson, development manager for the Jazz Foundation.

The students were introduced to their host families, a group of six families from Vail to Edwards who volunteer their homes and hospitality for the week the students are attending classes. Dinner was served at Lion Square Lodge, and a casual jam session featuring the students ensued. The young men had only been together for one afternoon, which gave the audience a first look at their talent.

Maureen Mayer, along with her husband, Wing, have hosted students for the past four years. “I love jazz, plain and simple,” she said. “I want to see the art form move further, and the only way for that to happen is to have young people learning and playing jazz.”

The other hosts echoed her sentiments.

“The kids who get chosen are not only talented but intelligent,” she said. “They have to fit all their gigs in on top of school, and they are all stellar students.”

Also hosting students are locals Karen Rosenbach and Tom Daniel, Sharon Kirschner and Dan Brajtbord, Glen and Margaret Wood, Karen and Jay Johnson, and I couldn’t resist, either, since my son headed off to college this fall, so I have two great kids, Alec Smith, a drummer, and Alex Laurenzi, who plays alto saxophone.

Vail Jazz turns 21 and celebrates with blowout party this Labor Day weekend!

It’s customary to go big for one’s 21st year. Vail Jazz is jumping on the bandwagon and pulling out all of the stops for its end-of-summer bash.

Following an entire summer of buildup with weekly concerts featuring a steady stream of today’s hottest jazz artists — many of whom formed in Vail for the first time — the 21st annual Vail Jazz Party brings five days of live music through Labor Day weekend and a more star-studded lineup than ever before.


Thursday, Sept. 3

The party kicks off with the season’s Vail Jazz @ Vail Square finale, featuring a triple bill in the jazz tent in Lionshead Village. The evening begins with 12 teenage proteges carefully selected from 150-plus applicants — the Vail Jazz All-Stars — who will have spent the week vigorously studying with seasoned pros from the Vail Jazz House Band. Then comes the Alumni Quintet — comprised of former students and current rising stars Lauren Falls, Sophie Faught, Evan Sherman, Jumaane Smith and Jeremy Siskind. The performance wraps up with a thunderous set by the Vail Jazz Party House Band, starring John Clayton, Lewis Nash, Terell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe, Wycliffe Gordon and Dick Oatts. All three bands will perform several times throughout the Vail Jazz Party, the All-Stars playing for free at the Jazz Tent in Lionshead at 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 5 and6).

As for the performances Sept. 4-7, the list of artists and performances rivals that of internationally-renowned events like the Newport or Montreal jazz festivals.

Friday, Sept. 4

Running with Vail Jazz’s summer theme of amazingly talented musicians who happen to be women, Sept. 4 kicks off with a screening of the award-winning documentary “The Girls in the Band,” detailing the largely untold stories of female jazz musicians from the 1930s to today, featuring the likes of trombone player Melba Liston, trumpeter Clora Bryant, pianist Marian McPartland, as well as current artists such as DIVA drummer Sherrie Maricle, who will perform in the multimedia tribute to women in jazz alongside powerhouse vocalists Roberta Gambarini, Niki Haris and many others.

The all-female performance is preceded by a performance by George Cables’ trio (bassist George Mraz and drummer Lewis Nash). Considered one of the top jazz pianists of all time, the New York City-based star has been leading bands since the 1960s, recording and performing with big names such as Woody Shaw, Dexter Gordon and Art Blakey.

Saturday, Sept. 5

The Vail Square stage hosts a rotating rainbow of talent beginning at 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 5 Along with another performance by George Cables, standout artists include six-string sensation Russell Malone, who specializes in swing and bebop guitar and who spent several years recording and touring with Harry Connick Jr., Diana Krall and Sonny Rollins. There’s also trumpeter and bandleader Sean Jones, who performed on Nancy Wilson’s Grammy-winning record and has twice won Downbeat’s Rising Star award. Let’s not forget Vail Jazz Party mainstays Jeff Hamilton, who has drummed with Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie Orchestra and leads his own trio, and trumpeter Terell Stafford, director of jazz studies at Temple University.

The evening heats up as the magic moves to the Vail Marriott with a tribute to the great Ray Brown featuring powerhouse trio Larry Fuller, John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton, followed by Roberta Gambarini’s hypnotizing vocal performance and the most recorded jazz drummer in history, Lewis Nash’s blowout multimedia tribute to his drum heroes.

Sunday, Sept. 6

Don’t think that Sunday morning (Sept. 6) is sleepy around here, especially with what has historically proven itself as the Vail Jazz Party’s most popping event, the Gospel Prayer Meetin’. Led by the energy of vocalist Niki Haris, the stage quakes with the force of the Mile Hi Gospel Ensemble and moving numbers performed by musical stars Byron Stripling, Wycliffe Gordon, Sean Jones and many others. Sunday afternoon (Sept. 6) sessions bring red-hot performances by the Vail jazz Party House Band and Piano Duos, starring a revolving cast of six acclaimed key masters (including Shelly Berg, Larry Fuller, George Cables and Bill Cunliffe) duking it out on grand pianos. Haris returns to the stage Sunday evening (Sept. 6) in the Vail Marriott’s Grand Ballroom alongside Karen Hammack, Marion Haydon and Sherrie Maricle, followed by performances by a jazz celebrity ensemble led by John Clayton, then Byron Stripling’s educational multi-media tribute to the trumpet kings.

