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

Bria Skonberg returns to Vail for two sizzling performances

The New York City-based trumpeter and vocalist brings her dynamic sound for double nights at Vail Jazz.

It happened. Bria Skonberg is officially big time. The Canadian-born trumpeter and vocalist who has hit the jazz world like a supernova over the last few years was signed by Sony Music earlier this summer. Raise your hand if you’re surprised.

That’s what we thought.

The 32-year-old New York City resident blew the doors off during her Vail debut last year and is back by popular demand, performing an intimate show at the Vail Jazz Club Series July 20 and then taking the stage at Lionshead July 21 for Vail Jazz @ Vail Square.

Growing up in a farming community about an hour east of Vancouver, B.C., Skonberg dabbled on the piano, bass and clarinet before settling on the trumpet. She began singing in high school and by the time she graduated, was the star of the school band and choir, captain of the basketball team, president of student council and manager of several of her own bands, including a jazz ensemble, big band and marching band.

Skonberg has been working full-time as a professional musician for 10 years and moved to New York City in 2010. She has released three studio albums and performs regularly around Manhattan with Wycliffe Gordon and a slew of other jazz greats in between traveling the world with her own quintet. Rooted in traditional jazz but featuring world percussion and alluring melodies, her fourthcoming studio record was crowd funded last year. Oh, but how the framework has changed since then. After overwhelmingly meeting the crowd funding goal, producing the record and bringing it to several labels, the album will be released by Sony’s Portrait Records on Sept. 23, simply entitled, Bria.

“I was waiting,” she says. “It was six months of crossing my fingers and not being able to say much because I didn’t want to jinx it. It’s exciting on so many levels. I’d like to think mostly because now I can focus more on the musical experience.”

What can one expect of Skonberg’s musical experience? Let’s say that profound ambiance (and a little hypnosis, in case she’s performing her rendition of The Jungle Book’s “Trust in Me”) is what she’s going for.

“The vibe is what I’m honing in on,” she says. “I like the swampy, Duke Ellington, exotic-sounding stuff. That’s where my trumpet and voice meet and compliment each other.”

Always pragmatic, in spite of her big label status, Skonberg is not the type to envision her symphonic debut in front of hundreds of thousands or to dream of yachts and mansions.

“I live in reality. If somebody says, ‘what size is your dream band?’ I say, ‘I can fit five people in a minivan.’ I’m practical in a lot of ways, but this gives me the opportunity to dream a little bit. What I would love and what will happen more is getting people to help wrangle the details – interviews, media, tour logistics. My dream would be to spend more time playing trumpet and writing music.”

Skonberg also dedicates a fair share of time on musical education. She’s worked with youth outreach programs through Juilliard and Jazz at Lincoln Center. As co-founder of the New York Hot Jazz Festival, which recently partnered with Central Park’s Summer Stage and is now a major attraction, she hosted a New York Hot Jazz camp for adults this spring.

“We had people come in from Denver, Virginia, British Columbia … a great group of people. We had an 18-year-old and an 82-year-old. They came to learn how to play New Orleans-style jazz for a week. The camp gives people an opportunity to not just play by themselves, but play in a band setting around likeminded musicians,” she says. “I realized age has nothing to do with energy level, especially when it comes to playing music. There is no division for age, gender, race … any of that. It’s about bringing people together no matter what experiences you’ve had. That was a long-term dream. Next year we’ll have a youth camp and an adult camp.”

When asked if she could foresee herself still belting out trumpet solos or singing sultry tunes when she reaches the age of 82, she laughs.

“I hope I’m retired by 42,” she says.

But she’s joking. Or maybe not …

Don’t miss Bria Skonberg on July 20 at the Vail Jazz Club Series at its new location in Mountain Plaza Lounge. Doors open at 8 p.m. and music starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $40 in advance. Bria’s quintet, including Eric Wheeler on bass, Evan Arntzen on clarinet and saxophone, Ehud Asherie on piano and Jerome Jennings on drums, then takes the big stage for Vail Jazz @ Vail Square from 6 to 8  p.m. on July 21 at the all-weather jazz tent in Lionshead. Tickets are $20 for general admission or $40 for premium seating. For tickets or more information visit or call 888-VAIL-JAM.


