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/

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 vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

 

Jazzing up the pop and rock

Seminal guitarist John Pizzarelli returns to Vail

When impersonating his father, famed guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, John Pizzarelli adopts a raspy voice with a strong Jersey accent. He speaks of his father with a tone of equal parts humor and adoration.

Coming from one of the most talented, harmonious families in jazz history, there was never any pressure for John to take up music as a young boy. He was never pushed to follow in the footsteps of his father, but Bucky has certainly played a part in refining his son’s skills, even when it comes to hitting the most complicated bridges and transitions on the guitar.

“If you don’t do it right, he looks at you and makes that face and shakes his head,” John says.

Growing up surrounded by instruments and talent, playing music was pure fun for John and everyone else in the house. It didn’t hurt that the revolving door was frequented by folks like Benny Goodman and Clark Terry.

“It was very easy. We had all the guitars and all the equipment,” says John, who returns to Vail July 13 for an intimate performance at Vail Jazz Club Series and then takes the big stage in Lionshead July 14 for Vail Jazz @ Vail Square, performing with his brother Martin on bass, Konrad Paszudzki on piano and Kevin Kanner 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.”

Although he is known to sing and play hypnotizing renditions of classics from The Great American Songbook, Pizzarelli often performs pop songs by the likes of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello and The Allman Brothers, to name a few, infusing each selection with an effervescence of unique harmonies, mash-ups and frolicking string work. His latest studio album, Midnight McCartney, is a collection of lesser-known Paul McCartney songs and was co-produced by John’s wife, singer Jessica Molaskey, featuring contributions from Bucky. The brainchild behind the record was the ex-Beatle himself. Pizzarelli had collaborated with McCartney in the past, not to mention covered a portion of his repertoire on his 1996 release, John Pizzarelli Meets The Beatles. But when Sir Paul wrote to suggest (apologetically admitting that it might seem “immodest” or “pushy”) that perhaps Pizzarelli could lend his magic to some of his post-Beatles’ melodies, Pizzarelli could hardly say no. He dove into 45 years worth of McCartney’s discography and unearthed a selection of tunes he could re-harmonize with that special zing.

We started to realize how brilliant these songs are. He’s obviously a rock ‘n’ roller, but they were really easy to break down.

 

“When I did the Beatles record in 1996 (Meets the Beatles), I found you can really re-harmonize that stuff, find nice harmonies and not get too crazy. That’s the challenge and the fun of the whole thing.”

“We started to realize how brilliant these songs are,” Pizzarelli says. “We’re McCartney fans and this is our way of letting people know these are good songs.”

When it comes to performing with his brother and the rest of his quartet, 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.”

Although Bucky still has his own performance schedule, John tries to play with his father whenever possible and when the holidays roll around at the Pizzarelli household, he says, “all hell breaks loose.”

Some of his most memorable moments on stage include performing with the likes of McCartney, James Taylor and Natalie Cole who Pizzarelli describes as “generous, beautiful people.” Of course one of his big breaks as an artist was opening for Frank Sinatra in the early 90s, when he took the stage to crowds of 15,000 to 20,000, an experience he described during his appearance on Voice of America’s Beyond Category series, as surreal.

“You’re just sitting out there thinking, where are these people coming from? Then you’re looking in the wings and there’s Sinatra snapping his fingers,” he said.

INFO BOX:

Don’t miss John Pizzarelli as he takes the Vail July 13 for an intimate performance at 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. The quartet, including Pizzarelli on vocals and guitar, his brother Martin on bass, Konrad Paszudzki on piano and Kevin Kanner on drums then takes the big stage for Vail Jazz @ Vail Square from 6 to 8 p.m. on July 14 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 vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

 

Iconic Jazz Trio coming in Hot for Two Spectacular Vail Performances

Tapping into their one-of-a-kind telepathy, Monty Alexander, John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton celebrate 40 years this Wednesday and Thursday in Vail!

 

Completely self-taught on the piano, Monty Alexander moved from his native Jamaica to New York as a teenager. Much to his delight, he suddenly found himself playing at Frank Sinatra’s club.

