Seven questions with soul queen Hazel Miller

Catch the charismatic singer for a free outdoor performance July 6 in Edwards

No excuses are necessary to make a celebration out of Friday afternoon, especially when it means extending the Independence Day celebrations over what will surely be one of the most hopping weekends of the summer. In the spirit of weekend celebrations, the 2018 Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk series is expanding to every Friday this summer, kicking off July 6 with statewide soul sweetheart Hazel Miller, wrapping up Aug. 24 with organ-rich funk trio Claxton, Kovalcheck and Amend and packed with a broad gamut of energetic, eclectic artists in between.

If you missed Miller at Blues, Brews and BBQ, here’s your big chance to see her up close in all of her glory. Vail Jazz caught up with Hazel Miller for a little insight on her proclivity for getting the good times rollin’.

Vail Jazz: How did you learn that singing was your calling in life?

Hazel Miller: I think it hit me around 8. I wanted to sing. My family watched Ed Sullivan EVERY Sunday night. Seeing Ella Fitzgerald, Patsy Cline, Lannie Kazan, Sarah Vaughn and so many more gave my imagination all it needed to dream. I know that singing fed my heart. Singing also set me apart from my six brothers and sisters. That’s always a good thing for one in so many. It was a thrill when someone remembered my name.

VJ: Who are your vocal inspirations?

HM: I like big voices. I love singers that take risks. I love singers that can reach you with their emotion. Aretha Franklin, Sara Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, Bonnie Raitt and many more have helped me find my voice. I admit that I’ve borrowed style, expression and content from several singers, female and male. Nat King Cole, Steve Linwood, Stevie Wonder, Billy Eckstine … these are just a few of the singers that have sent my head spinning with new ideas.

VJ: What is your absolute favorite number to perform and what makes it special? 

HM: I don’t have an absolute favorite. Each performance is different and each audience is different. A favorite song is the song that moves my audience that night.

 

VJ: How do you go about selecting the songs you’ll perform?

HM: I will prepare a set list and proceed to change it on stage to accommodate where the audience is at that time. This habit has become a great inside joke in the band. We will make the changes instantly to fit the mood of the audience. We get very excited when we can keep the energy rising and the audience dancing. We offer excitement … a release for a little while. It’s a real charge for all of us to be able to reach out and touch the audience.

VJ: How do you know which selections will light up certain audiences?

HM: No one knows the answer to this question. You can only anticipate so much. You have a game plan of what to play then you fine-tune it as the performance continues.

VJ: You have a unique ability to get people on their feet and hypnotized by your energy. Your voice has been described as a ‘force of nature.’ What do you love most about performing?  

HM: The smiling faces, the little kids dancing with their families and friends. Singing is like flying. This is the best band I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. We all support the others’ flight of fancy when we perform. It’s a group effort to find the right groove and right expression for each song.

VJ: Of all the memorable feedback you’ve received over the years, has there been a standout comment from a fan or audience member?  

HM: Audience members offer the nicest compliments. It’s always appreciated and absorbed into my memory. Once my granddaughter told me I was her Aretha Franklin. I think that one warms me the most. It is humbling and exciting at the same time. When the band compliments me after a show it is special because it means that I went to a special place that I don’t always reach every night.

Don’t miss Hazel Miller’s free outdoor performance on July 6 for Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk in Edwards. Music kicks off at 6 p.m. and food/drink vendors open at 5 p.m. Picnics are welcome at Vail Jazz @ The Riverwalk, but no pets are allowed and the event is non-smoking. For more information, call 970-479-6146.

Five free ways to enjoy jazz this summer

While Ludwig’s at The Sonnenalp channels a big city jazz club with intimate dinner performances starring internationally heralded artists on Wednesdays for the Vail Jazz Club Series and the Jazz Tent in Lionshead pulsates with the power of those artists backed by full bands on Thursdays for Vail Jazz @ Vail Square, Fridays and Sundays are the not-so-secret times to sample an array of high energy live music for free.

Sundays

For everyone: Unquestionably the place to be every Sunday, the Vail Farmers’ Market & Art Show wouldn’t be the colorful, all-sensory experience it is without its soundtrack of live jazz. Proving the vast breadth of sounds that fit under the jazz umbrella, Vail Jazz @ The Market showcases regional artists specializing in everything from dance-compelling salsa, harmonica-driven blues, electric violin and spiced up jazz standards. Follow your ears to the shaded tent at Solaris from 12 to 3 p.m. every Sunday from July 1 to Aug. 26. Take a load off for five minutes or three hours and soak up the invigorating sounds of Los Chicos Malos (July 1), blues duo Delta Sonics (July 8), BLT with Bob Rebholz + Liliane Murdoch (July 15), electric violin virtuoso Joe Deninzon + Friends (July 22), a special collaboration with the Vail International Dance Festival (July 29), R&B-flavored Robert Johnson & The Mark Diamond trio (Aug. 5), local vocal/piano force Kathy Morrow + DZ (Aug. 12), the worldly sounds of Fortunato (Aug. 19) and progressive blues with Wayne Wilkinson Trio (Aug. 26).