Nicole Henry Pays Tribute to the Great Ladies of Song

Join us for an evening of elegance on July 11th, at 6 PM as dynamic vocalist Nicole Henry leads the original “Great Ladies of Song” benefit concert with returning Vail Jazz Alumni. The elegant evening will pay tribute to legendary jazz greats including Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Aretha Franklin, Nancy Wilson, Nina Simone, Dinah Washington, and Whitney Houston.


Nicole is no stranger to the jazz world, with international performances in over 15 countries, and seven vocal jazz albums ranging from unique renditions of the Great American Songbook, to soulful hits of the 60s. Shortly after her debut in 2004, and she was awarded “Best New Jazz Artist”. More recently, Nicole was awarded by the Soul Train Awards for “Best Traditional Jazz Performance” in 2013. Vail Jazz is thrilled to welcome such a diverse, and humble artist to the stage.


Sharing her spirit while entertaining the audience, Nicole Henry is not afraid to tackle even the most well-known Jazz standards and popular songs. While many artists today can be hesitant to take on familiar songs by highly acclaimed artists, Nicole dives into the challenge and creates a brand new experience for the listener, which is not easy to do. Billboard Magazine has called her, “An artist who knows how to make a song her own.” (and it clearly shows)


Creating a brand new musical experience that is unique and engaging is not something that every artist in the industry can do today. Nicole seems to effortlessly establish an atmosphere that captures an original sound and mood at each performance. Nicole highly excels at this – whether performing a Cole Porter tune or a James Taylor cover, she is able to captivate an audience’s attention with her charming storytelling, and is able to convey powerful emotions through her vocals. Every song she sings is truly with her own interpretation and cannot be compared to others.


Taking these classic songs, and exploring new colors, rhythms, harmonies and instrumentation, She brings old jazz standards to life such as “At Last” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and pop songs such as “Landslide” and “Big Yellow Taxi” in renditions that are new and pleasing to the ear. Her warm voice makes you tune in to her performance instantly, and yearn for more after the performance has finished.


Not only does Nicole creatively experiment with covers, but with her own songwriting as well! On her most recent Summer Sessions EP released in 2015, Nicole collaborates with guitarist James Bryan, and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Glen Scott on new material together. The three compliment each other very well. Check out this video of their easy listening song “Joy”


With intriguing musical arrangements, joining on stage at this special event will be Nicole’s trio, Peter Wallace on piano, Eric England on bass, and David Chiverton on drums. Vail Jazz is excited to bring back alumni of the Vail Jazz Workshop, Jumaane Smith (’98 trumpet), Hailey Niswanger (’07 alto sax) and Kyle Tilstra (’13 trombone) to join in for this special performance.


The evening will take place in the beautiful International Ballroom at the Lodge of Vail, and will also include an exclusive high-end auction, spectacular three course meal dinner all while you witness this incredible performance! Funds raised at the event will go toward Vail Jazz education programs, which touch the lives of over 1,400 children each year. Individual tickets start at $250, and tables are available starting at $3000. For more details and to purchase tickets, please visit It’s important to pay tribute to great artists, to not copy one another in the industry, but lead from inspiration, and that’s exactly what Nicole Henry does. To hear more inspiring recent music releases and video performances of Nicole Henry, be sure to visit





Jazz Trio Monty Alexander, John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton celebrates over forty years together at the Vail Jazz Festival

By Liz Turner

This Grammy ® winning jazz swinging trio of piano, bass and drums celebrates their 40+ years as a trio this summer at the Vail Jazz Festival! On Wednesday, July 6th , don’t miss Monty Alexander, John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton light up the Mountain Plaza Lounge (near Gondola One) in this exciting monumental performance in Vail Village! On Thursday, July 7th, they’ll grace the stage at the Vail Jazz @ Vail Square performance in Lionshead.


