$10 Jass and Technology

The world of jazz is in a very festive mood as it celebrates a seminal year in the history of jazz: 1917. Four of the greatest masters of the art form were born that year – Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Buddy Rich.  It was also the year that the Original Dixieland Jass Band (ODJB) recorded what is generally considered to be the first jazz recording. “Livery Stable Blues” was the hit side of the record (you remember records, you actually turned them over to hear the music that was on the other side) and on the “flip” side was “Dixieland Jass Band One-Step.” The record became an instantaneous hit and sold over one million copies, setting off a craze for jazz that ushered in the Jazz Age (the 1920s).

Recording of music on cylinders was well established in the 1880s, so why was jazz not recorded before then? Because there wasn’t any jazz to record.  While musicologists like to debate when jazz was first performed and by whom, it should be understood that even the use of the term “jazz” to describe the music was not generally agreed upon until the early 1920s, when jazz became the preferred spelling.

Whatever the origins of its name, it is clear that for at least a decade prior to the recording, jazz was evolving, but it can’t be pinpointed with accuracy when the music was first performed. This is for a number of reasons, the most important of which is that jazz is an art form that has evolved (and continues to evolve) from a combination of musical traditions and there is no one point at which all the ingredients were first fused together in a “jazzy way.”  Some of the most important ingredients include: the music of the brass and marching bands from the post-civil war era; ragtime and boogie woogie music from the late 19th century; and the blues. So when were these and other musical traditions joined together to produce jazz? No one can be sure.

Today anyone can make a recording, and of course, music is easily notated and preserved in writing. In the early 20th Century, the recording industry was concentrated in NYC and jazz was centered in New Orleans and the South, although it had begun to spread to several other urban areas. The musicians were not conservatory trained and most couldn’t read music. The widespread availability of the radio was still more than five years away and the first talkie movie was over a decade away, so the best technology of the day was a two-sided disc that when turned at 78 rotations per minute (rpm), could spread jazz throughout the globe.  

But it took the ODJB, composed of five white men traveling from New Orleans to NYC, to light the fuse that set off the jazz explosion. It should be remembered that jazz was performed for dancing and therefore jazz bands were dance bands. While the ODJB claimed to be the “creators of jazz,” it is clear that jazz was generally created by blacks and creoles in New Orleans. For many jazz historians it is a sad fact that blacks weren’t the first to record a jazz record and that the band that did had copied the music of successful black musicians in New Orleans. There was of course no one creator of the music.  The fact is that early jazz greats such as Buddy Bolden and King Oliver stayed in New Orleans and were just some of the “chefs de cuisine” that prepared the musical gumbo that became jazz, along with many others, known and unknown, that added to the jazz recipe.  

The quality of the playing on the record, with its limited improvisation and its repetitive choruses, was not the best example of jazz at the time and there was a corny aspect to the music with instruments imitating the sounds of barnyard animals, but the record displayed a lively danceable beat and the importance of the record cannot be denied. In essence, the technology of sound recording gave a large number of Americans, who had never heard jazz, their first chance to hear the music and allowed for the rapid dissemination of a regional sound, which was then embraced in the four corners of the U.S. and then globally.

The famous bandleader Paul Whiteman explained it best: “One moment jazz was unknown, a low noise in a low dive. The next, it became a serious pastime of a hundred million people, the diversion of princes and millionaires.”

The ODJB was the first band to use “Dixieland” as part of its name. While there is no doubt “Dixieland” was regularly used to describe the Southern states that seceded from the Union, the origin of Dixie as the descriptor of the South is clouded in mystery. The most accepted explanation is that “Dixie” is the corruption of the French word for 10, “dix,” and when banks in the French Quarter of New Orleans (and ultimately in the surrounding areas) first issued their own $10 bank notes with Dix on the reverse side, English-speaking southerners starting calling the bills “Dixies.” Eventually all of the South became known as Dixieland. The fact that the ODJB adopted this name also created another first, the music of New Orleans became known as Dixieland Jass and finally Dixieland Jazz.

Vail Jazz will celebrate the rich history of the music of New Orleans on July 12 at 6:30 pm and 9 p.m. when it presents the legendary Henry Butler, New Orleans blues vocalist and pianist at the Sonnenalp Hotel. In addition, Vail Jazz will present Butler, Bernstein and the Hot 9 in concert on July 13 at 6 p.m. in the Jazz Tent at Vail Square in Lionshead. You won’t want to miss that authentic ‘Nawlins vibe.

