The sounds of New Orleans soar through Vail this week

In addition to tonight’s Vail Jazz Gala starring singer John Boutté, iconic pianist/vocalist Henry Butler throws down sizzling solo club shows Wednesday, then Butler, Bernstein & The Hot 9 light up Vail Square Thursday

Henry Butler compares his audience connection to making love. For the 67-year-old blind pianist, connections are all about communicating without words.

“The thing that I really like about performing, regardless of what kind of performance it is, is those energies going back and forth all the time,” he says. “It’s the same energy involved in loving somebody, the same energy involved in love making. It just manifests differently.”

Growing up in New Orleans, La., Henry Butler has been playing music since he was a small boy. Blinded by glaucoma in his infancy, his studies began at Louisiana State School for the Blind and continued at Southern University in Baton Rouge and Michigan State University. Since then, he’s recorded 12 full-length albums, performed in every large festival throughout the country and toured the world many times. He’s come to be regarded as one of the great pianists and vocalists of the ages, revered in both his hometown of New Orleans and his new town of New York City. But Butler says the learning never stops.

When asked what have been some of the more memorable compliments he’s been paid over the years, Butler says, “I’ve gotten all kinds of positive comments and I let people know I appreciate their sentiments. But I always say to myself, ‘hopefully the next time you hear me, I’ll be better.’”

He typically practices twice a day in his small apartment in Brooklyn.

“Part of it is an exercise regime, but that’s the base part. Within the exercise, you decide you have an idea of what you want to accomplish. That concept could be negotiating certain types of harmonic progressions. It could be working on a certain technical thing, or work on scales. It could be on working on proficiency,” he says. “Living in a place like New York, you have to portion your time. Once you get to a place where you know yourself pretty well, you can get a lot done in an hour or an hour and a half.”

Butler’s home was one of the many destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. He lost nearly all of his possessions, including his most treasured piano. Following the disaster, he relocated to Colorado and then New York, but has yet to feel settled.

“I don’t know that I’ve completely gotten over Katrina,” he says. “I just haven’t felt home since. I haven’t felt I lived in a community that felt like home since Katrina. I may go back to New Orleans or I may go to California. I could live anywhere at this point. I might come back to Colorado… but it got a little quiet for me. I needed to hear a few more sirens.”

Bellowing out vocal notes that sound almost operatic against his racketing piano, Butler is a force in and of himself. Still, he has shared the stage and recording studio with everyone from Jeff Golub to Cyndi Lauper, James Carter to B.B. King. His latest collaboration has him fusing cosmic musical powers with famed trumpeter Steven Bernstein & The Hot 9, a boisterous crew including a six-piece horn section: Curtis Fowlkes, Doug Wieselman, Peter Apfelbaum and Eric Lawrence, as well as guitarist Matt Munisteri, bassist Brandi Disterheft, violinist Sam Bardfeld and drummer Donald Edwards.

The result is a hypnotic explosion of  delightful harmony and improvisation, each musician taking turns to launch ahead of the rhythm, catapulting it with fiery solos as the entire band will occasionally pause in awe of Butler’s escalating individual masterpieces, which wander a gamut of emotions from melancholy to ecstasy.

“Every time I go out and sit on stage in front of an audience my goal is to inspire, to uplift, to encourage, to inform. If in some way we can heal a little bit together, that’s great,” Butler says. “The audience usually lets you know if you’re on the way to achieving any of that.”

The message Butler gets from his audience transcends words or applause or anything that can be measured.

“It happens all the time in what we call nanoseconds, when the audience energy comes back to me,” Butler says. “I get more inspired. I realize more ideas to share. As that stuff goes back to the audience, the audience perhaps moves to a different place of different understanding. Maybe it lifts them a little bit.”

To Butler, this type of communication is the deepest type of human connection.

“I’ll tell you what it’s like,” he says. “You’re in a relationship and you’re sitting with that partner and you feel what you’re thinking is something special. And maybe even before the partner says anything, before you utter anything to the partner, before either one of you pronounces love, you’re feeling what you think is love. Wherever an audience is after receiving the music and receiving more and more music, they send that back to me. You feel it. I’m always feeling it.”

