Tony DeSare lights up the Vail Jazz stage twice this summer

Just as comfortable covering Pharrell as he is old standards from The Great American Songbook, Tony DeSare has a talent for putting his own style stamp on just about anything.

As evidenced by winning first place in the 2013 USA Songwriting Contest, the 37-year-old New Yorker is a solid composer, too.

En route to becoming the next Harry Connick Jr., DeSare cannot remember a time that he didn’t love music. “My dad played guitar and sang in the house every night. I started on violin when I was 8 years old. I fell in love with the piano at 10 years old. I started playing and then performing and before I knew it, I was getting paid to perform at bars and hotels,” says DeSare, who became a father himself last year.

DeSare constantly finds fresh ways to make the keys dance while belting out classics and originals, not to mention several unexpected covers, from Prince to current radio hit, Bastille’s Pompeii.

Three of his recordings were ranked among Billboard’s top 10 jazz albums and his original songs have been handpicked for a number of film soundtracks over the last few years. It was his tune “Chemistry” that won the USA Songwriting Competition, placing first in the jazz category and second overall.

Earlier this year he was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall (one of his regular haunts) with New York Pops for Frank Sinatra’s 100th Birthday Show.

Around this time last year, DeSare spent the day playing pianos all over the streets of New York City– in Central Park, Time Square, in Brooklyn and Queens. The pianos were scattered throughout the five boroughs for a project by Sing for Hope, a charity organization that strives to make art accessible to everyone. There was a total of 88 individually painted pianos on the streets for two weeks, after which the organization donated them to schools, hospitals and community centers. DeSare went out on his own early one Sunday morning with a couple of camera guys dressed like tourists and hit about 15 of the pianos, sitting down at each to play Irving Berlin’s “I Love a Piano.”

“The thing that struck me the most is how every place is such a different experience. Everyone was walking by and if the music caught them enough to stop, they did. All walks of life stopped and shared the moment together. That was the coolest thing,” DeSare says. “That song is almost 100 years old but it’s still enjoyable to old people, young people … all people. It’s an excellent reminder of the power of song.”

The video documenting the experience has gotten tens of thousands of views on DeSare’s YouTube channel, as have several of his other mashups and covers that cannot be found anywhere else.

When selecting a song to perform in a video – such as his jazzed up mesh of Pharrell’s “Happy” and Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” DeSare chooses only numbers he believes will take on new life once given his bonafide twist. “In the case of the ‘Happy’ video, it was the thought of putting those two songs together – Bobby McFerrin’s, which I loved when I was a kid, and the Pharrell hit. It’s a cultural match, which is the musical reason, but it’s also just the fun and joy of it,” he says.

Fun and enjoyment are unsurprisingly two of the characteristics that resonate during DeSare’s live performance, which typically include several jazz standards from the Great American Songbook as well the singer’s heartfelt, high-energy originals and perhaps a doo-wopped rock track by Bob Dylan, Elton John or Prince.

“I’ve got different stories to go with the songs. I come from a school that believes the process of music should be entertaining and have enough to it along with the presentation of music to make it fun,” he says.

Don’t miss DeSare’s Vail debut at 6 p.m. July 17 in Lionshead for Jazz @Vail Square. Jazz Tent tickets are $15 or $30 for VIP seats (including front of the tent seating, access to 1st Bank VIP Lounge and a drink ticket).

For more information, visit vailjazz.org.

Also, on July 16, DeSare and his trio will perform at the Vail Jazz 20thAnniversary Benefit Dinner. Tickets and tables for this special evening are available for $150 and $1,500, respectively.

Hot young artists on the bill for Vail jazz summer

The 20th anniversary festival lineup exemplifies that jazz is a genre embraced by all ages.

Anyone who thinks jazz is a fading breed of music embraced only by the older generations has obviously not witnessed the bouncing mass of revelers at a Red Baraat concert. The eight-piece “party band” from Brooklyn makes its local debut July 31 at Jazz @ Vail Square.

Pumping out an eclectic combination of brass funk, North Indian bhangra rhythms and go-go, in spite of forming just six years ago, Red Baraat has already landed gigs at the White House, the New Orleans and Montreal Jazz Festivals as well as big rock festivals such as Bonnaroo.

Band leader and Dhol player Sunny Jain believes his band’s quick success and presence at such a variety of large scale performances is due to the phenomenon that the very definition of “jazz” is its inherent knack for transformation.

“The idea of what jazz is has constantly developed and changed,” Jain says. “It’s really a main element of the band. Several of us come from a jazz background, bringing the idea of improvisation, in-the-moment spontaneity, the conversation and dialogue within the music.

In terms of what we do relating to the audience, it’s to make sure we’re passionate about what we’re doing onstage, producing joyous music that includes everyone. It’s a party regardless of how old, young or mixed the audience. It doesn’t matter if there’s 10 people or a thousand people out there. Our prime goal is to deliver the music and bring our passion.”

