Jazz Party Preview: The story behind a 50-year-old Colorado jazz music tradition

There are certain things that naturally go together — Colorado and skiing, for example. However, there is another pairing that might not be so obvious — Colorado and jazz. When the Vail Jazz Festival presents its 18th annual Vail Jazz Party over Labor Day weekend, it will continue a Colorado jazz tradition that is 50 years old and was nurtured right here in Vail.

The story begins in 1963 when Dick Gibson, a Denver businessman, gathered together jazz musicians and friends in an Aspen hotel over the three-day Labor Day weekend to have a party. That weekend, he created the first Jazz Party, a format that combined jazz musicians and fans in an intimate atmosphere with various combinations of musicians performing in jam sessions all weekend long.

Dick’s inaugural Jazz Party was a huge hit, and he presented an encore over the following Labor Day weekend in Vail. Dick was friends with Vail locals Marge and Larry Burdick, Bettan Laughlin and Billy Whiteford, who joined him to present the next edition at Casino Vail, the original “nightclub” in the heart of the Village. (In 1964 it was the largest venue in Vail.) Another great success was realized.

Dick ultimately moved the annual Jazz Party out of the mountains and down to the Front Range where Colorado Springs and Denver became the host cities for years. During his 30-year run, Dick presented an all-star lineup that featured some of the greatest musicians in the world. At a time when rock music began to overshadow jazz, these annual gatherings became a very important reunion of sorts between fans and players in the most relaxed and awe-inspiring venues one could imagine.

The fame of Dick Gibson’s Jazz Party spread with attendees traveling to Colorado from all around the world to attend the annual gathering. With limited seating at the party, jazz fans were often put on waiting lists. I was one of the lucky ones that attended many of these legendary Jazz Parties and when Dick retired, I was inspired to start the Vail Jazz Festival, motivated to carry on the great Colorado jazz tradition that he had created. The fame of the Jazz Party was so great, a documentary film was made about it called “The Great Rocky Mountain Jazz Party.”

Dick died in 1998 and the Mississippi Rag (www.mississippirag.com) observed in his obituary, “The (jazz party) concept … reinvigorated the jazz scene and led to the creation of jazz parties elsewhere.” It is reported that there were as many as 150 other jazz parties throughout the United States in the 1990s and of course, Vail became home to one of the best.

This Labor Day weekend you will have the opportunity to come to the Vail Jazz Party to see and hear why, for 50 years, jazz fans have come to Colorado to hear and see the greatest jazz musicians on the planet.


Howard Stone


Free Jazz Festival Performances Begin This Sunday With Jazz @ The Market and Jazz @ Kelly Liken in Vail

Vail, CO – The Vail Jazz Festival, now in its 18th season kicks off this Sunday, June 24 with two free performances in Vail. The ever popular Jazz @ The Market and the new Jazz @ Kelly Liken both feature local jazz aficionado Tony Gulizia.

In partnership with the Vail Farmer’s Market and Art Show, Jazz @ The Market is held each Sunday in the Jazz Tent at Solaris. The performances take place from 12-3pm and are the perfect way to spend the afternoon in Vail. This week’s artist, The Tony Gulizia Trio presents energetic, feel-good jazz for music lovers of all tastes.

Sunday evenings at restaurant Kelly Liken will feature jazz performances by Gulizia, along with a different guest artist each week. Liken’s Sunday Harvest dinner showcases the beautiful fruits and vegetables from the Vail Farmer’s Market, along with Colorado ranchers, distillers, winemakers and craftsmen, making the evening a true Vail experience. Jazz @ Kelly Liken begins at 8:30pm and guests partaking in the Sunday Harvest dinner are asked to make reservations in advance.


About the Vail Jazz Festival:

With 40 performances from June 24 through September 3, the 18th annual Vail Jazz Festival presents headliners such as Marcia Ball, Byron Stripling, the Jeff Hamilton Trio and the Brubeck Brothers Quartet in a variety of ticketed and free events in intimate indoor and unique outdoor venues throughout Vail. Featuring diverse jazz genres from straight-ahead and new-bop, to Latin, swing and the Great American Songbook, the Festival culminates with the Labor Day Vail Jazz Party featuring more than 30 hours of music in a five-day celebration of jazz.