Vail Jazz performances

Wednesday, July 12

Henry Butler kicks off the summer’s Vail Jazz Club Series with his rich solo performances at Ludwig’s Terrace in The Sonnenalp Hotel. The first show begins at 6:30 p.m. (doors at 6 p.m.) and the second show begins at 9 p.m.(doors at 8:30 p.m.). Tickets are $40. Drink and dinner service are available for purchase.

Thursday, July 12

Butler, Bernstein & The Hot 9 bring their bouncing, New Orleans-inspired glee symphony to Vail Jazz @Vail Square at 6 p.m. General admission tickets are $25, preferred seats $40 and premium seats $50. Presented by The Jazz Cruise and Blue Note at Sea, Vail Jazz @ Vail Square takes place every Thursday evening throughAug. 24 in the all-weather Jazz Tent in The Arrabelle courtyard in Lionshead. Drinks are available for purchase.

 

Vail Today: Vail Jazz Goes to School connects kids with the history of jazz

Jazz and the history of this American gift to the world of music was alive and well at the Vilar Performing Arts Center this week. The Jazz Goes to School program concluded their school series with a concert led by local Jazz Goes to School educator, Tony Gulizia.

Gulizia was joined by the Vail Jazz Goes to School Sextet, which consists of musicians from all over the nation. They get together for four sessions at local elementary schools each school year. Many of them have been doing this gig since it began 19 years ago.

“I really wanted to reach out to 4th and 5th graders to help spark the interest at that age, especially since they can join band in the 5th grade,” said Gulizia, who has been a music instructor at Eagle County Charter Academy for the past 24 years and is a fixture on the Vail music scene.

As part of their education during the previous sessions, students were taught the 12 Bar Blues. The kids had to come up with innovative lyrics and show their ability to follow the rhythm and rhyming pattern they were taught.

This is often the highlight of each performance as Tony Gulizia sings the lyrics in a bluesy fashion, crooning about things like having to move on from elementary to middle school, or an ice cream scoop falling to the floor and mom making you clean it up.

The lyrics are priceless and so is the experience. “I have so many former participants come up to me even 10 or 15 years later and say how much they remember what they learned in our program or how they went on to play an instrument,” said Gulizia. “It’s great to hear that we’ve made an impact and are keeping jazz alive for the next generation.”

To learn more visit http://www.vailjazz.org.
12-Bar Blues

The fifth-graders who participated in Vail Jazz Goes to School were challenged to write their own lyrics in sync with the jazz chord progression they had learned known as the 12-bar blues. Compositions were judged on innovative lyrics and the ability to follow the rhythm and rhyming pattern they were taught. Here are the winning lyrics:

1. Eagle County Charter Academy

One day I looked outside, it was a pretty day
One day I looked outside, it was a pretty day
I said, I want to go swimmin’ in the bay

Yesterday, I woke up in the middle of the night
Yesterday, I woke up in the middle of the night
I had a real bad dream, that gave me quite a fright

I woke up in the hospital, realized I cracked my head
I woke up in the hospital, realized I cracked my head
Even through it was a bummer, I was happy, I wasn’t dead

2. Stone Creek Charter

One fine day, I met a tabby cat
One fine day, I met a tabby cat
He stole my watch, my wallet, and my hat

I know a bearded man, his name is Baúl
I know a bearded man, his name is Baúl
He’s my Spanish teacher, he’s very cool

There was an alien, his name was Bob
There was an alien, his name was Bob
I grabbed 2 swords, now he’s a shish kebab

3. Brush Creek Elementary

This is, the Bobcat Blues
This is, the Bobcat Blues
If you don’t understand, you lose

This song, must be sung loud & proud
This song, must be sung loud & proud
Cause it was written by Ava, Caleigh and Rylee, who are so proud

It’s time to throw down with the Vail Jazz Party!

Five day music extravaganza features both refined and improvised sets by more than 50 of the world’s greatest jazz artists

Herbie Hancock once famously said that “jazz translates the moment into a sense of inspiration for not only the musicians but for the listeners.” During the five days of live music throughout the Vail Jazz Party, all of the moments become a throbbing cloud of inspiration, palpable to all within earshot.