These dynamos are no strangers to the Vail Jazz Festival, and will continue to bring their collaborations of swinging favorites, soulful hymns and marches, and moving ballads, that also bring in a touch of Jamaican flair, from Monty’s native roots. Monty’s numerous appearance are always sell-out events. John’s participation in the Festival started in the very first year, 1996, and he has continued as the Foundation’s Director of Education, while Jeff returns nearly annually as a huge fan favorite. Always a crowd pleaser, one can only leave these show feeling joyous, and exhilarated!


Playing since 1976, this trio has gelled together over four decades to create a comfortable, and light-hearted approach to their performances that all audiences can enjoy. Seeing how they create conversations through their music, is truly a unique experience! Having played leading festivals and venues around the world with memorable performances at Montreux, Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, The Blue Note and Jazz at Lincoln Center these virtuosos are not afraid to dive into the rhythms, and melodies of American Jazz.


The trio sets the bar high in terms of Jazz standards, and continues to do so while each working on musical projects of their own. Tickets are now available at for $40.


A perfect way to celebrate the start of summer!

Ritmo Jazz Latino

By Liz Turner

Heating up the Vail Jazz Festival this June, is Denver’s finest Latin jazz ensemble-Ritmo Jazz Latino! On June 26th, at 12 pm, please join us for the first Vail Jazz @ The Market event – a weekly free series in the Jazz tent at Vail’s Farmer’s Market- for an exotic blend of Latin Jazz!


This talented group includes Grammy® winners, award-winning arrangers, popular Cuban and Puerto Rican percussionists, and Latin luminaries who have performed throughout the Americas with Dizzy Gillespie, Julio Iglesias, Gato Barbiere, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Charles, Henry Mancini and Ella Fitzgerald.


Featuring an entertaining collaboration between Dr. Walter Barr (trumpet, flugelhorn, flute, arranger), Fransisco Mejias (congas, bata, coro), Victor Mestas (keyboard, arranger), Paul McDaniel (bass), Cristine Barbosa (vocalist, piano, composer), and Howard Hernandez (timbalero, Latin percussionist).


Certainly not afraid to divulge into fascinating rhythms, and melodies of Latin America, this group truly brings an energetic, and groovy flair to the stage this summer! Check out this hot musical teaser:


Ritmo Jazz Latino has decades of experience put together, and performs traditional and contemporary Latin jazz. Often traveling through the country presenting engaging music education workshops and seminars on Latin music to youth. Their motto being “Salsa music is for everyone”, and they actively work to engage youth to truly embody the feeling, and spirit of Latin American music.


Today young students growing up particularly in the States, lack a strong exposure to this enriching style. Ritmo Jazz Latino demonstrates why this is so important in today’s arts and culture, exposing the youth to Latin jazz. Honoring the founding fathers of Latin jazz, they dive into the history of Afro-Cuban players, styles, and songs (salsa, merengue, songo, mambo, timba, bolero, charanaga and cha cha cha) and Brazilian jazz including (bossa nova and samba).


If musicians do not take the time to explore this style of music with audiences across the globe today, generations to come will miss out on this prominent style of music. You don’t have to be a perfect Spanish speaker, or a highly coordinated percussionist to enjoy Latin jazz, and Ritmo Jazz Latino shows that everyone in the world can take in and be a part of this art form! Whether through dancing, vocalizing, improvisation, or poetry.


Come hear how these influential Latin sounds and language come across today but be ready to groove, dance, jam and sing along to one of Colorado’s most remarkable ensembles today! Truly a summer delight!