The sounds of New Orleans soar through Vail this week

In addition to tonight’s Vail Jazz Gala starring singer John Boutté, iconic pianist/vocalist Henry Butler throws down sizzling solo club shows Wednesday, then Butler, Bernstein & The Hot 9 light up Vail Square Thursday

Henry Butler compares his audience connection to making love. For the 67-year-old blind pianist, connections are all about communicating without words.

“The thing that I really like about performing, regardless of what kind of performance it is, is those energies going back and forth all the time,” he says. “It’s the same energy involved in loving somebody, the same energy involved in love making. It just manifests differently.”

Growing up in New Orleans, La., Henry Butler has been playing music since he was a small boy. Blinded by glaucoma in his infancy, his studies began at Louisiana State School for the Blind and continued at Southern University in Baton Rouge and Michigan State University. Since then, he’s recorded 12 full-length albums, performed in every large festival throughout the country and toured the world many times. He’s come to be regarded as one of the great pianists and vocalists of the ages, revered in both his hometown of New Orleans and his new town of New York City. But Butler says the learning never stops.

When asked what have been some of the more memorable compliments he’s been paid over the years, Butler says, “I’ve gotten all kinds of positive comments and I let people know I appreciate their sentiments. But I always say to myself, ‘hopefully the next time you hear me, I’ll be better.’”

He typically practices twice a day in his small apartment in Brooklyn.

“Part of it is an exercise regime, but that’s the base part. Within the exercise, you decide you have an idea of what you want to accomplish. That concept could be negotiating certain types of harmonic progressions. It could be working on a certain technical thing, or work on scales. It could be on working on proficiency,” he says. “Living in a place like New York, you have to portion your time. Once you get to a place where you know yourself pretty well, you can get a lot done in an hour or an hour and a half.”

Butler’s home was one of the many destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. He lost nearly all of his possessions, including his most treasured piano. Following the disaster, he relocated to Colorado and then New York, but has yet to feel settled.

“I don’t know that I’ve completely gotten over Katrina,” he says. “I just haven’t felt home since. I haven’t felt I lived in a community that felt like home since Katrina. I may go back to New Orleans or I may go to California. I could live anywhere at this point. I might come back to Colorado… but it got a little quiet for me. I needed to hear a few more sirens.”

Bellowing out vocal notes that sound almost operatic against his racketing piano, Butler is a force in and of himself. Still, he has shared the stage and recording studio with everyone from Jeff Golub to Cyndi Lauper, James Carter to B.B. King. His latest collaboration has him fusing cosmic musical powers with famed trumpeter Steven Bernstein & The Hot 9, a boisterous crew including a six-piece horn section: Curtis Fowlkes, Doug Wieselman, Peter Apfelbaum and Eric Lawrence, as well as guitarist Matt Munisteri, bassist Brandi Disterheft, violinist Sam Bardfeld and drummer Donald Edwards.

The result is a hypnotic explosion of  delightful harmony and improvisation, each musician taking turns to launch ahead of the rhythm, catapulting it with fiery solos as the entire band will occasionally pause in awe of Butler’s escalating individual masterpieces, which wander a gamut of emotions from melancholy to ecstasy.

“Every time I go out and sit on stage in front of an audience my goal is to inspire, to uplift, to encourage, to inform. If in some way we can heal a little bit together, that’s great,” Butler says. “The audience usually lets you know if you’re on the way to achieving any of that.”

The message Butler gets from his audience transcends words or applause or anything that can be measured.

“It happens all the time in what we call nanoseconds, when the audience energy comes back to me,” Butler says. “I get more inspired. I realize more ideas to share. As that stuff goes back to the audience, the audience perhaps moves to a different place of different understanding. Maybe it lifts them a little bit.”

To Butler, this type of communication is the deepest type of human connection.

“I’ll tell you what it’s like,” he says. “You’re in a relationship and you’re sitting with that partner and you feel what you’re thinking is something special. And maybe even before the partner says anything, before you utter anything to the partner, before either one of you pronounces love, you’re feeling what you think is love. Wherever an audience is after receiving the music and receiving more and more music, they send that back to me. You feel it. I’m always feeling it.”

Vail Jazz performances

Wednesday, July 12

Henry Butler kicks off the summer’s Vail Jazz Club Series with his rich solo performances at Ludwig’s Terrace in The Sonnenalp Hotel. The first show begins at 6:30 p.m. (doors at 6 p.m.) and the second show begins at 9 p.m.(doors at 8:30 p.m.). Tickets are $40. Drink and dinner service are available for purchase.