Spontaneity and improvisation are key ingredients to great jazz, a big part of why the world places jazz artists on the tippy top of the music’s overall talent pool.

In its 22nd year, the Vail Jazz Party exemplifies the skills of its musicians not only through its feature performances but also in grouping them together for a fusion experience that is truly one-of-a-kind, building ensembles that have never before come together and a live set that will never again be repeated.

While these primordial lineups and their consequent off-the-cuff musical masterpieces might look and sound natural to the artists, even the most established and experienced stars at the Vail Jazz Party will attest to the fact that improvising exquisitely is no simple task.

“That’s where I’m really clear that I’m the baby in the bunch,” says singer Niki Haris, leader of the Vail Jazz Party’s Gospel Prayer Meetin’, arguably the most popular performance of the entire weekend. Although the Gospel Prayer Meetin’ doesn’t necessarily fall under the “improvised” umbrella, Haris, like every other star with a feature performance during the weekend party, is once again slated to appear with a changing lineup of artists in a handful of breakout sessions. A long-time back-up vocalist for the likes of Madonna and Anita Baker, Haris is more accustomed to super-produced stadium shows with well-timed lighting and pyrotechnics than on-the-spot improv.

“Because of my history, I know how to put shows together. I know big productions. I know rehearsal. The closest I got to improv was in a church session,” Haris says. “You let the spirit move you – yours and the audiences – on what song you would choose. I’m not a pro at that. That’s where I tip my hat to those amazing musicians.”

Haris has managed to make a convincing case of improvising over the years at the Vail Jazz Party, largely because her expression, as she herself describes it, is “honest.” Like other artists at the jazz party, Haris is not only a jazz singer, but also wanders into the realms of gospel, soul, rock, pop, R&B, funk and just about every other genre you can put a label on. Regardless of the category, when she performs in Vail, particularly at the Gospel Prayer Meetin,’ her mission is to convey one thing  … “good news.”

“When I sing, I’m as honest as I can be, so it doesn’t come just from a place to sing a bunch of songs but to delve into where I want to be in the world,” she says. “For those 90 minutes, I want to create a more loving, compassionate and peaceful world, bringing the good news –  the gospel – to many different faiths. That’s the fun part of Vail. I know I have Christians there and people who probably don’t go to church. But it’s palpable, the energetic change that happens. People are reaching out hugging each other. I see tears, people hand-holding. Then to play in the square, with all of these mountains around, that’s the most beautiful thing.”

Audience members at Vail Jazz Party performances have referred to performances as gifts.

“I’m so glad I’m the one who gets to deliver the gift,” Haris says.

Step into a session

The Vail Jazz Party is designed to impart an armful of gifts all in one long block of back-to-back deliverables. When you buy a ticket to the party, it lands you three to five hours of music during a particular time slot Friday throughMonday.

Evening sessions

The evening sessions are reminiscent of a traditional indoor stage performance in which the crowd collects in theater-style seats around a large stage with superb acoustics, in this case, in the Grand Ballroom at the Vail Marriott. As with all of the sessions, a selection of artists – the king or queen of his or her given instrument – are teamed up to kick off the session with one musician selected as leader of the set. Niki Haris gets an early crack as head honcho duringFriday’s first evening session. Each evening session also offers one if not two special performances, including a group of contemporary jazz stars paying homage to a musical legend as inspiring footage of the legend takes over the backdrop. The lineup includes supersonic bassist John Clayton paying homage to another master of four strings, Milt Hinton, a tribute to the Texas Tenors starring saxophonist Joel Frahm, Byron Stripling playing his heart out in tribute to the blues and Terell Stafford’s Brotherlee Love, a tribute to iconic trumpeter Lee Morgan. In true jazz club tradition, each evening finishes with a Late Night Jam Session, included with the evening ticket, in which a powerhouse ensemble of seven to eight musicians who have never played together are teamed up improv-style in the intimate setting of First Chair Café in the Vail Marriott. The unplanned music flows like liquid ear candy from around7 p.m. to well after midnight.

