Best musical teens in the nation roll into town

Meet a couple of Vail Jazz’s latest teenage prodigies

There are some kids that show an early aptitude for athletics and end up the star of their sports team. Then there are kids that can master a trombone or a drum set before they barely outweigh the instrument and go on to be All-Stars.

In its 21st year, Vail Jazz welcomes 12 of the nation’s top teenage musicians, hand-picked from a pool of more than 150 uber-talented nominees. Since its inception, the Vail Jazz Workshop has produced 250 alumni, many of whom have gone on to soaring careers as professional musicians. There’s Tia Fuller, a long-time member of Beyonce’s notoriously talented all-female band. Obed Calvaire drums for the San Francisco Jazz Collective and has performed with Monty Alexander, Wynton Marsalis and many others. Saxophonist Grace Kelly has been featured on CNN, NPR and in Glamour Magazine, and of course there’s multi-GRAMMY award-winning pianist Robert Glasper.

Many of these musicians showed sign of greatness before they could even talk. Take Brian Richburg, for example. The 17-year-old drummer from New Orleans is one of the 12 selected prodigies for the 2016 Vail Jazz Workshop. As a baby, he not only banged on pots and pans in an oddly un-noisy fashion, but did so with obvious rhythm. By the time he was 5 years old, his parents got him his first drum set, and by age 8, he was performing with an adult ensemble at his family church, where his father was the pastor.

“Even before I was born my mom would say I was kicking – she would have to sit down because I was kicking so hard,” Richburg says. “Being part of the New Orleans gospel community, I’ve always been around music. I can’t say I went to school, picked up the sticks and decided this is what I wanted to do. The drums always spoke something to me.”

A junior in high school, Richburg is a scholarship winner to Skidmore Jazz Institute, a YoungArts finalist and member of New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, which has produced, among other stars, Wynton Marsalis.

Practicing at least two hours a day and having added piano composition to his repertoire, Richburg has to think for a moment before narrowing down what he would consider his greatest accomplishment to date. He settles on playing at the famed Snug Harbor with Delfeayo Marsalis and then being asked to play with Papa Ellis Marsalis. During his time in Vail, Richburg looks forward to working with “some of the greatest musicians and teachers in the world,” including his drum hero, Lewis Nash. As far as his outlook for the future, the New Orleans native keeps his goals pretty simple.

“I want to travel,” he says. “I’d like to play the drums.”

Another one of this year’s Vail Jazz Workshop students, 17-year-old Jasim Perales, hails from Oakland, Calif. Compared to Richburg, zeroing in on an instrument as a small child did not come as instinctually to him, but after starting out on piano, the trombone slowly worked its magic.

“I was in fourth grade and we had to chose an instrument. Trombone looked like an easy instrument to play. It didn’t have any buttons. I thought, this is an easy ‘A’ for me,” Perales recalls. “Then it was much more complicated then I thought. The slide is never exact. You have to memorize where every note is. You’re never going to get the same thing twice. It was a quirky little instrument that didn’t always make sense. But I liked figuring out all of its secrets.”

Perales is ahead of his time in the discovery department, as evidenced by his selection for the GRAMMY Band and Monterey Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, with which he recently toured Japan. His inspirations range from everyone between Duke Ellington and John Coltrane to Tribe Called Quest and Kendrick Lamar. Like Richburg, traveling professionally is Perales’ No. 1 musical goal but in the meantime, he plans to revel in the wave of energy that washes over him every time he performs.

“It’s like when you get endorphins from exercise,” he says. “It’s that emotional catharsis, diving into something so passion-oriented. It’s an art form you have to put a lot of yourself into. It’s an expression. I have a boisterous personality but sometimes I don’t express what I’m truly feeling. Music is a way to get out my anxiety, my worries, or if I’m excited or really happy. It’s a whole different level of conversation. It’s a primal and intellectual conversation at the same time.”