Passion is the overarching characteristic of the otherwise eclectic lineup of artists in this summer’s 20th Anniversary season of the Vail Jazz Festival, which kicks off July 3 with the six-string talent of guitar duet Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo, who also pride themselves on departing from the jazz tradition, intermixing their set of classic jazz tunes with say, a comical but amazingly precise rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

New York-based pianist Tony Desare, who performs at Jazz @ Vail Square on July 17, recently performed his personally stylized versions of American Songbook tunes for Frank Sinatra’s 100th Birthday show at Carnegie Hall, but also plays awardwinning originals and regularly posts his unique jazzed up renditions of current pop tunes (Bastille’s Pompeii, a clever fusion of Pharrell’s Happy and Bobby Ferrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy) on his YouTube channel.

“I come from the school of thought that the process of music should be entertaining and moving. It should be fun,” Desare says.

The Vail Jazz Festival’s 20th anniversary begins June 22 with live performances every Sunday at the Vail Farmers Market and starting July 3 every Thursday, culminating in the Vail Jazz Party over Labor Day Weekend.

For more information, visit vailjazz.org.

Thursday evenings are set for jazz this summer

VAIL — There’s no mistaking the sounds of a soulful summer in the air on Thursday evenings in Vail — the distinctice and familiar ring of world-class jazz music.

Beginning April 15, tickets are on sale for this summer’s Thursday night Jazz @ Vail Square concert series. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Vail Jazz Festival, the Thursday concerts offer an A-list lineup of artists.

New this year, Jazz @ Vail Square offers two-tiered pricing for seating under the tent. General Admission tickets are $15 per show or $30 for VIP seating, which includes priority seating, access to the VIP lounge area and a drink voucher. Information available at www.vailjazz.org or 888-824-5526. Passes for the nine-performance series are also available.

July 3

Kicking things off at Vail Square, guitar virtuoso duo Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo return with their quick-fingered, quick-witted performance covering everything from jazz classics to rock hits, all with a humorous flair.

July 10

Also returning by popular demand, the foot-stomping, dance-inspiring rhythms of conga drumming sensation Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band.

July 17

Young singer and jazz pianist Tony DeSare hits the stage with energy described to lie somewhere between that of Harry Connick Jr. and Billy Joel. He’s one of the hottest up-and-comers in jazz at the moment and plays Vail for the first time.

July 24

Long-time Vail Jazz favorite and world-renowned pianist Marcia Ball returns with New Orleans-infused, feel-good melodies. See why they call her “saucy.”

July 31

When a New Orleans brass band collides with the strains of Eastern Indian horns and percussion in the form of a large but harmonious ensemble, it looks and sounds something like Red Baraat. Also likely to instigate some dancing.

Aug. 7

Jamaica’s one and only Monty Alexander brings his addictive jazz piano and the classic grooves of a full band, the Harlem-Kingston Express, from their usual setup at New York City’s Lincoln Center to those lucky to witness the experience in the tent at Vail Square.

Aug. 14

Guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli returns for a rich and riveting performance along with his quartet, including brother Martin on bass.

Aug. 21

Expect to dance, swing-style. Artist TBA.

Aug. 28

It’s a triple bill for the series’ grand finale. Resident favorites, The Vail Jazz Party House Band wrap up Jazz @ Vail Square with a white-hot performance preceded by the nation’s top lineup of teenage protégés, the Vail Jazz All-Stars and also the now-famous All-Star alums. The performance, while closing the Thursday night series, kicks off the 20th annual Vail Jazz Party.

Turning 20 means going big: Summer lineup released for the Vail Jazz Festival’s 20th season

Twenty years ago, the Vail Jazz Festival planted its heels into Vail and with a soaring but humble brigade of trumpets, bass, drums and guitars, launching an event that nobody would envision snowballing to the proportions it has reached this season.

Growing from a Labor Day weekend lineup of performances to a summer-long event featuring weekly performances by some of the country and even world’s top jazz musicians, the Vail Jazz Festival is poised to blow the doors off in celebration of its 20th anniversary.

“Jazz started in New Orleans and it’s truly a gumbo. It’s a living music – a changing, breathing creature,” says Vail Jazz Festival founder Howard Stone. “For this 20th anniversary season, our lineup is not just a New Orleans gumbo, it’s a world gumbo with more energy and variety than we’ve ever had.”

Beginning at the end of June, twelve weeks of performances include free jazz every Sunday at the Vail Farmers’ Market and Restaurant Kelly Liken along with hands on, educational workshops – Jammin’ Jazz Kids. Then of course, there are the Thursday evening Jazz@ Vail Square performances with a line up that will have long-time jazz diehards brimming with anticipation and young jazz skeptics readily admitting that the genre is worth exploring.

The names immediately recognizable to the former group include iconic guitarist John Pizzarelli, who made his inaugural appearance at last summer’s Vail Jazz Festival and kicks off the season June 27 with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra as a collaboration with Bravo! Vail, a collaboration that also brings a series of three jam sessions – all of which sold out last season – on July 2, 12 and 23.