Thursday, July 12

Butler, Bernstein & The Hot 9 bring their bouncing, New Orleans-inspired glee symphony to Vail Jazz @Vail Square at 6 p.m. General admission tickets are $25, preferred seats $40 and premium seats $50. Presented by The Jazz Cruise and Blue Note at Sea, Vail Jazz @ Vail Square takes place every Thursday evening throughAug. 24 in the all-weather Jazz Tent in The Arrabelle courtyard in Lionshead. Drinks are available for purchase.

 

Vail Jazz Festival delivering biggest summer lineup in history

Tickets are officially on sale for the 23rd annual Vail Jazz Festival’s summer of sizzling live performances, which includes a broad lineup of international, national and regional acts spanning the gamut from blues and soul to swing, bebop, gypsy jazz, Latin and more.

 

Vail Jazz Club Series
The Vail Jazz Club Series, takes place every Wednesday evening from July 12 to Aug. 9, at its new home, Ludwig’s Terrace at The Sonnenalp Hotel, which hosted the sold-out Vail Jazz Winter Series last winter. The 2017 Vail Jazz Club Series features intimate, lounge-style performances with Vail Square artists, including Henry Butler on July 12, Frank Vignola July 19, Carmen Bradford and Byron Stripling’s tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong on July 26, Rene Marie on Aug. 2 and Dr. Michael Davison on Aug. 9 for a special lecture-performance on the history of Afro-Cuban jazz. The series will feature two performances on each of these nights, an early seating at 6:30 p.m. and a second seating at 9 p.m. view more…

July 10 Vail Jazz Gala: From Bridge Street to Bourbon Street
The Vail Jazz Gala is the annual fundraiser for Vail Jazz’s educational programs, which include Vail Jazz Goes to School, the Vail Jazz Workshop and Jammin’ Jazz Kids, cultivating more than 1,400 young minds in the art and beauty of jazz music every year. The 2017 Gala is set to blow the doors off with “The Voice of New Orleans,” jazz legend John Boutté, teaming up with Vail Jazz Workshop alumni. Bringing Bridge Street to Bourbon Street, the event begins at 6 p.m. on July 10 at The Sebastian and includes cocktails, hors d’houevres, dinner and a spectacular performance. view more…

Vail Jazz @ Vail Square
The 2017 Vail Jazz @ Vail Square series totals a whopping nine performances this summer – every Thursday evening at 6 p.m. beginning July 6 in the all-weather Vail Square tent in Lionshead. For the first time this summer, there will be assigned seating (selected online), and all-new Premium seating featuring cushioned chairs and more elbow room. Preferred and Premium tickets are available in a discounted four-pack subscription on sale through July 6. General admission seating is first come, first seated, available online as well. view more…

July 6 Marcia Ball
From rollicking roadhouse to bouncing blues to tear-inducing ballads, Marcia Ball hits the keys of her piano with a heartfelt, harmonious slam on every note. The award-winning storyteller from Texas returns to Vail with her alternately steppy and soulful, Louisiana-inspired tunes.

July 13 Butler, Bernstein & The Hot 9
If this doesn’t sound like a big deck party, we don’t know what does. The New Orleans theme blows up 10-fold (11-fold, actually) with this electric, brass-heavy collaboration. Pianist and vocalist Henry Butler and trumpeter Steven Bernstein lead an explosive ensemble through sounds of pop, R&B, Caribbean, classical and traditional, fiery, impromptu jazz.

July 20 Frank Vignola’s Hot Club of France Tribute
Six-string phenom Frank Vignola is no stranger to Vail, but this summer he channels the hypnotic mystique of gypsy jazz legend Django Reinhardt. Tapping into the era of Reinhardt’s Hot Club of France, Vignola leads his own international quintet in a smoking hot tribute.

July 27 Ella and Louis Together Again featuring Carmen Bradford and Byron Stripling
Step out of a time machine to take in one of jazz history’s most show-stopping duos. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong are brought back to life via the magic trumpet and vocals of Byron Stripling and Count Basie Big Band singer Carmen Bradford.

Aug. 3 René Marie and Experiment in Truth
The songwriter and swanky singer brings her seductive, larger-than-life vocals to Vail Square, tapping into flavors of folk, swing, classical and R&B. Whatever the selection of original numbers, the two-time Grammy nominee’s 10-year anniversary rendition of her sixth album, Experiment in Truth, will hypnotize.