 

“When I played at Jilly’s in early summer of ‘63 when I was 17, I realized I was in very fast company,” he recalls. “Not just in jazz, but in all the top entertainers in show business. Judy Garland is sitting at the piano bar. I look around and Sammy Davis is walking in. I played at private events at Frank Sinatra’s apartment. He was a good friend. That crowd, they wanted to hang out until 6 a.m. I would keep it going until then. Miles Davis would come in. Count Basie was sitting there with Frank. That’s where I met Milt Jackson. I was learning so much at this time.”

 

Alexander began touring all over America making a name for himself.

“Then something happened,” he says. “I call it serendipity.”

 

A pair of students in the Midwest had more than learned his name. Alexander met John Clayton as “this skinny guy in high school or college.” The two jammed together and kept in touch as Clayton enrolled at Indiana University to study music. A few years later, Alexander’s bass player became sick before a gig in Annapolis. The pianist needed to find a quick replacement. Clayton happened to have recently graduated. Alexander said to himself, “I’ll take a chance,” and invited Clayton to perform with him. Then there was a need for a new drummer and Clayton suggested a friend from school – Jeff Hamilton. They called him in for an audition.

 

“Here I am now on the bandstand with these two younger guys,” Alexander says. “It was this sense of communication … I don’t know what to call it, their willingness to go along with my shenanigans. Then this thing like a fireball, like an avalanche of enthusiasm developed. We developed this great thing that you couldn’t put your finger on. That’s 41 or 42 years ago now. I still can’t explain it.”

 

Clayton and Hamilton know exactly what Alexander is talking about, but they, too, struggle to articulate the dynamic.

 

“The best I can do is say that both John and I wanted to play with Monty when we were 19 and 20 years old. We got his albums and learned all we could,” Hamilton says. “We thought if we got good enough we could play with Monty Alexander. From that experience the week of the audition, we all knew we were on the same page. We all heard the beat the same. We were all intuitive to what each other were going to do. We knew where we were going and nobody else did.”

 

The trio performed together all over the world, 50 weeks a year, hypnotizing crowds everywhere with their uncanny magic.

 

“Communication is crucial to what we do. That will be immediately evident when anyone comes to our concert,” Clayton says. “Our communication style is one that relies on focused listening to one another, eye contact, peripheral vision, facial expressions, voiced instructions, intuition and probably a good dose of voodoo.”

 

These days, it’s a rare treat when the three get together. When they do, they kick in right where they left off.

 

“I like to compare it to a family reunion,” Hamilton says. “Like if you’re sitting at the kids’ table with your cousins, telling inside jokes and having a great time, then as adults you reconnect. It’s not at the kids’ table, but the feeling’s the same. It brings a lot of joy to all of us. The happiness that occurs in the reunion, it’s pure joy and people get that from the stage.”

 

Because the trio has individually performed with so many other top musicians over the last four decades – Diana Krall, Oscar Peterson, Count Basie, etc – they sometimes tweak a song on stage in a momentary detour that Hamilton calls a “snafu” but which any average listener might call a blast of genius.

 

“There is so much knowledge being thrown around when great musicians share a bandstand. How do you hit that magical place? I’ve tapped into it in my life a few times. I seem to be able to do it all the time with Jeff and John,” Alexander says. “When John plays a note on the bass, it’s like all the colors in the rainbow. You have to tap your foot, shake your you-know-what. I love things when they have impact, when it has some oomph. There is no more oomph than Jeff Hamilton. If anybody does anything at any time, it’s a magical symphony. Going back to the early days, almost every time we hit the bandstand, it was this monumental moment. We’d knock ourselves out, but the people would go nuts. It’s like we’re coming with a big stick. We’re going to hit you over the head … in a nice way.”

 

Again, while each frequents the Vail Jazz Festival as a solo artist, it’s rare that this powerhouse trio comes together in Vail. Clayton, Vail Jazz’s Director of Education, has mentored 250 students in the famed Vail Jazz Workshop, but on these two special nights, he’ll be tapping into a unique talent portal with Alexander and Hamilton.