The Jazz @ Vail Square performances have truly evolved into an event of their own, filling the jazz tent in Lionshead with a brimming crowd every Thursday evening and the entire side of town with uplifting melodies. Advanced tickets to each show are $10 or $25 for VIP preferred seating.

 

Jazz @ Vail Square

July 3: The series kicks off with the return of hypnotizing guitar duo Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo. Appearing in Vail for the first time last summer, Frank & Vinny have a knack for enthralling a crowd with their lightning fast fingers covering a litany of tunes from classics like “Stardust” to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” all while conducting their own silly choreography and drawing laughs from the crowd. Keep an eye out for the duo on the best-sounding float in Vail’s Fourth of July parade.

July 10: Also returning by popular demand, the foot-stomping, dance-inspiring rhythms of conga drumming sensation Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band.

July 17: Young singer and jazz pianist Tony DeSare is quickly becoming known for making the keys dance while belting out original compositions as well as upbeat renditions of his favorites from a gamut that runs from Billy Joel to Harry Connick Jr. This marks the Vail debut of his quartet.

July 24: Jazz festival favorite Marcia Ball returns to Vail with her romping New Orleansinfused piano and vocals.

July 31: Imagine New Orleans Brass Band colliding with the strains of Eastern Indian horns and percussion. The young and energetic Red Baraat grabbed NPR’s attention for a Tiny Desk Concert and are sure to have Vail Square thumping.

Aug. 7: Jamaica’s one and only Monty Alexander brings his addictive jazz piano along with the classic grooves of his full band, the Harlem-Kingston Express, from their regular setup at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City to a very special show in Lionshead.

Aug. 14: Guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli returns for his own riveting performance along with his quartet, including brother Martin on bass.

Aug. 21: Defying the classic conventions, young, blonde and uber talented trumpeter Bria Skonberg makes her inaugural appearance in Vail. You’ve never heard a horn wail in such inspiring melody as this. Swing dance?

Aug. 28: The kings of Vail Jazz, The Vail Jazz Party House Band wrap up Jazz @ Vail Square with a white-hot performance followed by the future of jazz embodied in the nation’s very best, carefully selected ensemble of Vail Jazz All-Stars.

Vail Jazz Party Labor Day Weekend

The ultimate grand finale, the 20th anniversary party brings an onslaught of more than 40 of the world’s finest jazz musicians, including the genre’s most renowned pianists Benny Green along with the return of Monty Alexander, drummers Jeff Hamilton and Ernie Adams, trumpeter Byron Stripling, saxophonists Ken Peplowski and Grace Kelly and vocalists Curtis Stigers and Ann Hampton Callaway.

The weekend will include mind-blowing multimedia tributes to Benny Goodman, Clark Terry and Sarah Vaughn, singer Niki Haris at the helm for the wildly popular Gospel Prayer Meetin’ and a true star power lineup of Vail Jazz All-Star alums, including the remarkably talented blind pianist Justin Kauflin, featured in the gripping documentary “Keep on Keepin’ On.” To be viewed over the festival weekend.

“Each of these artists is a jazz powerhouse in his or her own right,” says Vail Jazz Foundation Executive Director Robin Litt. “To get this many of them in one place, on one weekend, is something that just doesn’t happen anywhere else.”

For more information or to purchase to any of the festival’s upcoming events, visit vailjazz.org.

Vail Jazz Unveils 20th Anniversary Image

February 12, 2014 – Vail, Colorado – As part of the 20th Anniversary celebration of the Vail Jazz Festival, The Vail Jazz Foundation unveiled its festival image, the brand of the summer-long festival.

With over 40 performances spanning 12 weeks, offerings will include free and welcoming outdoor concerts, large format performances as well as intimate soirées.

Each year, we work with a graphic artist to capture the essence and excitement of our festival through a captivating image,” said Robin Litt, executive director of The Vail Jazz Foundation. “This year, we decided to go about things differently than in the past and we conducted a contest to get designers interpretations of Vail Jazz. We are excited to be working with AJ McCormick, whose winning trombone image seems to explode with mountains.”

Entries came from all over the country, including Eagle County and the Front Range. McCormick, a graphic designer based in Denver, spends a lot of time snowboarding in Vail.

The image becomes the brand of the festival, which will commence on June 22 and wrap up with the Vail Jazz Party on September 1st. The 12-week festival will be filled with over 40 performances ranging from free outdoor performances to intimate and elegant small-venue shows.

Addressing the Vail Jazz mission of presenting performances and educational opportunities that promote jazz, with specific focus on young artists and young audiences.

The season gets a jump start on June 27th with a collaboration with Bravo! Vail at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater featuring jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jeff Tyzik.