Monday, Sept. 7

All of the stars stick around for a final afternoon extravaganza kicking off at 11:30 a.m. with the George Cables Trio, followed by a vocal performance by Roberta Gambarini and one-of-a-kind sets mixing A-listers, Vail Jazz debut artists and long-time regulars. With a final set bringing 13 headliners all onstage at the same time (including four trumpeters!), the Vail Jazz Party ends with an incredible bang!

Single day-time session tickets (including access to all afternoon sets) to the Vail Jazz Party are $55 and evening sessions (including entry to the lively and spontaneous Light Night Jams) are $75. Gospel Prayer Meetin’ tickets are $55. Performance Passes are $350 and Patron Passes are $425 through Friday August 28, when pass prices increase.

Q+A with the Vail Jazz Workshop instructors: Terell Stafford

Terell Stafford first picked up the trumpet at age thirteen, initially studying classical music. After a meeting with Wynton Marsalis who suggested he pursue jazz studies at Rutgers University, he began to become interested in and immerse himself in jazz. Terell eventually made the switch from classical to jazz, and his career took off both as a performer and a musical educator.

Terell is now based in New York, where he has worked with the Juilliard School’s jazz program and the Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington program. He is also the Director of Jazz Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia and serves as the Managing and Artistic Director of the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia. His professional career is just as impressive as his educational one; has performed and recorded with an impressive array of artists and groups, from Diana Krall to Bobby Watson, and currently leads the Terell Stafford Quintet.



What is the best part of the Vail Jazz Festival? 

It’s definitely a family affair. It’s like a big reunion.

What is the most memorable comment you’ve received from a fan?

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 Jazz Workshop was the highlight of his year. He was so excited to play, it really helped him. You always hear growing up that music is powerful and healing, not just from a listening standpoint, but from a mentoring one.

What’s your favorite post-gig meal?

Steak or baby-back ribs.

What is your favorite restaurant in Vail?

Sweet Basil. (psst, check out Vail Jazz @ Sweet Basil on August 30th!)

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

Overlooking Mt. Fuji.



Stay tuned for next week’s “Q+A with: John Clayton”!

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: Dick Oatts

Brand new to the Vail Jazz Festival and the Vail Jazz Workshop, Iowa native Dick Oatts will replace veteran Jeff Clayton this year in the Vail Jazz Party House Band. In 1977 Dick moved to New York City and joined the Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra. Since then he has recorded and toured with an amazing array of stars, including Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Tito Puente, and Mel Tormé, and has appeared on over 100 albums as a sideman. He has been an artist-in-residence at the Amsterdam Conservatory since 1997.

Formerly a faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music, he is now the artistic director and a professor (alongside Terell Stafford) at Temple University. Vail Jazz is proud to welcome him to the Vail Jazz Workshop faculty!



What is your connection to Vail Jazz? 

I have had students attend the Workshop and have worked with several members of its great teaching faculty over the years.


What is your favorite pre-gig beverage?

Water or decaf coffee.

Do you have a pre-gig ritual?

Having a good reed that can vibrate the air I can put into the saxophone. Also, not eating too much in order to have enough air for the gig.

What’s your favorite post-gig meal?

I’m a vegan so my meals are usually boring—something with a little salt or spice added.

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

Village Vanguard in NYC and some of the beautiful outside festivals in Italy, Spain or Greece.



Stay tuned for next week’s “Q+A with: Terell Stafford”!

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: Lewis Nash

Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Lewis developed an early interest in music and began playing drums at age 10. By age 18, he was performing with local jazz groups. Hitting 21, Nash had become the “first call” jazz drummer in Phoenix, working with Sonny Stitt, Art Pepper, Red Garland, Lee Konitz, Barey Kessell, and Slide Hampton during their engagements in the city. In 1981, Nash moved to New York City where he joined the trio of the great jazz vocalist Betty Carter. For nearly four years, he toured internationally with Ms. Carter. He is featured on three of her recordings, including the Grammy winning “Look What I got.”

His impressive discography (over 300 recordings) includes projects with jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Benny Carter, Hank Jones and John Lewis, as well as new jazz stars Diana Krall, Joe Lovano and Roy Hargrove. In fact, Nash was labeled the “Jazz’s Most Valuable Player” in the drumming world by Modern Drummer Magazine.

On Saturday September 5, Lewis will present a special multimedia tribute at this year’s Vail Jazz Party to his own drum influences, including Art Blakey, “Philly Joe” Jones, Max Roach, Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones, and Jimmy Cobb. Lewis, in great demand for his mastery of virtually all drumming styles, is the perfect host for exploring past drum masters. Buy tickets here. {Saturday Evening Session}



What is the best aspect of the Vail Jazz Festival? 

The Vail Jazz Festival is participant friendly. The “icing on the cake,” is that the audiences for the Vail Jazz Festival are some of the most enthusiastic and appreciative to be found anywhere!

What is the most memorable comment you’ve received from a fan?

A Vail fan once approached me after a performance and said, “I never liked drum solos before hearing you play!”

What is your favorite on-stage or pre-gig beverage?

Fresh, cool water. Sometimes a protein shake.

What’s your favorite post-gig meal?

I like pasta or rice dishes since I burn a lot of calories when I play.

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

A bullfighting ring in Spain, a castle in France, a coliseum in Greece, at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan, an opera house in the Amazon in Manaus, Brazil, a cave in Italy, ruins near Beirut, Lebanon.




Stay tuned for next week’s “Q+A with: Dick Oatts”!

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: 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.