 

INFO BOX:

 

Don’t miss Monty Alexander, John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton celebrating 40 years in an intimate lounge performance on July 6 to kick off the 2016 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. The trio then opens the Vail Jazz @ Vail Square season from 6 to 8  p.m. on July 7 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 vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

 

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 https://www.vailjazz.org/tickets/ for $40.

 

A perfect way to celebrate the start of summer!

Stacked with Grammy winners, fixed and fresh faces, 22nd Annual Vail Jazz Festival is set to launch

Like the golden years of jazz, the Vail Jazz Festival has reached a glowing stage of its lifetime, but only continues to become bigger and brighter. The lineup for the upcoming 22nd season is stacked with returning favorites as well as internationally touted artists making their Vail debuts.

VAIL JAZZ @ VAIL SQUARE

Transforming Thursdays into the most anticipated day of the week, these 6:00 p.m. performances fill Lionshead with a vibrant buzz traveling well beyond its epicenter at the weatherproof jazz tent. The stage is alive this summer with an enclosed tent for great acoustics and the nine performances booked from the first week of July through the first week of September rattling with star power and followed by the all-new after parties at the Vail Chophouse featuring Kathy Morrow and Brent Gordon. Also new this year, Vail Jazz will offer a four-pack premium subscription for $125. On sale now, the subscription will only be available through July 7. Individual tickets are also on sale now – $20 for general admission and $40 for premium seating.

July 7 Monty Alexander, John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton Celebrating 40 Years

Launching in explosive fashion, the Vail Square season opens with this trio of pianist, bassist and drummer, which has collectively etched a truly distinguished mark in the jazz world. Individually, each star has worked with everyone from Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald to Tony Bennett and Count Basie. Together, they have made history time and time again throughout their 40-year career.

July 14 John Pizzarelli

Also back by popular demand, the famed guitarist with his quartet returns to the Vail Square stage sprinkling a unique touch on Great American Songbook classics. Pizzarelli isn’t afraid to throw in lively renditions of rock tunes by the likes of the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and others.

July 21 Bria Skonberg

Last summer the young Canadian trumpeter blew the doors off during her Vail Jazz Festival debut (also at Newport Jazz and at Lincoln Center, where she won the 2015 Swing! Award). Her original works feature fresh, contagious vocals and harmonies with a touch of grit and a lot of spirit.

July 28 Michel Camilo

Described by Vail Jazz organizers as “a major coup” to land in the lineup, the GRAMMY® Award-winning pianist makes his Vail debut. The Dominican composer offers a Latin flare that has hypnotized audiences across the globe.

Aug 4 Joey Alexander

You may have seen this kid – arguably one of the world’s most talented youngsters (a mere 12 years old) – on 60 Minutes or earning a raucous standing ovation following his performance at this year’s GRAMMY® Awards. Born in Indonesia, the young pianist is self-taught and released his first album last year, nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album.

Aug 11 Cecile McLorin Salvant

Fresh off a GRAMMY® win for her third studio album, this young, Miami-based vocalist appears in Vail for the first time. Last year she told NPR that she “never wanted to sound clean and pretty” and her husky style has earned her a pile of global acclaim, not to mention a slew of avid new fans following every performance.

Aug 18 Maraca & His Latin Jazz All-Stars

Led by GRAMMY®-nominated, Cuban-born flutist Orlando “Maraca” Valle, this energetic eight-piece ensemble features a collection of the world’s top Latin jazz specialists. Making its Vail debut, the ensemble is sure to get the crowd on its feet and moving.

Aug 25 H2 Big Band Tribute to Count Basie

Speaking of energy, the sizzling, Colorado-based big band returns to Vail to light up the stage with favorites from the late, great bandleader. H2 Big Band is famous for nailing Basie’s distinctive swing style.

Sept 1 Vail Jazz Party House Band, Alumni Quintet and All-Stars

The red hot triple bill kicks off the 22nd Annual Vail Jazz Party, beginning with the current lineup of freshly fine-tuned Vail Jazz Workshop students (Vail Jazz All-Stars) –the nation’s top 12 teenage jazz musicians. Then comes the Quintet of former All-Stars who are no pros and finally the Vail Jazz Party House Band sextet comprised of individual stars the genre – Jo John Clayton, Jeff Clayton, Lewis Nash, Terell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe, and Wycliffe Gordon.