Jammin’ Jazz Kids, which debuted in 2013, will be expanded to offer free interactive programming for youth every Sunday in July at the Vail Farmers’ Market, in conjunction with the weekly Jazz @ The Market series.

“Jazz After” jam sessions at Larkspur will continue in partnership with Bravo! Vail following performances at the GRFA.

The cornerstone of Vail Jazz summer activities is the weekly series at Lionshead each Thursday night, Jazz @ Vail Square.

Artists will include Monty Alexander and the Harlem-Kingston Express, John Pizzarelli Quartet, Tony DeSare, one of the hottest singer/pianists on the scene todayand Vail Jazz “House Band” made up of John Clayton, Jeff Clayton, Terell Stafford, Wycliffe Gordon, Bill Cunliffe and Lewis Nash. The full line up will be announced in March.

The grand finale of the festival takes place over Labor Day Weekend with the Vail Jazz Party. The Party is a unique format that brings the audience up close with over 40 artists, who will jam for over 35 hours over Labor Day Weekend. Artists who will perform along with the House Band over Labor Day Weekend include: pianists Benny Green and Monty Alexander, vocalists Curtis Stigers and Ann Hampton Callaway, drummer Jeff Hamilton and his trio, trumpeter Byron Stripling, clarinetist Ken Peplowski, drummer Ernie Adams, bassist Marty Wind and the Vail Jazz Alumni Ensemble, all past members of the Vail Jazz Workshop who are current touring musicians.

Special shows will include: the popular Gospel Prayer Meetin’ led by Niki Haris, Multi-Media Tributes to Benny Goodman, Clark Terry and Sarah Vaughn, Piano Duets featuring all of the party’s pianists, and a partnership with the Vail Symposium – a screening of “Keep on Keepin’ On”, a documentary featuring Clark Terry and one of his last students, Vail Jazz alumnus, Justin Kauflin.

“We’ll have more exciting programming over Labor Day Weekend than ever before – and we already have a packed weekend of music!” Litt remarked. “Each of these artists is a tremendous headliner in his or her own right, but when we bring together so many jazz powerhouses at our party, the output is like nothing you’ve experienced before.” Tickets for the Vail Jazz Party will go on sale in March.

Lights on the ladies of jazz at the 19th Annual Vail Jazz Festival

Meet the five big-time female artists at this year’s Vail Labor Day Weekend Party.

Like any history, the history of jazz has been marked by some very notable ‘hers’. There’s been Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Ellie Fitzgerald … the list goes on.

Of all the contemporary favorites bound to one day find a place on this iconic list, the 19th annual Vail Jazz Labor Day Weekend Party features some awe-inspiring potential candidates.

The five-day live music celebration is stacked with more than 30 of the country’s most highly acclaimed artists. From Shelly Berg’s History of Stride and Boogie Woogie to Byron Stripling’s tribute to Miles Davis, the weekend is of course bubbling with dynamic sets of straight-up jazz, but the lineup and styles also reach every possible corner of the rather vast umbrella of what we know as jazz music.

“You can really say to the few naysayers out there saying that jazz is dying, ‘Hey! Look at Vail,” says Vail Jazz Party pioneer and director of education John Clayton. “What’s happened is, through the years, people have grown to trust [founder and developer] Howard Stone and trust his taste. There will be people the Vail Jazz supporters have never heard of, but they know they’ll always, always go home from a jazz performance and say, ‘God, that was great.’”

Among the greats at this year’s jazz party, there are five female artists that are unquestionable standouts.

 

Niki Haris

Although some might consider gospel in a classification other than jazz, anyone who’s attended Niki Haris’s Gospel Prayer Meetin’ knows that the same elements that define the jazz genre are on fervent display. “The word gospel means ‘good’ and many voices speaking about one good. All races, all colors come together to be part of this spiritual celebration,” says Haris, who is a singer, songwriter, dancer and choreographer and will be performing several times throughout the weekend culminating in her 9:30 a.m. Sunday Prayer Meetin,’ featuring the Mile High Gospel Ensemble and for the first time in history, including lyrics for the audience to not only clap along but raise their voices too.

“Jazz is about freedom of expression,” she says. “I’m so happy and proud that [Vail Jazz Party organizers] have taken a step out and made this gospel prayer spiritual meeting to be an integral part of this festival. Not only do they love jazz but they understand the core of it.”

Gospel is only one of Haris’ points of focus, as she has worked with everyone from Ray Charles to Mick Jagger and spent 18 years touring and recording with Madonna. Along with the Gospel Ensemble and several special guests, Haris delivers what’s arguably the highest energy performance of the whole festival, guaranteed to have everyone in the Jazz Tent on their feet, singing, clapping and swaying.

“I love the entire energy of the Vail Jazz Festival but one of the best parts is that it is set in the most pristine, beautiful part of the country,” Haris says. “I always say God was having a great day when he made Vail, Colorado – or should I say she? The point is, this is the world we all want to see – everyone celebrating in their own way to whatever God they serve. We’re all here together.”