Afternoon sessions

With the Rocky Mountains and blue sky as a backdrop, from 11:30 a.m. to early evening Saturday through Monday, the live soundtrack ranges from enchanting instrumental quintets to high-energy piano duos to small orchestra-sized teams of soloists. You name the instrument and one of the world’s leading masters is on the stage playing it – drums, bass, guitar, piano, trombone, clarinet, trumpet, flute, bass … The sets fuse two to 10 musicians at a time, each one bringing his or her own thick stack of accomplishments, many of them GRAMMY and Downbeat Music awards. Highlights include the Vail Jazz All-Stars free performances on Saturday and Sunday, Piano Duos in which six pianists rotate through a dueling set on the keys and an all-in, blowout set on Monday with a ten-piece horn section. The nonstop strains of hypnotizing harmonies originate from the all-weather jazz tent in Lionshead’s Vail Square.

All told, the Vail Jazz Party amounts to a five-day explosion of world-class live music, refined feature performances and unpredictable combinations all in rapid succession. The one predictable factor is that like any good party, it’s bound to bring a bounty of delightful surprises. Bill Cunliffe, multi-GRAMMY award-winning pianist of the Vail Jazz Party House Band sums up the experience like this:

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

For tickets and detailed Vail Jazz Party schedule, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

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.

The enchantment of Brazilian guitar

As an incredible summer of jazz slowly comes to an end with the arrival of the Vail Jazz Party, satisfying your Brazilian jazz craving on Saturday, September 2nd is the young, tender guitarist Diego Figueiredo. With fingers lightly touching just over the nylon strings, his harmony sets in over the frets. Known for leaving audiences all over the world feeling joyous, this young rising musician from Brazil brings the true essence and character of Brazilian music, while also bringing elements that are quite modern and innovative with his virtuoso playing.

With a casual and relaxed demeanor on stage (often playing barefoot!), he instantly transports you to the sounds of Brazil. The acoustic sounds of swing, samba, choro, bossa nova, and maracatu all soak in and make you embody the nature, nightlife, and tranquility of this culture. It’s no wonder with the latest Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, why sports fans and musicians alike can’t seem to get enough of Brazil!

So why is Brazilian jazz so attractive and addicting? Is it the way the singer’s lyrics in Portuguese flow so smoothly? Or the catchy hooks made famous by Antonio Carlos Jobim? Or the groovy syncopated rhythms of Ivan Lins? Jazz listeners across the world today, are still captivated by the unique songs of Brazil, which are completely separate from Latin jazz. While many people may associate Latin and Brazilian jazz as one style of music altogether, there are in fact distinctions among the two. One being that Brazilian jazz was heavily influenced by Portugal and Africa, while Latin jazz blending the Spanish and Caribbean sounds together. Another difference is in instrumentation, Brazil known for its Agogo, Pandeiro, and the Berimbau while the claves, timbales and congas heat up Latin America. Each type of jazz having it’s own specific rhythms and harmonies reflecting of its own culture.

The quiet, yet sophisticated melodies Diego Figueiredo brings out on his guitar are enchanting, and enriching. With an exciting volume of videos on youtube, check out this unique interpretation of Stella by Starlight

 

At only 36 years old, his artist has received multiple awards at Montreaux, and has currently released over 23 CD’s and 3DVD’s. Admirers have included Pat Methany, Al Di Meola and George Benson praising his originality, skills, and presentation

Diego will perform throughout the Vail Jazz Party – Let the sweet, cool sounds of this exotic country and Brazilian guitar take you away this summer!

Best musical teens in the nation roll into town

Meet a couple of Vail Jazz’s latest teenage prodigies

There are some kids that show an early aptitude for athletics and end up the star of their sports team. Then there are kids that can master a trombone or a drum set before they barely outweigh the instrument and go on to be All-Stars.

In its 21st year, Vail Jazz welcomes 12 of the nation’s top teenage musicians, hand-picked from a pool of more than 150 uber-talented nominees. Since its inception, the Vail Jazz Workshop has produced 250 alumni, many of whom have gone on to soaring careers as professional musicians. There’s Tia Fuller, a long-time member of Beyonce’s notoriously talented all-female band. Obed Calvaire drums for the San Francisco Jazz Collective and has performed with Monty Alexander, Wynton Marsalis and many others. Saxophonist Grace Kelly has been featured on CNN, NPR and in Glamour Magazine, and of course there’s multi-GRAMMY award-winning pianist Robert Glasper.