For kids: Do you have a tyke that’s been displaying telltale signs of musical talent? Bring her/him to the Jazz Tent at Solaris at 11 a.m. for a 45-minute interactive course in simple harmony. Under the instruction of legendary local pianist and educator Tony Gulizia, Jammin’ Jazz Kids invites children between ages 4 and 12 to tap out rhythms and beats on xylophones, drums and a host of other fun instruments.

For adults: If it’s more of a lounge-y, cocktail sipping vibe you’re after, local duo Tony Gulizia and Brian Loftus are joined by a host of guest artists every Sunday evening at 8 p.m. for free live music by the name of Vail Jazz @ The Remedy in Four Seasons Resort Vail. The swanky sounds of BLT have a two-decade track record of enriching evenings no matter where you are.

Fridays

For everyone: Because it proven to be such a wildly popular way for TGIFers of all ages to kick off their weekend, Vail Jazz @ The Riverwalk is happening every Friday this summer in Edwards. Food and drink vendors open at 5 p.m. and free live music kicks off on the lawn at 6 p.m. The red hot lineup brings in an eclectic mix of award-winning regional acts that span numerous genres but are all proven party starters: gospel queen Hazel Miller (July 6) Brazilian rhythm kings Ginga (July 13), swinging vintage band Joe Smith & The Spicy Pickles (July 20), soulful songstress Ayo Awosika (July 27), brassy blues swingers Red Young & His Hot Horns (Aug. 3), West African funk with Paa Kow (Aug. 10), 12-piece salsa Quemando (Aug. 17) and swing-funk organ trio Claxton, Kovalcheck and Amend (Aug. 24). It’s the perfect excuse for a picnic … and/or an outdoor dance party.

Fourth of July parade

Ignited by the theme of America’s Great Outdoors, Tony Gulizia, Brian Loftus and revolving guests fire off the tune of jazz’s hottest trailblazers from atop the Vail Jazz float. Expect to hear classics from Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and a slew of other pioneers who paved the path of musicians worldwide over the last 100 years.

Vail Jazz turns on the hot jets for a full summer of shows

National and international artists on tap for Sonnenalp, Vail Square and Labor Day Weekend performances

Launching into its 24th year, the Vail Jazz Festival’s summer’s lineup is stacked with young songstresses, established Grammy winners and sky-rocketing new talent.

The summer kicks off with an eclectic variety of national and internationally acclaimed artists for Vail Jazz @ Vail Square every Thursday beginning July 5, the Vail Jazz Gala July 9 and five intimate evenings of intimate club performances in July and August. There are more free performances than ever, happening in Edwards every Friday in July and August and every Sunday all summer at the Vail Farmer’s Market as well as at The Remedy in Vail. Of course, the festival culminates with the Vail Jazz Party over Labor Day Weekend – five days of live music featuring the modern jazz world’s top talent with more than 35 headliners.

Here’s a little more about what/who’s to come this summer:

Vail Jazz @ Vail Square:

Taking place in the all-weather Jazz Tent in Lionshead, performances kick off at 6 p.m. and feature three tiers of seating/pricing: general admission $25, preferred seat $40 and premium seat $50. Four-pack subscriptions are also available for a 15-percent savings. Drinks are available for purchase. 

July 5 – Hot Sardines – Touted as one of the most energetic jazz ensembles out of New York City, the lively vocals of Elizabeth Bougerol fuel this eight-piece musical force that will inevitably incite some dancing.

July 12 – Nachito Herrera: A Night in Havana – Performing with the Havana Symphony Orchestra at age 12, the fiery Cuban pianist is joined by his high-energy ensemble for a spell-binding performance with plenty of Afro-Cuban flare.

July 19 – Django Festival All-Stars – Following the fast-finger phenomena of Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, this sparkling five-piece swings back into town by popular demand, delivering an extra dose of lightning pace for the big stage.

July 26 – Tony DeSare and H2 Big Band – Tony DeSare is famous for infusing a jazz twist on modern pop songs as well as mirroring a young version of Frank Sinatra. Whether belting out zippy originals, putting his own flavor on Songbook favorites or adding a swing beat to a Prince tune, the appeal of this keyboard-playing crooner is only magnified by the melodic thunder of the H2 Big Band Band.

Aug. 2 – Andrea Motis featuring Joel Frahm – Barcelona-born vocalist and trumpeter Andrea Motis has made short work etching her place in the international jazz world. At age 23, she has seven albums under her belt and a propensity to swing and bop with the best of them. Along with the renowned saxophone talent of New York mainstay Joel Frahm, this duet, backed by a quintet, is a rare treat.

Aug. 9 – Nicki Parrott’s Tribute to Peggy Lee – Having sold out both shows at Ludwig’s during her last visit to Vail, The Australian vocalist and bassist returns to once again pay tribute to Peggy Lee, tapping into a variety set of the late, great singer’s most revered and rarest tunes.