Jazz @ The Market 2012:

6/24: Tony Gulizia Trio

7/1: Hot Club of Detriot

7/8: Kathy Morrow Trio

7/15: Chuck Lamb & Cohencided

7/22: Ginga Band

7/29: Lionel Young Band

8/5: Justin Allison Trio

8/12: Salsa Con Jazz

8/19: Laura Newman Trio

8/26: Tony G’s Jam

The Times of Dave Brubeck Opens Saturday in the Vail Village Visitor’s Center

(Vail, CO) –This Saturday, June 20, marks the beginning of the Vail Jazz Festival’s summer long celebration of jazz icon Dave Brubeck with the opening of The Times of Dave Brubeck. The free exhibit is open to the public and is hosted by The Vail Jazz Foundation and the Town of Vail. Best known as a jazz pianist and a prolific composer, Brubeck has expanded the boundaries of jazz and integrated it into classical music, all the while inspiring generations of performers and audiences with his prodigious talent. The 91-year-old jazz master has been designated a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress. According to Vail Jazz Foundation Executive Director, Robin Litt, “The Vail Jazz Foundation feels extremely honored to have the opportunity to pay homage to this great American artist.”

Through the end of August, The Times of Dave Brubeck exhibit will be on display from 10am – 8pm daily at the Visitor’s Center in Vail Village, chronicling the outsized impact of this jazz legend. This tribute focuses on Brubeck’s musical and cultural accomplishments, through documents, photographs and audio clips. The Town of Vail’s Wednesday Art Walks will begin at the Brubeck exhibit each week throughout the summer. The exhibit, on loan from the University of the Pacific, will also be on display over Labor Day Weekend outside the Vail Marriott’s Grand Ballroom.

Continuing The Vail Jazz Foundation’s Brubeck celebration, the Brubeck Brothers Quartet (featuring two of Dave’s sons) will kick off the Jazz @ Vail Square summer series at 6pm on Thursday, July 5. Additionally, as an element of the Jazz Festival’s Labor Day Weekend Party, August 31 will feature Grammy awarding-winning arranger, composer and pianist Bill Cunliffe’s Multi-Media Tribute to Dave Brubeck, using classic video, narrative and a live performance of Brubeck’s music.

The Vail Jazz Foundation is a 501(c)3 charitable foundation dedicated to the perpetuation of jazz through performances and education, with a focus on young musicians and young audiences. The Vail Jazz Festival is sponsored by Alpine Bank, Colorado Creative Industries, Colorado Mountain Express – Official Transportation Provider, Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Fund, Lionshead Summer, National Endowment for the Arts, New Amsterdam Vodka, Ravenscroft Pianos, The Jazz Cruise, Town of Vail, William Hill Vineyards and Woods & Son/Yamaha Pianos.

Vail Jazz Festival Marks 18th Season With Expanded Programming Throughout Summer Culminating With Labor Day Weekend Jazz Party

Vail, CO – The Vail Jazz Foundation announces its 2012 Vail Jazz Festival season with ticketed and free events taking place throughout Vail from June 24 through September 3. The 18th annual Festival brings international jazz artists to indoor and outdoor venues, highlighting a variety of jazz styles from swing and Latin jazz to Big Band, straight ahead and “new bop.”

“We go all out to bring the very best jazz to Vail – whether for our free concerts or the Labor Day Weekend Party,” said Howard Stone, artistic director for the Vail Jazz Festival. “We can promise some of the finest jazz music of all genres, and in this naturally magnificent rocky mountain setting, it just doesn’t get any better than that.”

Beginning Sunday, June 24 the Jazz Festival presents Jazz at the Market – midday concerts held at the Jazz Tent at Solaris in conjunction with the Vail Farmer’s Market. Each of the ten performances features regional and national artists in an improvisational format. Sunday evenings through the summer will be marked by Jazz at Kelly Liken with Vail jazz favorite Tony Gulizia and special guests. Liken’s Sunday Night Harvest Dinners feature menu items from local farmers. Owner/Chef Kelly Liken says, “Over the past few years, these dinners have become a locals’ favorite place to be; the dining room is always filled with guests we know well and we’re excited for our new partnership with the Vail Jazz Festival.”

Also beginning in June, The Life & Times of Dave Brubeck exhibit will be on display at the Visitor’s Center in Vail Village. The free exhibit highlights one of the most extraordinary living jazz musicians in America. Now 91, Brubeck, whose sons perform in Vail, will be the subject of a MultiMedia Salute by Grammy-winning musician, Bill Cunliffe on August 31.