Many of these musicians showed sign of greatness before they could even talk. Take Brian Richburg, for example. The 17-year-old drummer from New Orleans is one of the 12 selected prodigies for the 2016 Vail Jazz Workshop. As a baby, he not only banged on pots and pans in an oddly un-noisy fashion, but did so with obvious rhythm. By the time he was 5 years old, his parents got him his first drum set, and by age 8, he was performing with an adult ensemble at his family church, where his father was the pastor.

“Even before I was born my mom would say I was kicking – she would have to sit down because I was kicking so hard,” Richburg says. “Being part of the New Orleans gospel community, I’ve always been around music. I can’t say I went to school, picked up the sticks and decided this is what I wanted to do. The drums always spoke something to me.”

A junior in high school, Richburg is a scholarship winner to Skidmore Jazz Institute, a YoungArts finalist and member of New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, which has produced, among other stars, Wynton Marsalis.

Practicing at least two hours a day and having added piano composition to his repertoire, Richburg has to think for a moment before narrowing down what he would consider his greatest accomplishment to date. He settles on playing at the famed Snug Harbor with Delfeayo Marsalis and then being asked to play with Papa Ellis Marsalis. During his time in Vail, Richburg looks forward to working with “some of the greatest musicians and teachers in the world,” including his drum hero, Lewis Nash. As far as his outlook for the future, the New Orleans native keeps his goals pretty simple.

“I want to travel,” he says. “I’d like to play the drums.”

Another one of this year’s Vail Jazz Workshop students, 17-year-old Jasim Perales, hails from Oakland, Calif. Compared to Richburg, zeroing in on an instrument as a small child did not come as instinctually to him, but after starting out on piano, the trombone slowly worked its magic.

“I was in fourth grade and we had to chose an instrument. Trombone looked like an easy instrument to play. It didn’t have any buttons. I thought, this is an easy ‘A’ for me,” Perales recalls. “Then it was much more complicated then I thought. The slide is never exact. You have to memorize where every note is. You’re never going to get the same thing twice. It was a quirky little instrument that didn’t always make sense. But I liked figuring out all of its secrets.”

Perales is ahead of his time in the discovery department, as evidenced by his selection for the GRAMMY Band and Monterey Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, with which he recently toured Japan. His inspirations range from everyone between Duke Ellington and John Coltrane to Tribe Called Quest and Kendrick Lamar. Like Richburg, traveling professionally is Perales’ No. 1 musical goal but in the meantime, he plans to revel in the wave of energy that washes over him every time he performs.

“It’s like when you get endorphins from exercise,” he says. “It’s that emotional catharsis, diving into something so passion-oriented. It’s an art form you have to put a lot of yourself into. It’s an expression. I have a boisterous personality but sometimes I don’t express what I’m truly feeling. Music is a way to get out my anxiety, my worries, or if I’m excited or really happy. It’s a whole different level of conversation. It’s a primal and intellectual conversation at the same time.”

The 10-day-long intensive Vail Jazz Workshop is led by mentors John Clayton, Terell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe, Wycliffe Gordon, Dick Oatts and Lewis Nash, also known as the Vail Jazz Party House Band. After completing the Workshop, the students including Perales and Richburg plus pianists Carter Brodkorb and Jake Sasfai, trumpeters Zaq Davis and David Sneider, bassists Philip Norris and Gabe Rupe, saxophonists Alex Yuwen and Austin Zhang, trombonist Joseph Giordano and drummer Nick Kepron, graduate to the status of Vail Jazz All-Stars, and kick off the 22nd Annual Vail Jazz Labor Day Weekend Jazz Party on Sept. 1, opening the final Vail Jazz @ Vail Square performance, which features a triple bill with the Vail Jazz Alumni Quintet and the Vail Jazz Party House Band. The All-Stars then perform for free at the Jazz Tent at Vail Square at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, please visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

H2 Big Band leaders sum up the unique, danceable magic of Count Basie

The 17-piece ensemble channels generations of hits by the swing king on Thursday in Vail

From tapping your foot to bobbing your head to launching yourself into an all-out Lindy Hop, swing music simply makes you want to move. When it involves 17 musicians and originates with Count Basie, the dance formula is pretty much guaranteed.

