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/

Cécile McClorin Salvant strikes fine balance between the silky and surly

The GRAMMY winning vocalist lands on Vail Jazz stage Thursday

Not one to mince words, Cécile McClorin Salvant is grateful for the tidal wave of fanfare she’s received in the last few years, but is also OK with people who don’t like her sound.

“If you know of me and like my music, thank you for your support,” she told La Foresta earlier this year. “If you don’t like it … give it to people you hate.”

With a French mother and Haitian father, Salvant was born and raised in Miami, where she took an avid interest in music at the age of 5. By the time she was 8, Salvant was singing in the Miami Choral Society and was drawn to classical voice. Skip ahead to the vocalist’s later teen years and she moved to France to study both baroque voice and law. In Aix-en-Provence, it was teacher and famed reed player Jean-François Bonnel who introduced her to jazz. She began performing with a band and performed throughout Paris, going on to record her first album – Cécile – with Bonnel’s own Paris quintet. She returned to the states to win the prestigious Thelonius Monk Jazz Competition in Washington, D.C. at the age of 21.

Citing vocal inspiration from the likes of Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Betty Carter and Bessie Smith, Salvant struck up a fascination with American music, likening her own vocal style to not only jazz but also vaudeville, folk and blues. It is often obscure tunes centered around a powerful story, some dating back to the early 1900s, that resonate most with Salvant, who sings in French as well as in Spanish and English.

Salvant’s second album, 2013’s WomanChild, included a handful of original compositions and garnered a landslide of acclaim, including a 2014 GRAMMY nomination for Best Vocal Jazz Album and Downbeat’s Jazz Album of the Year, Female Vocalist, Rising Star–Jazz Artist and Rising Star–Female Vocalist awards.

Salvant’s third studio album, 2015’s For One to Love, won the GRAMMY for Best Vocal Jazz Album. Honed onto a theme of strong, independent women, the record exudes a delightful melancholy and features five original compositions, a handful of jazz standards, and a couple of bright takes on rarities such as Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Stepsisters’ Lament” from Cinderella.

“Other musicians and composers really inspire me, film, books, things like that,” Salvant says. “And of course, people … seeing how people interact with each other in life, how they speak and describe their experiences.”

A conversation with her grandmother, a stroll through a visual art museum or even an observation of a strangers’ discussion from afar are fodder for Salvant’s muse.

“We all have a character depending on certain situations, how people communicate or try to hide emotion. How people lie and sometimes give a little bit of the truth is very fascinating to me,” she says. “Humor and laughter, the importance of humor and how people use that in their lives is important and interesting to me.”

Often sporting colorful, historic hats and/or retro frame eye glasses, Salvant’s vocal range is as unpredictable as her fashion choices, sometimes whispering over one word while wrenching out every syllable of another. She turns 27 this August and while finding herself surrounded by unquestionable popularity and acclaim as one of the world’s most quickly rising jazz stars, she says the limelight has never been something she has deliberately gravitated toward.

“I tend to not look at articles or interviews or videos of myself,” she says. “I feel really grateful for what’s been happening, but I don’t really like to be the center of attention. I don’t like to brag.”

Cécile Mclorin Salvant makes her Vail debut Thursday, Aug. 11 at Vail Jazz @ Vail Square The performance is from 6 to 8 p.m. 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.

Colorado High School Band Showcase kicks off this weekend

More free music to your ears is coming to Vail this Sunday. Every Sunday from July 31 to Aug.

21, Vail Jazz debuts a jazz band comprised of talented teens from around the state at 11 a.m.

Come early to the Vail Farmers’ Market and witness rising local talent from around the state.

 

The lineup of up-and- comers includes:

  • July 31 – Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts
  • Aug. 7 – Kent Denver School Jazz Band
  • Aug. 14 – East High School 6 th Hour Jazz Combo
  • Aug. 21 – Denver School of the Arts Jazz Ensemble

“Featuring high school-aged jazz musicians from our state is another way that Vail Jazz

showcases young musicians during the summer-long festival,” says Robin Litt, Vail Jazz

Executive Director. “Performing at the Farmers’ Market is the perfect opportunity for hundreds

of ears to soak up this pool of young talent.”

 

Performances take place at the Vail Jazz Tent, located on the west side of Solaris Plaza in Vail

Village.

 

Vail Jazz @ The Market continues through Aug. 28 each week, featuring Colorado-based

musicians and ensembles firing up a live soundtrack at the Vail Farmers Market from 12 to 3

p.m. The series continues on July 31 with The Hennessy 6, a talented sextet based in Denver.

The group, led by Sean Hennessy on trumpet, includes seamless interpretation of soulful

ballads, driving swing, Latin hard bop and more. The group has played together since 2012, but

collectively have appeared alongside Dave Liebman, Joe Walsh, Wycilffe Gordon, John Faddis,

Vince Gill and Amy Grant.