The 10-day-long intensive Vail Jazz Workshop is led by mentors John Clayton, Terell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe, Wycliffe Gordon, Dick Oatts and Lewis Nash, also known as the Vail Jazz Party House Band. After completing the Workshop, the students including Perales and Richburg plus pianists Carter Brodkorb and Jake Sasfai, trumpeters Zaq Davis and David Sneider, bassists Philip Norris and Gabe Rupe, saxophonists Alex Yuwen and Austin Zhang, trombonist Joseph Giordano and drummer Nick Kepron, graduate to the status of Vail Jazz All-Stars, and kick off the 22nd Annual Vail Jazz Labor Day Weekend Jazz Party on Sept. 1, opening the final Vail Jazz @ Vail Square performance, which features a triple bill with the Vail Jazz Alumni Quintet and the Vail Jazz Party House Band. The All-Stars then perform for free at the Jazz Tent at Vail Square at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, please visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

Milt Hilton celebrated at the Vail Jazz Festival

Vail Jazz is pleased to celebrate the remarkable work of legendary jazz bassist and photographer Milt Hinton. A three-part celebration includes a digital photography exhibit, to be displayed August 3rd – September 5th, a Documentary screening and a multi-Media Tribute to Hinton both on September 2nd .

 

One of the most recorded musicians of the 20th century, he also managed to take more than 60,000 photographs to document his career. Since his passing in 2000, Directors David G. Berger, Holly Maxson and Kate Hirson bring Milt Hinton’s music and photographs back to life as curators of the Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection.

 

Born in 1910 in the deep south of Mississippi, Milt faced extreme poverty and racism, but turned to music where he would find his community. Showing incredible talent at a young age, Milt would find his break with Cab Calloway, touring across the country for almost fifteen years. While balancing family and professional life, Milt toured with Louis Armstrong and from the mid 1950s-70s, was among the first African-Americans to be called in for regular studio session work. Known for recording and performing with a diverse roster of artists including Billy Holiday, Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand, Benny Goodman or Bing Crosby, Milt soaked up the jazz scene up until the late 1990s.

 

While many people put session musicians in the background, it was hard for Milt Hinton to stay there. Mastering a profound musicianship and extensive harmonic knowledge, Milt blew other artists out of the water, where his technical diversity and strengths benefitted sessions greatly. It was in 1935 when Milt received his first camera for his 25th birthday and showed a love for photography, (a 35 mm Argus C3 back then) would spend the rest of his life documenting festivals, studio sessions, tour life, and iconic legends in a beautiful and sentimental way. Whether Milt knew at the time or not that his music and photography would one day play such an important part of American jazz history, is truly an answer many jazz heads want to know.

 

Watch Clips from the documentary here:

 

http://milthinton.com/film.html

 

Don’t miss this rare documentary being shown at the Vail Jazz party in the Grand Ballroom at the Vail Marriott, tickets available for $20 https://www.vailjazz.org/tickets/vail-jazz-party-tickets/

Celebrating the one and only Milt Hinton

As part of the 22nd Annual Vail Jazz Festival, Vail Jazz is celebrating the life, music and art of the legendary bass player

A famous bass player and prolific photographer, not to mention a man of many nicknames, Milt Hinton chronicled jazz through the ages from the 1920s up until his death in 2000. Revealing a colorful sample of the mark he made, a digital exhibit of Hinton’s work and music will be presented at the Lionshead Welcome Center four times daily, from Aug. 3 to Sept. 5. It will air on the big screen at10 a.m. 12 p.m. 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

 

But that’s just the teaser for Vail Jazz’s ongoing Hinton tribute this summer.

 

In addition to the display at the Lionshead Welcome Center, the digital exhibit will be shown each night of the Vail Jazz Party (Sept. 2-4) in the lower lobby of Vail Mountain Marriott Resort, where the evening sessions take place. The riveting documentary, “Keeping Time: The life, music and photographs of Milt Hinton,” will be shown at the Marriott’s Grand Ballroom on Friday, Sept. 2 at 2 p.m. The documentary chronicles the storied 70-year career of Milt Hinton, embracing the rich life of a remarkable musician who recognized and recorded history as he was playing it. Tickets are $20 or included in the weekend passes.