“One thing is that there is a heavy swing feel that only the Basie band was able to create. All jazz players agree that the Basie band swung more than any big band ever. The thrill of the big band sound is unlike any other musical experience,” says Dave Hanson, pianist, composer and co-founder of H2 Big Band. “As a composer, I get a rush to hear what each musician offers. Nothing is more fun than playing the Basie arrangements.”

Hailing from Denver, H2 Big Band’s two albums have reached top 15 status on Jazz Week’s national play list and the band’s original target was set on the studio. Then they realized how exhilarating it was to perform, which they will do in Vail on Aug. 25, paying tribute to Count Basie. In addition to Hanson and co-leader/trumpet player Al Hood, the band features a rotating line-up of 15 acclaimed artists, including a massive brass section, which it turns out is pivotal to the Basie sound.

“The arrangers had a certain style characterized in a way that each section was complete within itself,” Hanson explains. “If you heard the Basie saxophone section, it would sound complete within itself, the trombone section, too. The unified way they work together is the formula for the sound. Every Basie chart has a shout chorus unique to the Basie big band.”

The explosive performance will cover Count Basie tunes from the 1940s through the 1970s as well as a handful of H2’s original compositions.

“The H2 Big Band is extremely well versed in the Basie tradition, particularly our well-oiled rhythm section of Dave on piano, playing the Count himself, Todd Reid on drums and Ken Walker gliding the band via streamlined swing on the bass,” Hood says. “The icing, of course, will be the Freddie Green stylings of rhythm guitarist Mike Abbott.”

Without seeing the Count in the flesh, die hard Basie fans with their eyes closed will be hard-pressed to distinguish H2 Big Band from the swing king’s original band, the sound is that authentic … not to mention infectious.

“The legacy of the Basie band, in my opinion, is steeped in feel good swing, uncompromising time feel, ‘in the pocket’ groove and exuberant solo episodes,” Hood says. “This is certainly the essence that we will bring to that night of tremendous music. Swing will most assuredly be king.”

Each member of the big band is faced with a complex task of timing, harmony and connecting with the audience, but for Hanson, who plays the role of Basie, nailing the formula is especially involved.

“As the piano chair, you have to know the very unique style of Count Basie,” he says. “If there were one word to describe the playing of Count Basie it is sparse. He would only play the notes that were necessary. He would only play if the wind instruments weren’t playing. The Basie ending is a piano fill – a ‘plink-plink-plink’ – on most of his charts. It’s so identified as his that any piano playing the ‘plink-plink-plink’ is acknowledging Count Basie. We think of him as playing simply because he played very few notes, but he could be a great stride pianist. He could go into amazing stride piano solos, based on ballroom stride piano players from the ‘20s.”

The broad gamut of Basie’s sound including many of the Count’s classic arrangers will be summoned by H2 big band during the Vail performance. Even for audiences not familiar with Basie’s legacy, the urge to dance will be undeniable. Hanson says that every live H2 Big Band performance is characterized by one fixed reality above all others and that’s to expect the unexpected … especially when Count Basie is the theme.

“It’s a chance for the band to really show off the musicians in a great way. Hearing us all firing up together is a great thrill,” Hanson says. “There’s an element of chance involved. Every concert is different. Every acoustic is different. There’s a chance for something to happen that’s never happened before.”

Catch the H2 Big Band Tribute to Count Basie at Vail Jazz @ Vail Square from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 25 inside the all-weather jazz tent in Lionshead. General admission tickets are $20 in advance and premium seating is $40 in advance. For tickets or more information, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

Shake it with ‘Maraca’ this Thursday

Maraca Valle to deliver distinctive brand of Cuban jazz

 

The famed flutist and his Latin Jazz All-Stars set to sizzle Vail Square

 

It might be surprising that a flute player stirs up the kind of energy that causes audiences to leap on stage and start dancing. Or to make a blind man claim that he can see. But such is the miracle of Orlando “Maraca” Valle’s music.