 

Cyrille Aimeé

Performing several times throughout the weekend beginning on Friday night, Cyrille Aimeé’s enchanting vocals have won her first place in the esteemed Montreaux Voice Competition and have also landed her on the list of most acclaimed regular artists on the New York City jazz scene.

With a French father and Dominican mother, Aimeé has spent much of her life in both France and the Dominican Republic and her singing style resonates with influences from each – the hypnotic rhythms of traditional Domican beats and also some spice of French gypsy swing.

 

Tia Fuller

Does the name Beyoncé ring a bell? You may recall the international star’s unforgettable all-female band from such highlight reels as last year’s Super Bowl halftime show and among this glittering group, Tia Fuller on saxophone was a standout.

The Colorado native is also well-versed in piano and flute and co-directs Esperanza Spalding’s rising band, the Radio Society.

Fuller was a student in the Vail Jazz Workshop in 1996 and is back at this weekend’s Jazz Party with the Vail Alumni Quartet to demonstrate to the valley just what heights she has reached with her talent and her career.

 

Akiko Tsuruga

Another Vail Jazz Party favorite, Akiko Tsuruga has been known to spark audiences to attention by striding onstage in a traditional kimono and attack her B3 organ as if it were the last night of her life.

Since moving to New York City, the native of Osaka, Japan has established herself as a crowd-pleasing mainstay at Jazz at Lincoln Center and has also won over many an audience headlining Birdland and Blue Note.

She will be performing Saturday and Monday afternoons in the Jazz Tent.

 

Karen Hammack

First lured by blues piano at the age of 14, Karen Hammack quickly embarked on her singer/songwriter career incorporating all elements of jazz, gospel, funk, soul and rock and is now a master recording artist with a long list of original numbers that have been singled out for their heart-gripping sincerity.

Hailing from California, Hammack has worked with Jackson Brown, Michael McDonald, Bill Frisell and a slew of others and recently released her latest, 14-track album, My Beating Heart.

She delivers riveting solo performances Saturday and Monday in the Jazz Tent and will also be the music director and pianist for Niki Haris’s Gospel Prayer Meetin’ on Sunday.

 

Running today through Monday, tickets to this year’s Labor Day Jazz Party are close to sold out. For more information on availability and more info on performances, visit vailjazz.org or call 1-888-VAIL-JAM.

Let’s conga! Poncho Sanchez brings hot Latin Jazz to Vail

Growing up poor in Los Angeles, Poncho Sanchez thought he might have found his calling after he bought a three-string Spanish guitar for $.50 from a neighbor. “The guy across the street had a band doing a lot of Motown stuff,” recalls the Grammy award-winning Latin jazz bandleader. “He had a Fender and he’d let me touch it but not too much because I was just the kid across the street. I bought this little Spanish guitar and started plucking on it. I got to playing four or five songs and thought I was pretty good.”

It wasn’t until the young Sanchez went to join a neighborhood band that his true province emerged, or at least part of it. With the three-string in tow, Sanchez immediately saw that the band already had a guitar player that put him to shame. But they informed him that what they really needed was a singer.

“I didn’t think I was a singer,” Sanchez says. “But I got up there and sang a James Brown song. I started dancing around like James Brown. When the song was over, they said, “wow. You can sing and you can really move.”

The youngest of 11 children, Sanchez can thank his seven sisters for the dance moves. He and his siblings listened to late 50s mamba and cha cha cha records incessantly as children but while his sisters danced around the house, Sanchez would stare at the album covers and hone in on the deep rhythms of the songs.

“What attracted me to the Latin percussion is the sound of the drum itself,” he says. “It was the flavor of them, or, as we say in Spanish, el sabor. I felt it, the rhythm, the flavor, the ‘unk-cha, chik-ah, chi-ka.” My sisters would dance and I would hear their feet shuffling on the floor. I’ve loved it as far back as I can remember.”

Needless to say, Sanchez was a born bandleader. And in high school, he bought his first conga drum. “I learned the trade of how to be a front man in a band. But all this time, I always liked the conga and the timbales,” he says. “Nobody in my neighborhood knew nothing about Latin percussion stuff. I bought a conga – my father bought one in a cheap pawnshop. I went home, put Cal Tjader’s records on and started to play.

Just the sound of the instrument, when I laid my hand down and learned how to slap it, there’s an open sound – ‘oon-go, oon-go.’ It felt right to me. It felt good on my hands.”

Sanchez and his congas were front and center, leading several local bands for years of his youth in Los Angeles. Then in 1975, the drummer’s hero Cal Tjader invited him on stage to perform with his band. The famous vibraphonist was so taken with Sanchez that he made him the official conguero in his band until the older musician passed away in 1982.

Sanchez’s time with Tjader provided him a fantastic dose of full circle magic in his career and he embraces that time period as the most memorable and poignant in his 35 years of professional music.