 

Vail Jazz’s grand finale spotlight on the famed bass player is John Clayton’s Multi-Media Tribute to Milt Hinton, which includes narration by Clayton, who is himself one of today’s leading jazz bassists. He will share anecdotes and stories, video clips and stills along with what are sure to be powerful live renditions of Milt’s favorites with a quartet on stage. This is one of four sets that make up the Friday Evening Session of the Vail Jazz Party. Tickets are $75 in advance.

 

“Milt Hinton embodies the core of our mission at Vail Jazz,” says Vail Jazz Executive Director Robin Litt. “His whole essence, like ours, is a dynamic formula of educating while entertaining as well as broadening the audience for jazz, which stretches among numerous musical genres.”

Keep an eye and ear out for Milt Hinton in Vail this summer.

 

For more information and tickets to the documentary or John Clayton Tribute to Hinton, visitwww.vailjazz.org or by calling 888.VAIL.JAM. The Milt Hinton digital exhibit is made possible through a partnership with the Town of Vail’s Art in Public Places board and with the Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection, directed by David G. Berger and Holly Maxson.

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.

2015 Vail Jazz Party photos now online

Pictures from the 21st Annual Vail Jazz Party are now online! Featuring pictures from nine sessions over Labor Day Weekend, with incredible solos, group performances and once-in-a-lifetime jam sessions. Check them out below:

 

 

Vail Jazz All-Stars CD now available for preorder

2015-All-StarsEach year, a dozen of North America’s most dedicated, gifted and promising young jazz musicians are chosen from a broad field of talented applicants, receiving scholarships to participate in the Vail Jazz Workshop. After 10 days of intensive study, the students are proudly referred to as the “Vail Jazz All-Stars,” performing on several occasions as part of the Vail Jazz Party.

This double cd features the 2015 Vail Jazz All-Stars, and their performances from Thursday, September 3 – Sunday, September 6 at the 21st Annual Vail Jazz Party. Over the Vail Jazz Party, the Vail Jazz All-Stars performed in two sextets, the Alto Combo and the Tenor Combo, and all together as a whole.

The songs they performed ranged from well-known jazz favorites to original pieces composed by the students themselves, including Jerome Gillespie’s “What I Meant to Say,” Max Schwartz’s “Mountain Bounce,” Ethan Santos’ “Softly,” and Luca Mendoza’s “Escape.”

Buy your copy today and you will be stunned by the incredible talent of these young musicians, as composers and performers. All sales benefit the 2016 Vail Jazz Workshop; help us support the future of jazz!

 

 

Please note that this is a preorder and the CDs will be ready to ship by December 1, 2015.

 

‘Unrehearsed brilliance’ at the annual Vail Jazz Party on Labor Day weekend

In the early 20th century, musicians began combining Caribbean and African drumming, creating a new sound ingrained in American history: jazz.

“Jazz is America’s unique musical art form,” said Owen Hutchinson, development manager for Vail Jazz. The genre has become a quintessential part of American culture, making the Vail Jazz Party, taking place Thursday through Monday, Sept. 7, a fitting way to celebrate the Labor Day holiday weekend.

The party is the culmination of the 12-week Vail Jazz Festival, which runs from June through September. Approximately 30 world-renowned jazz musicians, such as John Clayton and Roberta Gambarini, will play over the long weekend. Eleven sessions of multiple sets span the five days of festivities and allow the audience to see jazz legends, young professionals and the most talented jazz students in the country.

IMMERSED IN IMPROV

Each set is performed by a collection of musicians who have never before played in that specific mixture. Each combination of artists will improvise in front of an average audience of more than 500 people. This focus on spontaneity that has long characterized jazz is one of the party’s features that brings jazz lovers back to Vail each year.

Clayton, a bass player and former student of bass legend Ray Brown, said on-stage improvisation and connecting with old friends and young musicians off stage are the best parts of performing in Vail.