 

“Many times before getting on stage, there are so many high spirits and so much burning desire to listen that I think success is guaranteed. And it’s true that when we get on stage a kind of mysterious interaction between the audience and the band is established, and it can get to extreme ways of communicating,” Valle says. “Sometimes the artist gets off the stage, going toward the audience, or sometimes people from the audience get on stage. In any case, we care about sincerity and self-confidence when we perform because these are the ways to engage the audience.”

 

Hailing from a family of musicians in Havana, Cuba, Valle took up the flute at the age of 10 on the suggestion of one of his talented brothers.

 

“I agreed although I preferred the guitar or the alto saxophone,” Valle says. “But then I fell in love with the flute and later it became the tool through which I express myself … my body extension. The flute has been carrying my voice, my thoughts and feelings all over the world.”

 

In his 20s, Valle joined the band Irakere as arranger, flute and keyboard player. Founded by Chucho Valdés and Paquito D’Rivera, the ensemble was famous throughout Cuba and Latin America. Soon Valle was rubbing shoulders and performing with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Chick Corea. It was in 1994 that Valle launched his solo career and has made remarkable traction ever since as a widely respected writer and arranger, collaborating with some of the hottest jazz artists across the globe.

 

“I’m very grateful to all of them because all of them are masters for me,” Valley says. “But I have to say that playing with Tito Puente, Tata Guines, Cesaria Evora, Chucho Valdes, Wynton Marsalis or Al Di Meola provided me with priceless experience. And most of these experiences and collaborations were spontaneous, so natural and fluent that they’re locked in my heart.”

 

Spontaneity is the cornerstone of Valle’s style and live performance energy. It’s also what brings him his greatest joy on stage.

 

“Improvising [has] been coming naturally to me since I was a child. Improvising allows me to express my own vision of the world, of life, my feelings and my dreams,” he says. “It brings me a lot of inner peace. I enjoy it so much.”

 

Then again, Valle can name many sources of musical passion.

 

“I enjoy conducting an orchestra, composing and arranging music, performing other composers’ music, different styles of music from different cultures…I also find it fascinating the communication and feedback between musicians,” he says. “Sometimes without knowing each other before performing together, nor having rehearsed together, they establish a unique musical conversation which can remain in the mind of all who assist this show forever.”

 

When it comes to playing with musicians he does know, for instance, his own Latin Jazz All-Stars, the “musical conversation” reaches sonic proportions.

 

“This is the kind of energy our planet needs – solar energy – but this energy doesn’t pollute,” Valle says. “It does heal hearts. On stage we’re all delighted to perform together and we enjoy everyone’s performance. And you can feel this. Our mutual admiration allows the audience to enjoy an exceptional concert.”

 

So exceptional is Maraca’s music that it has literally delivered vision and an uncanny urge to dance, even to the most unassuming of audiences.

 

“The most memorable feedback came from a fan of mine who is blind. When he first met me in person, he got so nervous that he was shaking with excitement and he confessed that my music made him see,” Valle says. “I also remember a great show in Grand Rapids, MI, where the front part of the audience was made of people in wheelchairs and some of them with artificial limbs got on stage and danced with the band. Finally, the most important feedback may come from children, because children don’t lie about what they like or what they don’t. When you see that your music is making them happy it is because something beautiful is going on.”

 

Orlando “Maraca” Valle performs with the Latin Jazz All-Stars at Vail Jazz @ Vail Square from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 17 inside the all-weather jazz tent in Lionshead. General admission tickets are $20 in advance and premium seating is $40 in advance. For tickets or more information, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM

Celebrating the one and only Milt Hinton

As part of the 22nd Annual Vail Jazz Festival, Vail Jazz is celebrating the life, music and art of the legendary bass player

A famous bass player and prolific photographer, not to mention a man of many nicknames, Milt Hinton chronicled jazz through the ages from the 1920s up until his death in 2000. Revealing a colorful sample of the mark he made, a digital exhibit of Hinton’s work and music will be presented at the Lionshead Welcome Center four times daily, from Aug. 3 to Sept. 5. It will air on the big screen at10 a.m. 12 p.m. 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

 

But that’s just the teaser for Vail Jazz’s ongoing Hinton tribute this summer.