Visit more information, and to check out more of this group’s fabulous music, go to




Vail Jazz in the news

22nd Annual Vail Jazz Festival

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

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

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

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

Vail Jazz Workshop Alumni

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

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

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


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

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

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

Vail Jazz receives largest donation in its history from Starwood Hotels CEO

Rapidly expanding Vail Jazz receives largest donation in its history and is set to launch blockbuster festival yet again

When Howard Stone founded Vail Jazz 21 years ago, the organization was a one-weekend wonder. Welcoming well-known and respected jazz artists from across the country, the “Vail Jazz Party” over Labor Day weekend was regarded by hundreds of music fans as the grand finale of their summer. Over the past two decades the “Party” has been expanded into an annual summer-long festival and this year’s edition will feature over 60 performances at venues throughout the Vail Valley, including weekly shows at Vail Square, Vail Farmers Market, The Remedy and Vail Chophouse, with an estimated attendance of over 20,000. In addition, five years ago a Winter Jazz series was added that has grown dramatically in its short history. As the number of performances presented each year has expanded, so has the number of educational programs offered. Vail Jazz has a year-round educational outreach serving the youth of Eagle County – Vail Jazz Goes To School and Jammin’ Jazz Kids – as well as organizing the annual Vail Jazz Workshop for the past 20 years, which has welcomed 12 of the nation’s top teenage jazz musicians to learn from and then play alongside the established greats – their mentors – over Labor Day Weekend.

Vail Jazz has not only established itself as a cultural asset of our community, but has earned a reputation as an organization that is dedicated to preserving jazz through the presentation of the highest quality performances and educational programs in our nation.

From its inception in 1995 Vail Jazz has steadily grown each year with the addition of more performances and educational programs, but the organization’s growth spurt over the last four years is unprecedented.

“In the last four years, Vail Jazz has grown from 30 performances in the summer to 70 year-round,” says Vail Jazz Executive Director Robin Litt. “We have more than doubled our budget in the last two years alone.”

As a nonprofit, approximately 25 percent of the organization’s funding comes from ticket sales, but the highest percentage of Vail Jazz’s funding – over 50 percent – comes from individual donations. After a steady stream of generosity from both family foundations and individuals over the last two decades, Vail Jazz recently received its most generous donation to date, a $100,000 gift made by former Coca-Cola COO and Starwood Hotels CEO, Steven J. Heyer.

In August of 2014, Heyer was attending a Vail Jazz performance when he struck up a conversation with the individual sitting next to him, Vail Jazz’s Development Director, Owen Hutchinson. The two quickly determined that they shared a passion for jazz and Hutchinson invited Heyer to another Vail Jazz Festival performance that week. Heyer was taken aback by the extraordinary quality of the performances he had attended and wanted to learn more about Vail Jazz’s history and mission. Over the next 18 months as he learned about the breadth and quality of performances and music education opportunities that Vail Jazz offered throughout the year, Heyer decided he wanted to help Vail Jazz. The rest, as they say, is history.

“I firmly believe that Vail Jazz has the strategic positioning and the capability to be a remarkable organization on a much bigger stage. The fuel that makes that happen is having the financial flexibility to make wise investments. My gift is intended to give Vail Jazz the energy it needs to realize the potential that Howard and the staff has worked so hard to create over the past 22 years,” said Mr. Heyer.

The momentum behind Vail Jazz only continues to build. The recently released lineup for this summer’s Vail Jazz @ Vail Square will be more sizzling than ever, find free jazz every Sunday as Colorado artists perform at Vail Jazz @ the Market, and mark your calendars for July 11, when nationally renowned vocalist Nicole Henry pays tribute to The Great Ladies of Song in a one-of-a-kind-performance. Vail Jazz will produce performances every Sunday night at The Remedy and Thursdays After Parties at the Vail Chophouse following the Vail Square shows. Lastly, the summer will once again wrap up with a red-hot extravaganza – The Vail Jazz Party over Labor Day Weekend. Keep tabs on all the great things to come at

Workshop alumns in Vanity Fair

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

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

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

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

Photo for Vanity Fair by Mark Seliger.



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.