“That connection is inspiring” he said, suggesting that it helps develop his creativity. “I have to dig into a deeper place and combine my efforts and experiences” to play with these musicians.

While this creative process may seem like it will yield unwieldy results, Hutchinson said the results of the combinations and different styles are “unrehearsed brilliance.” And the continued success of the Jazz Party corroborates that stance.

The on-stage communication that makes jazz so unique is one of the features that Clayton associates with the genre. One of his earliest musical memories is of watching Brown on stage with other musicians in a Los Angeles club, communicating with their bodies and eyes.

“They were communicating with each other and having a joyous time,” Clayton said. This approach to music affects his playing even today, as he learned early to associate fun with music.

MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS

The Jazz Party weekend will provide audiences with endless opportunities to see musicians having fun.

  • Opening night, Thursday, welcomes back artists Bill Cunliffe and Lewis Nash, among others.
  • Friday is largely dedicated to celebrating women in jazz and begins with a showing of the award-winning documentary “The Girls in the Band.” After the film, there will be a multimedia tribute to women in jazz. Seven female performers, including Gambarini, Sherrie Maricle, Niki Haris and Lauren Falls, will perform and discuss their forerunners.
  • Saturday, Sept. 5, focuses on the contribution Brown made to jazz and the influence of drum rhythms.
  • The Gospel Prayer Meetin’ performance on Sunday, Sept. 6, will highlight the importance of gospel sounds to jazz. Since many of the artists developed in a gospel setting, Hutchinson said, this will be a high-energy and fun show.
  • The Jazz Party ends on Monday, Sept. 7, with an all-day session showcasing some of the festival’s greatest artists, including Gambarini, George Cables and others.

Along with fun, the Jazz Party also provides “edutainment,” or entertaining learning opportunities, said Robin Litt, of the Vail Jazz Foundation. Several performances throughout the five days are in a multimedia format, educating the audience about the lives of jazz legends through music, video and still footage. Litt said she hopes these shows will allow the audience to leave performances inspired to learn more.

FUTURE OF JAZZ

The Jazz Party also provides opportunities to hear the future of jazz. Clayton said he enjoys listening to the young musicians at the festival because of their varied and contemporary musical vocabulary, incorporating hip-hop and New Orleans-based sounds.

“I love a lot of what they do,” Clayton said, “and I want to grow in that way, as well.”

To encourage the future of jazz, Vail Jazz offers the Vail Jazz Workshop each year during the Jazz Party. Twelve high school students are invited to study in Vail with the professionals playing in the festival. These students go through a rigorous audition, and the workshop aims to provide a focused, technical education different from what they receive at home with their regular teachers. Through this process, Clayton also hopes to solidify their passion for jazz.

“They already come in love with the music and with the idea of pursuing the music at the highest level they can, and they’re only in high school! But they’ve already got that focus,” Clayton said.

With a professional per every two students, these young musicians receive the attention they need to take their music to a higher level. The teachers are also dedicated to breaking some of the constraints with which many contemporary students approach music. Because of an increased dependence on sheet music in universities and conservatories, many students never develop the confidence to improvise.

But at the Vail Jazz workshop, no sheet music is allowed and independent creativity is encouraged. Playing on stage with professionals reinforces this skill, which, according to Litt, is a “very inspiring experience for the students because they’re seeing a life in jazz.”

The Vail Jazz Party is also a place for adults who don’t yet appreciate jazz to learn that it’s more than the classic ballad crooner sounds of Bing Crosby and Sinatra or the free-form elevator music pervasive in shopping malls. It includes genres such as swing and Dixieland, with danceable beats and high energy. So whether you are a jazz skeptic or aficionado, a traditionalist or contemporary jazz listener, there is something for everyone to enjoy at the Vail Jazz Party.

Sherrie Maricle, Karen Hammack, Niki Haris and Roberta Gambarini headline celebration of women in jazz this weekend

Luckily the musical world is well beyond those regrettable times when anyone would hear an amazing instrumentalist and dare say, “she plays pretty well … for a girl.”