Vail Jazz Club Series

Want to get up close and intimate with some of the Vail Jazz performers? All of the July acts perform a preview show on Wednesday nights in an intimate club setting. Witness Monty Alexander, John Pizzarelli, Bria Skonberg and Michel Camilo in a magical, close nit atmosphere reminiscent of a small club in New York City or Chicago.

VAIL JAZZ PARTY

Sept. 1-5 The 22nd Annual Vail Jazz Party

Wrapping up the summer with a true grand finale of musical fireworks, this five-day blowout features more than 50 musicians rattling Vail with back-to-back outdoor and indoor performances. Highlights include riveting Multi-Media performances – Byron Stripling’s Birth of the Blues, Joel Frahm’s tribute to the Texas Tenors and John Clayton’s Tribute to Milt Hinton, following this year’s jazz documentary screening “Keeping Time: The Life, Music and Photographs of Milt Hinton”. The star-studded lineup of soloists includes the return of guitarist Diego Figueiredo and B3 organist Bobby Floyd as well as the debut of famed multi-instrumentalist Adrian Cunningham, not to mention the always sold-out Sunday morning feel good session – Niki Haris’ Gospel Prayer Meetin’.

SPECIAL EVENTS

July 11 The Great Ladies of Song

Last summer, internationally acclaimed vocalist Nicole Henry won the hearts of everyone in the sold out audience during her Vail Jazz debut and she returns for this one-of-a-kind gala performance highlighting favorite numbers by the genre’s legacy of iconic females – Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and more – accompanied by an exquisite, three-course dinner at the Lodge at Vail.

FREE JAZZ ALL SUMMER

Vail Jazz @ The Market

Get a taste of homegrown talent every Sunday when a variety of Colorado-based musicians and ensembles fire up a live soundtrack at the Vail Farmers Market from 12-3 p.m. from June 26 to Aug. 28.

Jammin’ Jazz Kids

Children between the ages of 8 and 12 have their chance to unearth their musical talents on a variety of instruments during these free, fun, hands on workshops at 11 a.m. at the jazz tent four Sundays in July.

Colorado High School Band Showcase

Every Sunday in August, Vail Jazz will debut a different Colorado-based jazz band from around the state in the Jazz Tent at 11 a.m. Come early to the Vail Farmers Market and witness rising local talent from around the state.

Vail Jazz @ The Remedy

Sunday nights never sounded so good. Local jazz legend, Tony Gulizia will be joined by an exciting variety of visiting jazz musicians each week at the event’s new home at the Four Seasons Resort. The series starts July 3 and runs through Aug. 28.

Riverwalk First Fridays

The Riverwalk Backyard in Edwards is the place to launch your weekend each of the first Fridays of the summer (June to September) with great free live jazz, food, drink and community vendors. A series geared toward the whole family, this is a perfect meeting place for community and culture. Performances start at 6 p.m. Vendors, food and drink booths open at 5 p.m.

Five Play set to shine for intimate Wednesday, DIVA will deliver big band Thursday

From the early days straight to the big time, band leader Sherrie Maricle tells the story

When it comes to talent, gender has nothing to do with it. DIVA, the 15-piece all-female jazz orchestra from New York, delivers a jaw-dropping wall of sound that puts many all-male acts to shame. That each ironclad musician looks like she’s having the time of her life at every performance makes for incomparable, swinging and gripping entertainment.

DIVA drummer Sherrie Maricle became the first member of DIVA when the band was formed more than 23 years ago by fellow drummer and artist manager Stanley Kay. As Maricle tells it, she was performing in the pick-up orchestra at a Maurice Hines concert  that Kay was conducting for the Shubert Theater’s 75th anniversary. After the showA, Kay approached Maricle and “asked if I knew other women who played as well  as I did.” Of course, she knew plenty. After an audition bringing in 40 top musicians from all over the world, the group was whittled down to 15 and DIVA was born.