“I never dreamed I would play with him, especially for seven years,” Sanchez says. “I was with him when he died – we were on tour. It was a heavy, heavy experience, a big learning experience. The first time I played with Dizzy Gillespie was also one of the special moments. You don’t forget the great legends.”

Without even trying, Sanchez is poised to become a legend himself. In Lima, Peru, a couple of weeks ago, Sanchez found himself on the country’s most popular TV programs – hosted by “a gentleman who is like the Larry King of Peru.” Sanchez was interviewed in Spanish, which does not come easily to him as English has always been his more comfortable language. Sanchez’s entire family saw it a couple of days later on YouTube. “My sister called me and was crying. She said it was beautiful. She said, ‘You did a great job,’” Sanchez says. “She said, ‘the part that really got me is you were telling this guy there were 11 of us and we’re all alive and well.’ I’m the youngest. I’m going to be 62 My brother is 80. It’s really nice that I get along with all my brothers and sisters. They’re very proud of me. I’m the baby brother that did well.”

Tommy Igoe Drummer Extraordinaire at Jazz @ Vail Square

Jazz @ Vail Square continues this Thursday, Aug. 8 with the high-energy, seat-thumping sounds of the Tommy Igoe Sextet.

One of the world’s preeminent drummers, Igoe has led the Birdland Big Band in New York City over the last several years, created the beats for Broadway’s “The Lion King” and has toured the world with the likes of Art Garfunkel, Stanley Jordan and Blood Sweat and Tears.

When leading his big band, Igoe charges into each number on his drum kit as all the other musicians – the horn section, guitars, piano and bass – weave in.

Unlike most drummers who hold up the beat in the background, Igoe is always the leader, forever driving the train. Smaller in size than the big band, his sextet promises the same caliber of whistles and steaming momentum. “The small group together has been an answer to the big band,” says Igoe, who now resides in San Francisco. “The big band got so much attention, but it was hard to move around with so many people. I came up with the idea of doing the same kind of thing with the same energy in a sextet form. It follows the same artistic DNA as the big band. It’s much more than just a jazz event; it’s a music event with music from all over the world.”

The Vail show will feature Igoe on drums, Phil Palombi on bass, Matthew Aaron Jodrell on trumpet, Allen Farnham on piano, Nathan Childers on alto saxophone and Rolando Morales Matos on percussion.

While delivering plenty of favorites from the core of jazz, the sextet will also cover pieces from Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela and of course, good ol’ American tunes. The vast gamut of musical genres is not the only aspect of Igoe’s profound repertoire.

Barely 2 years old when he started playing drums, Igoe has studied plenty of other instruments but always takes what he learns back to his drumming. “I studied classical piano for 20 years,” he says. “I have a love-hate relationship with the piano because I love to hate it so much. Ha ha! No really, I love the piano. Studying the piano has made me a much better drummer. I studied all the instruments, and it has all helped me on the drum set.”

In addition to conducting and performing in various-sized bands, Igoe spends the other half of his life educating young up-and-coming drummers.

Even as his sticks become a blur as he hits dozens of strikes per minute and magically incorporates additional beats as if he has 20 limbs rather than four, there is one simple piece of advice Igoe offers to all of his students. “I’ve invested a lot of my time and energy into the education field. I’ve made a lot of DVDS and in so many different ways I’ve addressed that whole question – How do you do that and not get tired? And more importantly, how do you not hurt yourself? I’ve found a way to put it in one word: relax. If you relax, you can do anything. Really, anything, anything. You’ll never hear any music teacher say ‘OK students, get ready … get as tense as you can be.’ In any activity – especially anything physical – the secret is relaxing.”

If you’ve seen Igoe rapid-firing with his drumsticks and his entire body moving with his orchestra of beats, you’d never guess he’s relaxing. See and hear it for yourself this Thursday.

John Pizzarelli’s and his Hip Guitar visit Vail Square

John Pizzarelli puts an extra pop in jazz. The internationally heralded guitarist/vocalist and his quartet land in Lionshead on Thursday.

There was no such thing as silence growing up in the Pizzarelli household. Mind you, the sounds emanating from the place were nothing close to noise.

Coming from one of the most talented, harmonious families in jazz history, there was never any pressure for John Pizzarelli to take up music as a young boy. He was never pushed to follow in the footsteps of his famous father, Bucky Pizzarelli.

Playing music was pure fun for John and everyone else in the house. It was 100-percent natural. “It was very easy. We had all the guitars and all the equipment,” says John, who will be making his inaugural appearance this Thursday at Jazz @ Vail Square, performing with his brother Martin on bass, Larry Fuller on piano and Tony Tedesco on drums. “

The house was one big instrument room. There was always some kind of music going on – my father playing, rock bands in high school … It’s always been enjoyable to me. Never like a job.”

Over the last 22 years, the enjoyment has led to more than 20 studio albums, 11 collaborative records with his father and four more with his wife, singer Jessica Molaskey, with whom John co-hosts the nationally syndicated weekly radio program, “Radio Deluxe.”