The jazz scene in particular has been struck by a steady string of female standouts for decades and the 21st Annual Vail Jazz Party aims to both commemorate and celebrate the genre’s leading ladies, both past and present.

Kicking things off Friday afternoon will be a special screening of the powerful, eye-opening, documentary Girls in the Band. Highlighting the largely untold stories of female jazz musicians from the 1930s (such as trombone player Melba Liston, trumpeter Clora Bryant, pianist Marian McPartland) who, in spite of their incredible talent, faced a rash of sexism, racism and condescension in order to pursue their musical dreams. It is these women who paved the way for today’s female jazz stars.

“I’m definitely NOT aware of being a woman in the band most of the time,” said contemporary trumpet sensation Bria Skonberg, who performed at the Vail Jazz Festival earlier this summer and recently watched Girls in the Band. “There are a lot of women who have worked really hard so I can feel that way.”

The documentary also profiles current female stars, including Sherrie Maricle, drummer and leader of the all-female group DIVA, which made its Vail debut this summer. Maricle returns to town for this weekend’s Vail Jazz Party to perform alongside several other powerhouse musicians in Friday night’s Multi-Media Tribute to Women in Jazz and in various ensembles throughout the weekend.

“When DIVA was formed and to some degree even today, women didn’t usually get the first call for jazz gigs, so I viewed DIVA’s creation as a great opportunity to play amazing music with great players, period,” Maricle said. “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.”

Internationally renowned vocalist Roberta Gambarini will also perform in tonight’s Multi-Media tribute. The Grammy award nominee who hails from Italy has an exuberant vocal style that has been compared to Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae, but which is also distinctly her own, each song and each performance rife with fresh trills and spontaneous twists. In addition to Friday’s girl power performance, Gambarini and her Trio will take the stage on Saturday and Monday.

Another familiar vocal talent, not to mention Vail Jazz Party fixture and favorite, Niki Haris will join the all-female power ring for Friday’s multi-media performance and appear numerous times throughout the wall-to-wall music weekend, leading Sunday morning’s climatic Gospel Prayer Meetin’ with the Mile High Gospel Ensemble.

“All races, all colors come together to be part of this spiritual celebration,” Haris said of  the Meetin’ and of gospel itself, which many believe to be the cornerstone of jazz, if not the very foundation of the genre. “Jazz is about freedom of expression.”

Gospel is only one of Haris’ points of focus, but energetic expression is the key ingredient of everything she does. A singer, choreographer, dancer and actor, Haris has worked with everyone from Ray Charles to Mick Jagger, Whitney Houston to Anita Baker and spent 18 years touring and recording with Madonna, arguably the pop star’s most talented band mate of all time. In Vail over the years, Haris has been consistently famous for rattling the stage and willing spontaneous movement of some sort out of every audience member – clapping, swaying or all-out dancing.

“I love the entire energy of the Vail Jazz Festival,” Haris said. “I always say God was having a great day when he made Vail, Colorado – or should I say she? The point is, this is the world we all want to see – everyone celebrating in their own way to whatever God they serve. We’re all here together.”

Karen Hammack is another shining star at which to marvel throughout the Vail Jazz Party. The pianist and singer/songwriter incorporates elements of jazz, gospel, funk, soul and rock into her unique sound and is a master recording artist with a long list of original numbers that have been singled out for their heart-gripping sincerity. Hailing from California, Hammack has worked with Jackson Brown, Michael McDonald, Bill Frisell and Perla Batalla, among many other greats.

Bassist Marion Hayden is a key component to the Tribute to Women in Jazz and will be a vibrant presence throughout the 2015 Vail Jazz Party. Hailing from Detroit, Hayden has taught at the University of Michigan, is a founding member of the all-female group Venus, has collaborated with renowned violinist Regina Carter and has performed or recorded with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Fortune.