 

In addition to the display at the Lionshead Welcome Center, the digital exhibit will be shown each night of the Vail Jazz Party (Sept. 2-4) in the lower lobby of Vail Mountain Marriott Resort, where the evening sessions take place. The riveting documentary, “Keeping Time: The life, music and photographs of Milt Hinton,” will be shown at the Marriott’s Grand Ballroom on Friday, Sept. 2 at 2 p.m. The documentary chronicles the storied 70-year career of Milt Hinton, embracing the rich life of a remarkable musician who recognized and recorded history as he was playing it. Tickets are $20 or included in the weekend passes.

 

Vail Jazz’s grand finale spotlight on the famed bass player is John Clayton’s Multi-Media Tribute to Milt Hinton, which includes narration by Clayton, who is himself one of today’s leading jazz bassists. He will share anecdotes and stories, video clips and stills along with what are sure to be powerful live renditions of Milt’s favorites with a quartet on stage. This is one of four sets that make up the Friday Evening Session of the Vail Jazz Party. Tickets are $75 in advance.

 

“Milt Hinton embodies the core of our mission at Vail Jazz,” says Vail Jazz Executive Director Robin Litt. “His whole essence, like ours, is a dynamic formula of educating while entertaining as well as broadening the audience for jazz, which stretches among numerous musical genres.”

Keep an eye and ear out for Milt Hinton in Vail this summer.

 

For more information and tickets to the documentary or John Clayton Tribute to Hinton, visitwww.vailjazz.org or by calling 888.VAIL.JAM. The Milt Hinton digital exhibit is made possible through a partnership with the Town of Vail’s Art in Public Places board and with the Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection, directed by David G. Berger and Holly Maxson.

Explore the roots of Cuban music with Maraca and his Latin Jazz All-stars

Join us August 18th, as Vail greets flutist Orlando “Maraca” Valle and his Latin Jazz All-Stars to Vail Jazz @ Vail Square starting at 6 pm. Performing with a seven piece band, you can already hear the exotic Latin beat of the congas and percussion, the warm sounds of salsa on the piano, the bright melodies of the trombone, groovy, fusion inspired bass lines, and the hot jazz sax making their way to Vail.

 

For over twenty years, Maraca and his Latin Jazz All-Stars have composed and arranged the authentic sounds and feelings from the Cuban culture. In 2003, Maraca received a Grammy nomination for Best Salsa Album with their album Tremenda Rumba, while also, topping the Billboard charts.

 

Having performed Afro-Cuban music in over 41 countries, the road has not been easy for this Cuban band. While politics have played a frustrating part in many Cuban musicians careers, as many Cuban bands have been restricted to travel and performing this rich music for fans abroad. However, Maraca continued to fight for Afro-Cuban music, and despite overwhelming visa and immigration laws, they encouraged listeners to not forget Cuban music and the Cuban people. In this time of turmoil, it was music that played a large part in bridging cultures together. It was musicians such as Maraca that started normalizing relations between countries, fighting for music to bring one another together.

 

Maraca’s music makes the listener feel intrigued and sparks conversation. With important messages and themes expressed in emotional vocals, this band practices what they preach, and have lived through incredible life experiences. Always giving a first class show, this band works extremely hard on stage to put on a spectacular show. Pouring their blood, sweat and tears into every salsa song.

 

Even today, Maraca plays with the traditional Cuban style and introduces contemporary harmonies and rhythms that sound energizing. Brining a little flair of Cuba to the audience, even here in Colorado! Music has truly shaped these musicians lives, and it’s evident as they perform with high enthusiasm night after night.

 

 

Catch this New Jazz Fronteirs Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxqeU6s4sLs

 

See you at the show! General Admission tickets are $20 and Premium tickets are $40, tickets can be purchased at https://www.vailjazz.org/events/maraca-latin-jazz-stars/