“Over the last 23-plus years of leading the band and playing with dozens of others, I can tell you with 100-percent certainty that there is absolutely NO difference in talent, skill, passion or creativity between DIVA and any other world-class concert jazz orchestra,” Maricle says, naming Jazz at Lincoln Center, Maria Schneider, Clayton-Hamilton, Count Basie, Vanguard and Gordon Goodwin as examples. “The only thing I have noticed is that the DIVA performance dynamic – collectively and individually – is one that is fully engaged, aware, supportive and wildly enthusiastic regarding the music, each other and the audience. I don’t always experience that with other groups.”

When asked to name highlights in DIVA’s decorated career, Maricle says “Oh My Gosh…there have been soooo many!”

Among them, the first of DIVA’s many featured performances with The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, the 25th Anniversary of the Kennedy Center’s TV Special and the band’s first tours of Finland, Japan and Vietnam. Then there was the feature on NPR’s “Piano Jazz,” and creating the soundtrack for New York City’s (NBC and Macy’s) enormous fireworks display. Oh yes, there was also that pivotal appearance in the award-winning documentary “The Girls in the Band” (which will be presented at this Labor Day Weekend’s Vail Jazz Party). Maricle says that her band’s (DIVA and also the jazz quintet Five Play, each of which produces and performs all original compositions and arrangements) 13 albums including a couple of new additions coming soon “are like my children.”

Since attending parades as a small child and singling out the drummers as the coolest members of the band because they never stopped playing, Maricle has been drawn to the drums. But “the true enlightenment moment” came when she was 11 and saw Buddy Rich perform with His Killer Force Orchestra.

“When the band played their first note I got goose bumps and was riveted the entire night,” she recalls. “I had never heard or seen anything like that before –  the intense power, force, energy, swing and sophistication of a big band … music played with such fire and passion. I ran home and told my mother I was going to be professional drummer. Since that night I never wanted to do anything else with my life.”

As a bandleader, Maricle has aimed to follow in Rich’s footsteps, as well as those of Mel Lewis, Louis Bellson, Jeff Hamilton, Gene Krupa and Chick Webb.

“The most fun for me is being in the center of the band  – literally and metaphorically – and leading from the inside, creating a pulse like a heart beat. Drummers naturally have a lot of control, leader or not, over the band dynamics, energy and phrasing … so that’s exciting. I also aspire to always inspire, highlight and support my band mates, as well as listen to their musical opinions. Each and every one of them is a stellar musician and creative artist,” she says. “I’m very honored to share the stage with them.”

The inspiration goes well beyond the stage. Over the last two decades, Maricle and DIVA artists have provided “life-changing” instruction for dozens of young and up-and-coming musicians and several audience members have experienced such sheer awe at performances that they’ve been brought to tears.

“I remember an older woman coming up to us sobbing with joy, saying she always wanted to be a musician, but wasn’t allowed. She just couldn’t believe how great we played. It made me cry, too,” Maricle says.

Don’t miss Sherrie Maricle and jazz quintet Five Play at 9 p.m. July 29 in the intimate lounge dinner setting of Cucina at the Lodge at Vail for the Vail Jazz Club Series. The talent pool multiplies into 15-piece jazz orchestra DIVA from 6 to 8 p.m. for Vail Jazz @ Vail Square on Thursday, July 30 in the Vail Jazz Tent in Lionshead. For tickets or more information, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

 

ABOUT THE VAIL JAZZ FOUNDATION

 

In 1995 life-long jazz fan Howard Stone launched the inaugural Labor Day Weekend Vail Jazz Party. A resounding success, the Weekend Party spawned the Vail Jazz Foundation, its mission to showcase the talent of prominent and up-and-coming jazz musicians as well as educate and nurture the genre’s next generation of greats. Vail Jazz has grown to include year-round programming such as Vail Jazz Goes to School and 12 weeks of live performances every summer with The Vail Jazz Festival’s Vail Jazz @ Vail Square, Vail Jazz @ The Market, Vail Jazz @ Sweet Basil, Jammin’ Jazz Kids and The Vail Jazz Workshop for a total of 52 live performances and 10 educational programs.