Also blazing a trail as the next generation of jazz greats are Vail Jazz Workshop Alumnae Sophie Faught and Lauren Falls. Hailing from a small town in British Columbia with a masters graduate in jazz performance from Manhattan School of Music, Falls composes original music for her own quintet and has studied with iconic bassists such as John Clayton, James Moody and David Baker. A tenor saxophonist from Indiana, Faught currently leads her own band and is a notable composer. She shares the stage with stars such as Terrell Stafford, The Four Tops and The Temptations.

The combined talent of all of these artists is enough to make the mountains quake. Don’t miss this weekend’s celebration of women in jazz. The Friday evening session ticket includes not only the Women in Jazz set, but also riveting performances by famed pianist George Cables Trio, renowned harmonica player Howard Levy and the surprise-filled Late Night Jam Session. For a schedule of 2015 Vail Jazz Party performances, tickets or more information, call 888-VAIL-JAM or visit vailjazz.org.

Q+A with the Vail Jazz Workshop Instructors: John Clayton

Mastermind behind the Vail Jazz Workshop and a pioneer of the Vail Jazz Festival, Grammy winner John Clayton grew up in California learning bass from jazz master Ray Brown, whose bass he now plays.

He toured with the Monty Alexander Trio and the Count Basie Orchestra before taking the position of principle bass in the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Upon his return to the states he founded The Clayton Brothers with his brother (and long-time Workshop instructor) saxophonist Jeff Clayton. John is an avid music educator, and currently serves as Artistic Director for no fewer than five jazz organizations, and has composed or arranged for the likes of Natalie Cole, The Tonight Show Band, Quincy Jones, Whitney Houston and Diana Krall.

Q+A WITH JOHN CLAYTON

What is the most memorable comment you’ve received?

When an audience member lets me know that my music touched them, made them feel great or made them cry, it makes me feel like I was successful in sharing my expression.

What’s your favorite on-stage or pre-gig sipper?

I don’t drink on stage. I spent two years in the Count Basie Orchestra and five years in the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Both insisted that you hydrate before playing, so I am a bit “Old School” in that regard.

What about a post-gig drink?

Afterward, I’m a wine guy!

What is the most striking venue you’ve ever played?

It’s hard to mention only one! The list would include the Acropolis in Athens, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Carnegie Hall, The Hollywood Bowl, and a long list of small venues around the world with intimate acoustics.

 

 

Watch the six Vail Jazz Workshop Instructors in action this Vail Jazz Party, together as the Vail Jazz Party House Band and on their own throughout the weekend!

This article is part of a 6-part series highlighting the Vail Jazz Workshop instructors, who comprise the Vail Jazz Party House Band. In it’s 20th year, the Vail Jazz Workshop recruits 12 of the nation’s most talented teenage jazz musicians who travel to Vail for a week of intensive, two-to-one learning with the instructors. The students refine their skills, learn the art of playing by ear and most importantly, come to own and hone their special talents. Thanks to their Vail Jazz mentors, nearly all of the students have gone on to become professional musicians.

Vail Jazz turns 21 and celebrates with blowout party this Labor Day weekend!

It’s customary to go big for one’s 21st year. Vail Jazz is jumping on the bandwagon and pulling out all of the stops for its end-of-summer bash.

Following an entire summer of buildup with weekly concerts featuring a steady stream of today’s hottest jazz artists — many of whom formed in Vail for the first time — the 21st annual Vail Jazz Party brings five days of live music through Labor Day weekend and a more star-studded lineup than ever before.

VAIL JAZZ PARTY HIGHLIGHTS

Thursday, Sept. 3

The party kicks off with the season’s Vail Jazz @ Vail Square finale, featuring a triple bill in the jazz tent in Lionshead Village. The evening begins with 12 teenage proteges carefully selected from 150-plus applicants — the Vail Jazz All-Stars — who will have spent the week vigorously studying with seasoned pros from the Vail Jazz House Band. Then comes the Alumni Quintet — comprised of former students and current rising stars Lauren Falls, Sophie Faught, Evan Sherman, Jumaane Smith and Jeremy Siskind. The performance wraps up with a thunderous set by the Vail Jazz Party House Band, starring John Clayton, Lewis Nash, Terell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe, Wycliffe Gordon and Dick Oatts. All three bands will perform several times throughout the Vail Jazz Party, the All-Stars playing for free at the Jazz Tent in Lionshead at 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 5 and6).