 

Also, Sunday nights never sounded so good. Local jazz legend, Tony Gulizia and drummer Brian

Loftus are joined by an exciting variety of visiting jazz musicians each week at the event’s new

home at the Four Seasons Resort. The series has been a big hit and takes place from 8 to 10

p.m. every Sunday through Aug. 28. On July 31, Sean Hennessy will join Gulizia and Loftus on

trumpet.

 

Free Sunday night performances and Vail Jazz @ The Market are part of the 22 nd Annual Vail

Jazz Festival, which offers more than 60 live shows in Vail throughout the summer and

culminates in the Vail Jazz Party, a five-day blowout of wall-to- wall performances over Labor

Day Weekend. For information, visit www.vailjazz.org or call 888.VAIL.JAM

Sensational GRAMMY performer Joey Alexander set to light up the keys in Vail

Young pianist and his trio bring masterful sound to Lionshead on Thursday

Living in the moment is a philosophy that Joey Alexander follows not only to his musical career but also in life.

Speaking on the phone with the Balinese pianist, it is nearly impossible to tell that he just turned 13. He is gracious and thoughtful when answering questions and amazingly articulate for a boy his age, especially given that he’s only been learning English for a couple of years.

But considering his eloquence on the piano – evidenced by the rapt attention of fellow musical stars at this year’s GRAMMY Awards performance and pretty much wherever else he plays – it’s really not that much of a surprise.

Joey taught himself how to play an electric keyboard at the age of 6. He received his first real piano at age 7 and by the time he was 8, was performing for the likes of Herbie Hancock.

“I don’t remember exactly when I felt like this is what I’m going to do, I was just playing,” Joey says. “I could just feel it. It’s such a big instrument and the keys, the mechanics … I just loved the big sound of it. It was kind of hard for me to reach the high notes – I was very small at the time – but I loved the big sound. That’s what interests me about the piano … it’s orchestra. It’s a complete instrument.”

At 10, thanks to a special invitation by Wynton Marsalis, he made his debut at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Shortly afterward, he and his family moved from Indonesia to New York City. He performed on two stages at the Newport Jazz Festival. Since moving to the U.S. he has played at major jazz festivals around the world as well as at the White House for President Obama. His debut album – 2015’s My Favorite Things – garnered two GRAMMY nominations for Best Jazz Instrumental Album and Best Improvised Solo (on John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”). A forthcoming album – Countdown – is scheduled for a September release and Joey is excited to perform his new material in Vail this Thursday.

“On this record I explore more musically,” he says, adding that the album features three of his original compositions. “I compose something when I’m practicing but not really thinking about it. It just flows to me, almost [directly] to my hands. It just comes out.”

The young artist was performing in upstate New York on his 13th birthday this June. He says there was no place he’d rather be than on stage to celebrate his existence. The venue surprised him with a piano-shaped birthday cake and the entire audience singing, “Happy Birthday.”

“It was a surprise,” he says. “Everyone was clapping and singing. I was actually very happy that I was even playing. It was [enjoyable] for me to be on stage when I can share my day and the talent that god’s given me.”

When asked to name his most exciting or memorable experience so far in his young musical career, one would think Joey would immediately name his White House or GRAMMY performance, but no.

“For me a small stage, a big stage, everything is really important to me,” he says. “It’s the music I want to give. Every experience has a different vibe for sure. There are people that just want to listen. When I went to Europe, every city was a different vibe, which was great.”

As far as his future goals, the 13-year-old is not someone who looks ahead but who embraces what is right before him.

“I always want to be thankful. I’m really happy with what I’m doing now,” he says. “Of course I’m thinking forward about how I [can] better myself, but not thinking about the future. That’s the thing about jazz …it’s about the moment.”

Joey Alexander, 13-year-old piano sensation, performs with bassist Dan Chmielinski and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. this Thursday at Vail Square. The performance is from 6 to 8 p.m. inside the all-weather jazz tent in Lionshead. General admission tickets are sold out but premium seating is available for $40 in advance. For tickets or more information visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

Michel Camilo makes Vail debut

The GRAMMY-winning pianist, composer and knight of the Dominican Republic brings his lightning fingers to the Vail Jazz stage Wednesday and Thursday

Michel Camilo has never wanted to limit himself to a specific genre of music. His freedom of expression is characterized by a flurry of rubber wrists and fingers slapping the piano keys. He is a blur but strikes every note with incredible intent and accuracy. In spite of his precision, there is something about his demeanor not unlike a child playing with a favorite toy.

“The greatest word is ‘play’ because you’re playing with the instrument but you’re also playing the instrument,” Camilo once told a Masterclass. “That is what becomes fun as you discover yourself through your music.”