 

ABOUT THE TOWN OF VAIL

 

There’s no place like Vail for year-round recreation, outdoor pursuits and cultural activities in the heart of the Rockies. Located just two hours west of Denver, Vail’s fresh air, rugged beauty and charming pedestrian village await visitors. Discover a quaint mountain town where outdoor activities abound and the performing arts flourish. Matching the incredible winter mountain experience, Vail from May through October is characterized by a rich culinary scene, family activities, a world-class events schedule and everything in between. This summer guests can experience events like the new Vail Summer Bluegrass Series, GoPro Mountain Games, Vail Jazz Festival, the Vail International Dance Festival, BRAVO! Vail, USA Pro Challenge, Gourmet on Gore culinary festival and much more. Vail offers a diverse range of lodging options from luxury brands to boutique hotels, condominiums and vacation rentals. For more information on a Vail vacation, please visit www.vail.com. For more information on the community, please visit www.vailgov.com

Tony DeSare returns for two energetic nights of Vail Jazz

Fresh off of an elite Carnegie Hall Sinatra celebration, the dynamic pianist is charged to charm with classics, originals and current pop hits

Since making his Vail Jazz debut last summer, New York’s Tony DeSare has been etching his name onto the world map in some pretty high places.

The young pianist has been dubbed “the next Harry Connick Jr.” but truly has a sound and style all of his own. He dives into the keys with unique gusto whether he’s covering a classic from the Great American Songbook or jazzing up the latest Billboard pop hit. He is also a successful songwriter and composer. His tune “Chemistry” won the USA Songwriting Competition’s No. 1 jazz award and was second overall among all genres. Three of his recordings were ranked among Billboard’s top 10 jazz albums and his original songs have made their way into a number of film soundtracks.

His charismatic and unquestionably charming stage presence earned him an invitation to perform with the Philadelphia Pops this spring and then with the New York Pops for an elite group of celebrities attending Carnegie Hall’s special centennial tribute to Frank Sinatra. A huge Sinatra fan, DeSare went on to perform two sold out tribute gigs at the Kennedy Center earlier this summer.

“I’m loving what I get to do these days,” DeSare says. “One night I’ll be with a world class orchestra, another in a small theater and another at an outdoor festival. I find that I love all those different setups and it always comes down to making music for an audience and trying my best to convey how much I love the material and make them feel what I’m feeling when I perform it.”

Judging by the laughter, clap-a-longs, multiple standing ovations and and impromptu dances that break out among his audiences, the 38-year-old is accomplishing that mission.

A born improviser, DeSare has a unique gauge of the ambiance of each venue and the energy of any given audience. He is known to shift gears frequently, never failing to make each performance fresh and surprising.

“I will change my set based on how things sound in the room and also adapt during the show to what the audience seems to be really into,” he says. “Some audiences like more jazz improv, some respond more to ballads and some want to party.”

DeSare grew up listening to his father sing and play the guitar every night and took up the violin at the age of 8. By the time he was 10, he’d fallen in love with the piano and was scarcely of legal drinking age when he was hired to perform at bars and hotels around New York. His joy for playing everything from jazz classics to Prince was so apparent to everyone who heard him sing and play that it was and still is uncontrollably contagious.

Of the many popular videos on Desare’s YouTube channel, including his entertaining mash-ups of famous songs from a variety of eras, one of the most striking pieces is the documentary he filmed two years ago in which he traveled around New York City performing on painted pianos placed by art charity organization Sing For Hope. DeSare hit about 15 of the 88 pianos in every borough playing the Irving Berlin classic “I Love a Piano.” The crowds that compulsively gathered around him – jumping children, slow-dancing elderly couples, joggers, tourists and onlookers running the colorful gamut found only in New York City – were all entranced by his mini performances. He called it “an excellent reminder of the power of song.”

“The process of music should be entertaining and have enough to it along with the presentation of music to make it fun,” he says.

Like so much of the musical world, this year DeSare is on a Sinatra kick, naming Ol’ Blue Eyes as the one performer who has, in unparalleled fashion, “influenced everyone from Miles Davis to rock bands and rappers.”