As for the performances Sept. 4-7, the list of artists and performances rivals that of internationally-renowned events like the Newport or Montreal jazz festivals.

Friday, Sept. 4

Running with Vail Jazz’s summer theme of amazingly talented musicians who happen to be women, Sept. 4 kicks off with a screening of the award-winning documentary “The Girls in the Band,” detailing the largely untold stories of female jazz musicians from the 1930s to today, featuring the likes of trombone player Melba Liston, trumpeter Clora Bryant, pianist Marian McPartland, as well as current artists such as DIVA drummer Sherrie Maricle, who will perform in the multimedia tribute to women in jazz alongside powerhouse vocalists Roberta Gambarini, Niki Haris and many others.

The all-female performance is preceded by a performance by George Cables’ trio (bassist George Mraz and drummer Lewis Nash). Considered one of the top jazz pianists of all time, the New York City-based star has been leading bands since the 1960s, recording and performing with big names such as Woody Shaw, Dexter Gordon and Art Blakey.

Saturday, Sept. 5

The Vail Square stage hosts a rotating rainbow of talent beginning at 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 5 Along with another performance by George Cables, standout artists include six-string sensation Russell Malone, who specializes in swing and bebop guitar and who spent several years recording and touring with Harry Connick Jr., Diana Krall and Sonny Rollins. There’s also trumpeter and bandleader Sean Jones, who performed on Nancy Wilson’s Grammy-winning record and has twice won Downbeat’s Rising Star award. Let’s not forget Vail Jazz Party mainstays Jeff Hamilton, who has drummed with Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie Orchestra and leads his own trio, and trumpeter Terell Stafford, director of jazz studies at Temple University.

The evening heats up as the magic moves to the Vail Marriott with a tribute to the great Ray Brown featuring powerhouse trio Larry Fuller, John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton, followed by Roberta Gambarini’s hypnotizing vocal performance and the most recorded jazz drummer in history, Lewis Nash’s blowout multimedia tribute to his drum heroes.

Sunday, Sept. 6

Don’t think that Sunday morning (Sept. 6) is sleepy around here, especially with what has historically proven itself as the Vail Jazz Party’s most popping event, the Gospel Prayer Meetin’. Led by the energy of vocalist Niki Haris, the stage quakes with the force of the Mile Hi Gospel Ensemble and moving numbers performed by musical stars Byron Stripling, Wycliffe Gordon, Sean Jones and many others. Sunday afternoon (Sept. 6) sessions bring red-hot performances by the Vail jazz Party House Band and Piano Duos, starring a revolving cast of six acclaimed key masters (including Shelly Berg, Larry Fuller, George Cables and Bill Cunliffe) duking it out on grand pianos. Haris returns to the stage Sunday evening (Sept. 6) in the Vail Marriott’s Grand Ballroom alongside Karen Hammack, Marion Haydon and Sherrie Maricle, followed by performances by a jazz celebrity ensemble led by John Clayton, then Byron Stripling’s educational multi-media tribute to the trumpet kings.

Monday, Sept. 7

All of the stars stick around for a final afternoon extravaganza kicking off at 11:30 a.m. with the George Cables Trio, followed by a vocal performance by Roberta Gambarini and one-of-a-kind sets mixing A-listers, Vail Jazz debut artists and long-time regulars. With a final set bringing 13 headliners all onstage at the same time (including four trumpeters!), the Vail Jazz Party ends with an incredible bang!

Single day-time session tickets (including access to all afternoon sets) to the Vail Jazz Party are $55 and evening sessions (including entry to the lively and spontaneous Light Night Jams) are $75. Gospel Prayer Meetin’ tickets are $55. Performance Passes are $350 and Patron Passes are $425 through Friday August 28, when pass prices increase.