For the first time ever, the Vail Jazz Festival teams up with the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival for “Swingin’ with Curtis Stigers” and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra on Monday, July 2 at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. The evening features legendary vocalist, Stigers and guest pops conductor Jeff Tyzik. Tickets for the Bravo! season go on sale Monday, April 23. Following three Bravo! performances in 2012, the Vail Jazz Festival and Bravo! partner to present Jazz After with select orchestral musicians in a jazz jam-format at Larkspur Restaurant. Details on Jazz After will be announced soon.

Thursday, July 5 marks the return of Jazz at Vail Square at The Arrabelle in Lionshead. These partially ticketed and free concerts will feature The Brubeck Brothers, Marcia Ball, the Air Force Falconaires and Cuban sensations, Wil Campy y su Gran Union, among others. Reserved seating is available for $20 and a Thursday night jazz pass is available for $99, which includes reserved seating at all nine Jazz at Vail Square concerts.

The summer of non-stop jazz culminates with the Labor Day Weekend Vail Jazz Party from Thursday, August 30 through Monday, September 3. The celebrated Vail Jazz Party hosts a variety of the world’s most renowned artists for eight events and 30 hours of music. Concerts, multi-media salutes, late night sets and a Gospel Prayer Meeting are included in the $385 Patron Pass and individual event tickets are also available. The complete lineup of musicians will be announced soon.

Tickets for the 2012 Vail Jazz Festival are on sale now and may be purchased online at www.vailjazz.org or by calling 888-VAIL JAM (824-5526). Discounted lodging for the Labor Day Weekend Vail Jazz Party is available through partner and Jazz Party headquarter hotel, Vail Marriott Resort & Spa. The Vail Jazz Festival is presented by the Vail Jazz Foundation.

Vail Jazz Announces Stellar Lineup for Vail Square

August 19, 2011 – Vail, Colorado – The Vail Jazz Foundation is gearing up for the 17 th annual Vail Jazz Party over Labor Day Weekend featuring over 30 jazz musicians performing over five days and four nights of traditional jazz. The performances will be held both in their traditional cabaret venue inside the Marriott Grand Ballroom, with five dynamic shows presented in the open air in Vail Square, Lionshead.

“We really pulled out all the stops in 2011,’ said Howard Stone, chairman and artistic director of the Vail Jazz Foundation. “Monty Alexander will celebrate his 35 reunion with Jeff Hamilton and John Clayton, but that’s just the beginning. Some of the finest jazz musicians on earth will be here over Labor Day Weekend – and together they’ll create the magic that is the Vail Jazz Party.” continued Stone.

The Vail Jazz Party, also known as the Labor Day Weekend Party, is the culmination of the summer long Vail Jazz Festival. This unique mix of world-class musicians utilizes a one-of-akind format that includes group performances, multi-artist jam sessions and inspiring multimedia salutes to Jazz legends. The festival’s party atmosphere is ensured by the bringing together of today’s rising stars and the true jazz veterans – jamming in an intimate venue, surrounded by the natural beauty of Vail. With over twenty-four hours of performances throughout the weekend (morning, noon and night), the audience and musicians are connected in a manner that consistently inspires great performances. The Vail Jazz Festival boasts a unique party spirit that attracts musicians and jazz lovers from all over the world.

Confirmed artists for the Labor Day Weekend Jazz Party include accomplished soloists, enlightening multimedia tributes to jazz legends, and dynamic jazz groups. Grammy winning arranger and pianist Bill Cunliffe will present a tribute to the Modern Jazz Quartet, while Louis Armstrong will be saluted by Byron Stripling. Back by popular demand will be trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, drummer Ernie Adams, and vocalist Niki Haris. The Clayton Brothers Quintet anchors the five night, four day festival; consisting of John and Jeff Clayton, Terrell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe and Lewis Nash, the member of the Quintet are educators-in-residence for the annual Vail Jazz Workshop, a week-long intensive course for 12 of the most promising high school-aged jazz musicians in North America, which takes place in Vail during the week before Labor Day. The workshop students perform as the Vail Jazz All Stars, debuting Thursday, September 1 with the Clayton Brothers Quintet at Vail Square.