“This summer I’m planning on bringing some of the Sinatra material that I have been doing all over the country in celebration of the Sinatra centennial this year,” DeSare says. “I’ll still mix in some of my originals and pop jazz classics from other eras but will definitely take some time to pay homage. I’m looking forward to being back in Vail.”

Tony DeSare and his trio perform at 9 p.m. July 21 in the intimate lounge dinner setting of Cucina at the Lodge at Vail for the Vail Jazz Club Series. Then he and his quartet (Edward Decker on guitar, Steve Doyle on bass and Allan Finney on drums) return to the big state in the weather-friendly jazz tent in Lionshead from 6 to 8 p.m. for Vail Jazz @ Vail Square on Thursday, July 22. For more information, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

French vocalist returns to Vail in dynamic new duo

Cyrille Aimée and Michael Valeanu are poised to hypnotize Vail Jazz audiences with one-of-a-kind stage magic

Genetically speaking, Cyrille Aimée is not a gypsy. But she always has been at heart. The 30-year-old grew up in the small town of Samois-sur-Seine in northern France and was constantly intrigued by the caravans of musicians and gypsies that would plant themselves in her neighborhood every summer for the annual Django Reinhardt festival.

“The Django festival was part of my life even before I wanted to be a musician. I’d go run around in the street for the festival. It was free for little kids … all the other kids were running around. But little by little I started to be interested in the music part of it,” she says.

Stemming from a spontaneous but circus-like episode when Aimée found herself pedaling down the street on her bike with three gypsy girls packed on it, it wasn’t long before she became an honorary member of the visiting clan.

“A couple of gypsies came over and said I had a nice bike. Three of them hopped on the bike with me, riding down a hill – one on the handlebars, one on the seat, one on the back. They became my friends. I started going into the campsite. The guys were always there playing the guitar. My friend’s brother would teach me how to play and I would teach him how to read.”

Aimée started sneaking out of the house late at night to join the gypsies around their musical campfire and developed a love for singing. By the time she was 18, she was invited to perform on Star Academy, the French equivalent of American Idol. At that point however, she had already decided to head to New York to study Jazz At Purchase College. She did not, however, grow out of her affinity for the gypsy lifestyle. Between semesters, she would bring Jazz Studies friends back to Europe and they toured around performing on street corners for cash.

“We did a tour through Europe, slept on benches for a whole summer,” she says. “We really didn’t have anything. We’d have to play so we could buy food. We had two guitars. My sister was playing the shakers. There was a sax player playing duets with me.”

In Italy, the crew performed at a club during a jam session. The manager was impressed.

“The guy from the club said, ‘If you play for the lunchtime crowd we’ll feed you. Play for dinner and we’ll feed you.’” Aimée ventured to Montreux, Switzerland on her own as her friends waited in Italy to try her vocal chords in a vocal competition at the Montreuz Jazz Festival. She won.

After this adventurous summer, Aimée and her friends returned to Purchase, where she graduated and relocated to Brooklyn, her new base, from which she travels the world performing with orchestras, ensembles and guitar quartets. One of her favorite stage appearance setups is performing as a duet.

“I do love the duo setting,” she says. “It’s kind of like a dance. There’s just the one other person. I like when you never know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if mind-reading is the correct word … it’s more like a connection. It’s not trying to know what the person is thinking, but what the person is feeling.”

Aimée discovered compatriot and fellow NYC transplant Michael Valeanu at a rehearsal in the city and the two immediately connected.

“The first time I ever heard Michael was at a little club in Paris. He was playing in an organ trio, playing a Michael Jackson tune. I loved it. I thought, ‘I have to play with this guy.’”

Aimée had a vision of creating a collection of songs with three guitars and all original material. Thus her collaboration with Valeanu began, and the two released “It’s a Good Day,” a collection of dazzling arrangements featuring Aimée’s gypsy guitar roots as well as hypnotizing accompaniments of Brazilian island string guitar. When Aimée and Valeanu perform, it’s an eclectic, energetic blend of every flavor the French couple has come to know and love.