When asked if guitar was also the obvious fit for John and bass the natural choice for Martin, John says he actually started out with the tenor banjo. “The Martin question is easier,” John says, laughing. “He chose bass because we needed a bass player. We forced it on him. The guitar was around the house but it wasn’t until I found an Elton John book lying around that I picked it up and played along. That got me rolling.”

While Bucky has a very busy musical schedule of his own, John tries to team up with his father as much as possible and when the family talent converges on the holidays, the doors are virtually blown off at the Pizzarelli household.

“Whenever I can rope him into playing with me, I do,” John says of his father. “He’s so busy, it’s good we’ll play with him when we can. For the holidays we always get together. For Christmas, all hell breaks loose.”

When it comes to performing with his brother, Tedesco and Fuller – his quartet of the last seven years – Pizzarelli cherishes the band’s ability to instantly read one another. “The thing I like about having the group is when you go, you can have a set booked and arrangements and you’re able to do whatever you want to do at a moment’s notice,” he says. “It’s nice to have music you’re always prepared for. It doesn’t have to be the same every night.”

Dovetailing on that vein of fresh takes, although he is known to sing and play hypnotizing renditions of jazz classics and The Great American Songbook, Pizzarelli’s latest musical focus his most recent album release – “Double Exposure” – is pop songs by the likes of Neil Young, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Seals and Crofts and The Allman Brothers, to name a few.

Only Pizzarelli infused his own arrangements into the core of the tunes … jazzed them up, if you will. “It started with records I made with my wife, the idea of having these songs inside of songs,” he explains. “I thought I could apply it with songs I grew up with – ‘I Feel Fine,’ ‘Diamond Girl’… I would always look for a jazz song or something to throw in so it still had jazz at its center. I felt it was really creative. It was one of my records that took the most work and I was glad with the way it turned out.”

As comfortable and energetic as he is with his quartet, some of Pizzarelli’s most prized performance memories to date include sharing the stage and recording with a number of musical icons. “Some of the best moments were playing with James Taylor or Paul McCartney or Natalie Cole,” he says. “What I was really pleased with is that they were as nice personally as they are musically. There’s a reason why they’re tremendous musical stars. They are generous, beautiful people.”

 

What: Jazz @ Vail Square with John Pizzarelli Quartet

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1

Where: The weatherproof Jazz Tent in Vail Square, Lionshead

Info: Preferred seats are $20 in advance, $25 day of show and general admission FREE on a first-come basis. Visit vailjazz.org for more info.

 

Vail, Colo. is universally held as North America’s top year-round destination mountain resort and has become a cosmopolitan community with visitors from all over the world. Founded in December 1962, Vail marked its 50th anniversary this winter as the new home of the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships. Also home to world Alpine ski racing champion Lindsey Vonn, the legendary Back Bowls of Vail Mountain, and in 2015 Vail will host its third World Alpine Ski Championships. Matching the incredible winter mountain experience, Vail from May through October is characterized by a rich culinary scene, a world-class events schedule from adventure sports to classical and Jazz, family activities and everything in between. Leading this lineup is the Vail Jazz Festival, Bravo! Vail Music Festival, the Vail International Dance Festival, America’s greatest bicycle race, the USA Pro Challenge, and the legendary Gourmet on Gore culinary festival and Vail Jazz Party capping off the summer season. Vail also offers exceptional lodging from high-end luxury hotels to practical condominiums and vacation rentals. Getting to Vail is easy via Denver International Airport and close by Eagle Airport, America’s fourth busiest regional airport with non-stop service from nine major U.S. cities including the new Houston flight, and connections from around the globe.

Once here, Vail proudly offers the largest free public transportation system in North America. The Vail consumer website is www.vail.com, and the Town of Vail website is www.vailgov.com.

The 19th annual Vail Jazz Festival is produced by the Vail Jazz foundation and sponsored by Town of Vail, Alpine Bank, AT&T, CME, The Jazz Cruise, Vail Daily, William Hill Winery, New Amsterdam Vodka and Gin, KUVO and KVJZ, Alpine Aire, Alpine Party Rentals, The Arrabelle, Yamaha, KZYR, Mighty Fine Productions, Rocky Mountain Reprographics, Lionshead Summer, Hertz, Larkspur Restaurant, Vail Marriott Mountain Resort, Avalon Clothing and Kelly Liken.

9 Questions with ‘The American Diva,’ Ann Hampton Callaway

The ‘American Diva’ speaks candidly about her many hats, The Great American Songbook and working with Robert de Niro.

Hypnotizing audiences with her rich vocal delivery of the classics, Anne Hampton Callaway is a Tony Award-winning Broadway star, pianist, producer and songwriter who has composed hundreds of songs for everyone from Barbara Streisand to the hit TV series “The Nanny.”