Aug. 10 ¡Cubanismo!
The pulse created by this 11-piece ensemble reaches earthquake proportions as you glide through the deep river of Cuban rhythms. With plenty of horns, percussion beats and two vocalists, the lively tour takes you through dance tunes and wild polyrhythms of traditional rumba, cha-cha and classic Cuban “Son.”

Aug. 17 Eliane Elias: Samba Brazil
Combining sultry vocals with enchanting piano, Grammy winner Eliane Elias schools audiences in the art of Samba. Digging into her Brazilian roots, the celebrated composer makes her highly anticipated return to Vail, as is considered one of the top highlights of the 23rd Annual Festival.

Aug. 24 Joey DeFrancesco & The People
If ever there were a way to describe the B-3 organ as “light and infectious,” it would be due to the unique talent of showman Joey DeFrancesco. The prolific, Grammy-nominated musician also belts out some big vocals, toe-tapping trumpet and knows every in and out of bebop.

Aug. 31 Vail Jazz All-Stars, Alumni Quintet and House Band
Kicking off the 23rd Annual Vail Jazz Party and five days of wall-to-wall live music featuring the world’s top names in jazz, this triple bill brings a freshly tuned lineup of 12 teenage rising stars, star alumni and shining jazz stars – deeply established mentor musicians John and Jeff Clayton, Wycliffe Gordon, Terell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe and Lewis Nash.

Vail Jazz Party Aug. 31 – Sept. 4
The Vail Jazz Festival culminates with its marquee event, the 23rd Annual Vail Jazz Labor Day Weekend Party. More than 35 nationally and internationally acclaimed headlining artists descend on Vail for nonstop indoor and outdoor performances. Highlights for 2017 include Jeff Clayton’s Tribute to Cannonball Adderly, Jeff Hamilton’ and Butch Miles’ multimedia Tribute to Buddy Rich, Byron Stripling’s multimedia presentation of Cole Porter & The Jazz Connection, Niki Haris’ Gospel Prayer Meetin’ and Adrian Cunningham’s CD Release Party. Tickets are available for individual sessions as well as for the entire multi-day event in the form of Performance and Patron Passes.

FREE SHOWS

Vail Jazz @Riverwalk
Back by popular demand, Alpine Bank and Kaiser Permanente present Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk, expanding this summer to six events. The series brings free live music to the Riverwalk Backyard Amphitheater in Edwards twice monthly on Friday afternoons beginning June 9 with energetic nine-piece soul rockers, The Burroughs. Vendors include Eat! Drink! of Edwards, serving delectable paninis and salads and rotisserie-themed Revolution, bringing barbeque with international flair. The family-friendly, picnic-style atmosphere continues June 23 with New Orleans flavored Otone Brass Brand, rhythm and blues group Phil Wiggins and George Kilby Jr. on July 7, contemporary jazz saxophonist Nelson Rangell on July 21, the U.S. Air Force Academy Falconaires Big Band Aug. 4 and sizzling salsa 12-piece Quemando on Aug. 18. With arts and crafts activities provided by Alpine Arts Center, entertainment options abound for every age group.

Vail Jazz @ The Market
Follow your ears to more free live music every Sunday beginning June 25 at the Vail Farmers Market with a rotating lineup of acclaimed regional acts at Vail Jazz @ The Market from 12 to 3 p.m. in the Solaris tent. Showcasing home-grown, Colorado talent, the series features longtime favorites like the Max Wagner Quartet (June 25), the Chuck Lamb Quartet (July 30), while also introducing new acts like Los Chicos Malos (July 2) and Joe Smith & the Spicy Pickles (Aug. 20).

Vail Jazz @ The Remedy
The swanky club-scene of The Remedy and Vail valley jazz legends, Tony Gulizia and Brian Loftus (“BLT”) come together every Sunday night at 8 p.m. for Vail Jazz @ The Remedy. Held at the Four Seasons Resort, guest artists join BLT each week for memorable jam sessions beginning on June 25.

Tickets on sale:

All Vail Jazz Festival tickets are on sale now at vailjazz.org. For more information, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

The 23rd Annual Vail Jazz Festival is generously supported by the Town of Vail, Alpine Bank, The Lion Vail, The Jazz Cruise & Blue Note at Sea, Colorado Mountain Express, Kaiser Permanente, Anheuser-Busch, The Vail Daily, and a variety of Community Sponsors. For a complete list of events sponsors, visit vailjazz.org.

 

Michel Camilo makes Vail debut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seasoning & Spice: Hear Camilo Twice

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

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

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

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

See live performance video in Madrid here:

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

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

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.