Monty Alexander Trio – The Reunion

Clayton Brothers Quintet

Bill Cunliffe’s Multi Media Salute to the Modern Jazz Quartet

Dena DeRose Trio

Terell Stafford Quintet

Byron Stripling’s Multi Media Salute to Louis Armstrong

Vail Jazz All-Stars

SOLOISTS Ernie Adams

Shelly Berg

Graham Dechter

Bobby Floyd

Wycliffe Gordon

Jeff Hamilton

Niki Haris

Jay Hoggard

Tom Kennedy

Byron Stripling

Dave Tull

Jerry Weldon


Tickets, Passes and More Information

Tickets, passes, and gift certificates to the Labor Day Jazz Party can be purchased through the Vail Jazz Foundation office at 970.479.6146, or 888-VAILJAM (824-5526). Afternoon sessions are $45 ($55 after August 15), evening sessions are $55 ($65 after August 15), an all event pass including preferred seating, Friday wine tasting and Saturday dinner with the artists is $350/person, and students with ID are free with a paid adult ticket at morning and afternoon sessions.

Online tickets are available for purchase at www.vailjazz.org, or purchase them now by phone at 970.479.6146, or 888-VAILJAM (824-5526).


About the Vail Jazz Foundation

The Vail Jazz Foundation (VJF)’s mission is to perpetuate jazz music through live performances that showcase the artistry and talent of great jazz musicians, and through jazz education, with a focus on young musicians and young audiences. By taking jazz into the schools, the VJF hopes to create an awareness at a younger level, thus creating future audiences and potentially, future jazz musicians. The VJF is a 501 c 3 non-profit organization that is funded by private and corporate donations as well as grants, and is based in Vail, Colorado.



The Vail Jazz Festival is generously sponsored by Alpine Bank, Colorado Council on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, EverVail, The Jazz Cruise, Vail Resorts Echo, Vilar PAC Community Use Fund, Colorado Mountain Express, Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, Londer Vineyards, Ravenscroft Pianos, United Way Eagle River Valley, Vail Valley Foundation, Vilar Performing Arts Center Beaver Creek, and numerous other corporate and private donors.

Vail Summer Sizzles with Hot Jazz, Cool Musicians

February 8, 2011 – Vail, Colorado – The Vail Jazz Festival returns with live jazz performances featuring national jazz artists playing in spectacular outdoor and intimate indoor venues this summer, culminating with the Vail Jazz Party Labor Day weekend.

“We always strive to bring the very best of jazz to Vail – whether for our free concerts or for the Labor Day Weekend Party, ” said Howard Stone, chairman and artistic director of the Vail Jazz Foundation, which presents the Vail Jazz Festival. “What we can promise is some of the finest jazz available today, and in this naturally magnificent rocky mountain setting, it just doesn’t get much better,” continued Stone.



A staple of the summer long celebration of jazz is the Jazz at Vail Square free concert series, which this summer takes place each Thursday evening from July 7 – September 1. Comprised of nine shows presented in the Vail Jazz tent in Lionshead outside the Arrabelle Hotel, the series reflects the diversity, energy, and musical creativity that define jazz. “Latin Jazz, Swing, American Songbook or Bebop, we bring it all to Vail Square,” commented Mia Vlaar, executive director of the Vail Jazz Foundation. “While our talent is still being finalized for this summer, our artistic integrity ensures that everyone can enjoy jazz in one or more of its many interpretations.”



The jazz continues each Sunday beginning June 26 at the Vail Farmers’ Market. Featuring regional artists performing in trios, quartets and quintets, each concert celebrates the joy of improvisation, the swinging sound of jazz. The first of ten Sunday concerts will be presented from noon to 3:00pm on Meadow Drive in Vail Village. Talent includes local favorites Tony Gulizia Trio, Justin Allison Trio, Summit Jazz Consort, Kathy Morrow and many others.



The Vail Jazz Festival culminates with a unique mix of the finest jazz musicians on the planet in a one of a kind format that has lived up to its title: The Labor Day Weekend Party. Whether group performances, multi-artist jam sessions, or the inspiring tributes to jazz legends, the Weekend has a unique party spirit that attracts musicians and jazz lover from all over the world. The Vail Jazz party offers over 24 hours of the world’s finest jazz, morning, noon and night, both in the Vail Marriott Grand Ballroom and in the Vail Jazz Tent at Vail Square.