In the Vail area, Callaway most recently leaps to memory for her stage-rattling tribute to Ella Fitzgerald at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in winter 2012.

This Thursday she is back in town, performing The Great American Songbook from 6 to 8 p.m. for Jazz @ Vail Square. Earlier this week she sat down to answer some exclusive questions

 

1. You’d been described as, and are a self-proclaimed “American Diva.” How exactly do you define/live up to that? The word diva has always been funny to me. I use it very tongue in cheek. It allows me to have a larger than life persona so I have more possibilities of reaching my audiences and have fun with them and sort of be a character. Not just me, Anne Hampton Callaway. I’m an introspective person and in certain ways, quiet and shy. No one would ever guess that about me. Because I love The American Songbook and I feel being a musician is like being an ambassador, it gives me a certain twinkle-in-the-eye leadership position to have fun with people.

2. Of all the song-writing collaborations you’ve been a part of with such a huge variety of artists, which ones stand out the most and why? Certainly writing songs for the great Barbara Streisand has been an extraordinary experience. She has reached 11 million people with the first song I wrote her at the same time – “Higher Ground.” That was uplifting to me because I’m a peace activist and that anthem for world peace was something I wanted people to hear and be inspired by.

3. What specific personal associations/emotions do you have tied in to certain tunes from The Great American Songbook? I feel The Great American Songbook has provided me an incredible sort of soundtrack to my life. These songs came in a golden age of writers who were writing mostly for Broadway and film. So they were writing for real situations, songs that had to advance the plot of a character in a timely, important, universal situation. I feel like these songs become more beautiful with time. They’ve become to me the things that understand us better than each other sometimes. They give me great comfort and I’ve learned a lot about life through them.

4. How is it difficult to perform the Songbook in distinctive fashion, unlike anything audiences have heard before? In your own words, describe your approach. My musical approach begins with the story and the lyric and where I’m going to be singing it – with a symphony orchestra, in a jazz club, in a foreign country. That might affect my approach a little bit. But usually the feeling I get from a story, from the words dictate what I do with it. Since we’ve heard so many renditions of the songs by great artists, to me it’s important to help people not take the words for granted and not take the story for granted. When my sister and I were putting our show ‘Boom!’ together and these songs from the 60s and 70s, people were so used to singing along that they didn’t even think about them any more. We had fun finding ways to articulate the lyric in a way that people felt moved by it. That is the challenge to every singer today, especially doing this material.

5. What was the most memorable aspect of your last visit to the Vail Valley? I just love the people. I love how much they love this music. It’s a great community of people who have come to support jazz. The beauty of the mountains inspires my performance, even though it’s harder to sing because of the oxygen situation. I usually take a couple hits of oxygen before I go on stage. Performing the wonderful songs of Ella Fitzgerald was a highlight in itself last time.

6. What songs are on your personal playlist? I have a very eclectic record collection. I listen to jazz. I love Brazilian music. To me, Brazilian music is so relaxing and beautiful. It puts me in a very happy mood. I listen to a lot of instrumental music, singer/songwriters, some of the old songs I grew up with – Joni Mitchell, Carole King, James Taylor …. I’m broadening my list all the time. My iTunes get bigger and bigger.

7. How do you go about narrowing down selections from the Great American Songbook for a performance? When I perform, I want every song to be something I can’t wait to sing. If I’m going to sing a love song, I want it to be one of the most beautiful, powerful love songs anyone has ever heard. I want it to surprise people a little bit. I want people to feel brand new when they leave a night of music – refreshed and human all over again.

8. In wearing so many hats as singer, pianist, composer, actress … does one or the other strike you as more rewarding? What is uniquely fulfilling about each? I think my dad once told me that if you want to live a happy, fulfilling life the more you can combine all the things you’re good at, the happier you will be. I think that’s what’s been especially rewarding about my career. I’ve been able to interpret music, create music and my philosophical side as a person, my humorous, silly side, the side that wants to enter different personalities, all of these interests lend themselves to a career in music. Singing has been the most natural, but writing is how I think. Acting to me – I was an acting major – it’s been a great part of my foundation as a singer to step into a story of a song and make it come alive. All of these parts of me are important.

9. Was your feature film debut – The Good Shepherd – all you hoped it would be? How was the experience working alongside stars like Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie? First of all, I didn’t expect to be on the set, in the movie, I thought I was just going to be on the soundtrack. Working with Robert de Niro recording the song, he directed me in every take and I did a large amount of takes because he’s so meticulous. We had fun in the green room talking about The Great American Songbook. When I got the call the next day that he wanted me in the movie I was just beside myself. I loved working on the set with Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie. Robert de Niro insisted I call him ‘Bob.’ He took a special moment to introduce me to the stars.

 

 

INFO:

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, July 18

Where: The all-weather jazz tent in Vail Square, Lionshead

Tickets: Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 day of show for preferred seating and general admission is FREE on a first-come basis. Vailjazz.org. 888-VAIL-JAM