Growing up in the Dominican Republic, the composer discovered his favorite toy at the age of 9 and studied with the National Conservatory for many years. By the time he was 16, he was performing with his country’s National Symphony Orchestra.

Although several of his family members played music as a hobby and his aunt was a classical piano teacher, Camilo became the first professional musician in the family, his classical style infused with Caribbean flare, jazz, bebop, ragtime … and something all his own.

“For me, it’s all music,” Camilo says. “I don’t differentiate between one and the other. That’s been very good for my music because now I come in and out of any world I want. I do world beat, I do classical, I do jazz, film music. I do everything. You name it. It’s important that there are no barriers.”

With no barriers in mind, Camilo moved to New York City in 1979 and studied at Julliard and Mannes College. Shortly after making his international stage debut in 1983, Camilo won his first Latin Grammy. He formed a trio and after an inaugural Carnegie Hall performance, launched into a European tour. More than 20 albums later, Camilo is still touring the world, jumping back and forth from Europe to the Caribbean, to the U.S. and South America in any given month.

He has composed scores for films all over the world, arranged and composed for the Danish Radio Big Band and has appeared as a soloist in just about every top national symphony orchestra and philharmonic throughout the globe, including the National Symphony Orchestra, the Carnegie Hall Big Band, the Cleveland Orchestra, Copenhagen Philharmonic and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Back in his mother country, Camilo has reached national hero status, being named a Knight of the Heraldic Order of Christopher Columbus and awarded the Silver Cross of the Order of Duarte, Sanchez & Mella. Conducting for the National Symphony Orchestra of the Dominican Republic, one of his programs included The Goodwill Games Theme, which went on to win an Emmy Award. For several years, he was the musical director for the Dominican Republic’s Heineken Jazz Festival and his recordings have consistently topped national radio play charts. In addition to many appearances now at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center in New York, Camilo has also performed at The White House and Royal Albert Hall. He has shared the stage with nearly every global jazz icon of our time, including Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Tito Puente, Paquito D’Rivera, the Labéque sisters, Bela Fleck and Toots Thielemans.

Camilo’s style continues to defy definition, seamlessly bridging gaps between popular and world music, jazz and classical. After a GRAMMY Award win and numerous Latin Grammys, the pianist continues not only to enrapture world audiences with his magical command of the keys but imparts his wisdom and passion to students across the globe.

“Never let anyone tell you that you cannot do this, you cannot do that. I never take no for an answer. I always see a new challenge, an opportunity to grow, to develop and open your eyes and ears,” Camilo recently told a Masterclass at the London Centre of Contemporary Music. “Ever since I can remember, [the piano] was my toy. I was never made to practice. For me it was coming from school directly to the piano to make sounds. That’s the beauty of music making. I never felt like I had to practice. I always wanted to because it was fun.”

Michel Camilo Trio with Cliff Almond and Lincoln Goines makes its Vail debut at the final Vail Jazz Club Series performance of the summer on July 27 at Mountain Plaza Lounge near Gondola One. Doors open at 8 p.m. and music starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $40 in advance. The trio then takes the big stage for Vail Jazz @ Vail Square from 6 to 8 p.m. on July 28 at the all-weather jazz tent in Lionshead. Advanced tickets are $20 for general admission or $40 for premium seating. For tickets or more information visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

Seasoning & Spice: Hear Camilo Twice

Just as a Spanish kitchen heats up quickly, filling the air with aromas and flavors of hot peppers and savory rice into a sizzling dish, Michel Camilo takes the stage with zest, putting a dash of salt and pepper into his original piano compositions and arrangements. The Grammy award winning Pianist & Composer infuses Latin-Jazz and Classical music together right at his fingertips. Forming advanced and modern compositions and arrangements. Camilo takes the influences of big band music and transforms the style into vibrant solo piano.

On his latest album “What’s Up?” Camilo takes standards such as “Take Five” and “Love for Sale” and performs them in an explosive and unheard velocity. Camilo incorporates new originals “Paprika”, “On Fire” and “Island Beat” that intrigue the audience to internalize the music not just through the ears, but that make you want to dance from your head to your toes!

Michel Camilo is not afraid to show versatility, from collaborating with Latin-Jazz artists such as Paquito D’Rivera, Tomatito and Gary Burton to performing original piano concertos with some of the world’s biggest symphonies including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra of his home country Dominican Republic.

Vail Jazz is pleased to welcome to the stage this summer, Michel Camilo along with Cliff Almond on Drum & Percussion and Latin-Jazz Bassist Lincoln Goines. The three were recently featured together on the album Playing Lecuona and performances include the Blue Note Nyc/Tokyo, Ronnie Scott’s Newport Jazz Festival, and Copenhagen Jazz House.

See live performance video in Madrid here:

Tickets for Michel Camilo’s Jazz Trio Performance on July 27th, and July 28th,

are now available at www.vailjazz.org/tickets/