“We do a lot of standards, but also songs we wrote together – French songs, Spanish songs, we do a little mix. When it’s just the two of us, there’s a lot of freedom to choose whatever we want. Whatever we feel.”

Don’t miss Cyrille Aimée and Michael Valeanu at 9 p.m. July 15 in the intimate lounge dinner setting of Cucina at the Lodge at Vail for the Vail Jazz Club Series. The duo then takes to the big stage from 6 to 8 p.m. for Vail Jazz @ Vail Square on Thursday, July 16 in the Vail Jazz Tent in Lionshead. For tickets or more information, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

 

Singing from the soul to the soul

Combining traditional jazz with funk, blues and contagious joy, Nicole Henry makes Vail debut.

Nicole Henry believes that human beings are all connected. She strives to instill her audience with this notion every time she hits a particular note or loads a verse full of heart-resounding fervor.

“That’s the reason that I sing. We, in our own little way, want to either save ourselves or save the world as artists. We want to make a difference. The reason we want to inspire people is that we know we’re connected. We have the same fears, the same desires, the same spirit,” Henry says.

The Miami-based singer cites Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughn as inspiration and has been sized up as a traditional jazz vocalist (she won the 2013 Soul Train Award for Best Traditional Jazz Performance). But really, her style straddles the borders of jazz, R & B, funk, gospel and contains a solid dose of soul. Swaying with eyes closed, reaching and quivering on stage, Henry summons each word from her core. The glowing aura – both visual and auditory – that she emanates serves as an intimate conversation with the audience.

Even while belting out emotional sentiments, Henry’s delivery is powerfully uplifting. Perhaps this is because the overriding feeling she’s always had while singing is pure happiness. Oddly, she took little notice of her ability to enrapture an audience as she was growing up, even as she was continuously asked to perform.

“I didn’t realize I had a unique talent necessarily until I was in college,” she says. “I always just did it. I sang the national anthem at every basketball game, every football game, but it was just something I did. I took it for granted. Even winning the talent competitions at my high school, I didn’t think about it as a real passion. It was just something I had fun doing. It was when I had a chance to sing for people who didn’t know me that it hit – these people don’t know who I am and they really like what I’m doing. I realized the power of being an entertainer and that’s when I was addicted. It was like, OK.This is what I’m capable of.”

The jazz world’s most acclaimed new vocalists, Nicole Henry, will play at Vail Jazz Club Series and Vail Jazz @ Vail Square on July 8th and July 9th

That was in 1997 and since then Henry has released seven studio albums, a new single last year and is in the process of putting together a new record, rife with original material. She has also wandered down the path of theater and acting, appearing in several commercials and voice overs. But music is the backbone of her artistic expression.

“It was a natural gravitation because music has this immediacy that I really enjoy. With theater, it takes much more time. I think singing is like a sprint, acting is more like a marathon, short term satisfaction. It just wound up that singing was more fulfilling to me, at least immediately.”

When she’s on stage, Henry views her performance as a three-part power formula.

“One is listening to my band, particularly when a song intro begins. If I just focus on how supportive my band is, how much feeling they put into it, I get so lost and appreciative,” she says. “That’s the dim light going bright in my mouth and here I am floating on top of this music. The other place is  – when I hear that, I think of how grateful I am, how appreciative I am that I’m – I get so lost and happy about that. That’s the light starting the dim going bright. The other part is where I’m in the song, the sound coming out like a stream of light and here I am floating on top of this music. Then I look at this audience and I feel their energy and their desire to be entertained. It’s those three coming together. It’s a real buzz.”

Anyone familiar with Henry’s performance can attest to the fact that the buzz is contagious. The light she generates moves through every ear, every soul, every molecule within sound range.

“I would say it’s an inspired performance, uplifting and inspiring. We have so much fun when we’re making music, my band and I. We go between heavy and light as far as content and messages. It’s all for forward progress,” she says. “When I sing, I’m there to remind people that we are all human. As different as we are, we share the same basic things. I love reminding people to celebrate regardless of how confused they are, how unfortunate, how fortunate, that music is something we can all enjoy.”