Aug. 16 – Veronica Swift – As a testament to her long-standing vocal talent, Veronica Swift was performing at Lincoln Center by age 11. At 23, her skill set has only amplified. Her American Songbook renditions have brought audiences to tears and with the backing of pianist Emmet Cohen and his trio, emotions will surely swell.

Aug. 23 – Akiko/Hamilton/Dechter – Among the top touring jazz trios in the nation, organ phenom Akiko Tsuruga, guitar virtuoso Graham Dechter and drummer extraordinaire Jeff Hamilton never fail to impress with high energy, innovative arrangements and world-class musicianship, always leaving rave reviews in their wake. Playing together for years, this ace trio combines the exceptional talents of three singular pros into a greater-than-the-parts amalgam of tasteful, creative, straight-ahead jazz.

Vail Jazz Club Series

These performances present rare opportunities for up close and elegant musical evenings with the high caliber Vail Square artists. The events take place on Wednesdays in the intimate setting of Ludwig’s at The Sonnenalp. The evenings comprise of two seatings, the first at 5 p.m. with music beginning at 5:30 p.m. and the second at 7:30 p.m. with music beginning at 8 p.m. Seating is jazz club style at small tables with dinner service available. Tickets are $40 per show or $136 for a four-pack subscription. A $30 food and beverage minimum applies.

July 11 – Nachito Herrera Trio
July 18 – Django Festival All-Star

July 25 – Tony DeSare

Aug. 1 – Andrea Motis featuring Joel Frahm

Aug. 8 – Nicki Parrott

July 9

Gala Performance

Bossa Nova Nights Vail Jazz Gala features Carol Bach-y-Rita, fusing her Brazilian-inspired vocals and fervor for Bossa Nova, Samba and Choro with the piano talents of Grammy winner Bill Cunliffe and a slew of Vail Jazz Workshop alumni for eclectic renditions of American Songbook favorites. This one-off performance is an annual fundraiser for Vail Jazz’s vast educational programs, which instill the art and wisdom of jazz to more than 1,400 young learners every year. The event takes place at The Sebastian in Vail and begins at 5:30 pm. Tickets begin at $250 and include a gourmet dinner, cocktails and appetizers.

Free performances:

Vail Jazz @ The Market

Follow your ears to more free live music every Sunday beginning July 1 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 a variety of regional talent ranging from the Cuban jazz of Los Chicos Malos (July 1) to blues duo Delta Sonics (July 8), R&B-flavored Robert Johnson & The Mark Diamond trio (Aug. 5) or local vocal icon Kathy Morrow’s (Aug. 12) unique takes on jazz classics or the across-the-world upbeat and ever-changing sounds of Fortunato (Aug. 19), the performances are worth hanging out for.

Vail Jazz @ The Remedy

Tony Gulizia and Brian Loftus (BLT) are joined by a rotating cast of visiting musicians for Vail Jazz @ The Remedy, which kicks off at 8 p.m. Sunday, July 1 at The Remedy in the Four Seasons Resort, Vail. The performances are free and take place every Sunday evening through Aug. 26.

Vail Jazz @Riverwalk

Having established itself as the ultimate way to end a week, Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk will launch the weekend in Edwards every Friday in July and August. The series brings free live music to the Riverwalk Backyard Amphitheater in Edwards beginning July 6 with Colorado’s gospel queen, Hazel Miller. Brazilian rhythm kings Ginga land on July 13, the swinging big band sounds of Joe Smith & The Spicy Pickles July 20 and the pop-inspired vocals of soulful songstress Ayo Awosika July 27. The sizzling, highly varied mix of artists continues in August with brass swingers Red Young & His Hot Horns Aug. 3, Afro funk by Paa Kow Aug. 10, the return of saucy 12-piece Quemando Aug. 17 and the swing-funk sounds of trio Claxton, Kovalcheck and Amend Aug. 24.

EC3, Niki Haris, Ken Walker, and Dick Oatts (photo: Jack Affleck)

 

2018 Vail Jazz Labor Day Weekend Party

The 24th Annual Vail Jazz Party serves as the grand finale of the season from Aug. 30 to Sept 3 (Labor Day Weekend). The nearly nonstop indoor and outdoor performances (at Vail Marriott and Vail Square) include more than 35 headliners including, of course, the Vail Jazz Party House Band, return favorites Niki Haris, Jeff Hamilton and Adrian Cunningham as well as Byron Stripling, Benny Green and René Marie, to name just a few, performing in one-off multi-artist jam sessions and multimedia tributes to musical legends. It’s a life-changing long weekend.

Go here for tickets.

Brace yourself for a free big band performance

The U.S. Air Force Academy Falconaires swing through Edwards

Has it been that kind of week … the kind whose ending you feel could only be appropriately celebrated with the seismic symbol crashing and sprightly horn blowing of a major big band?

Well you’re in luck, because Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk presents an extra special free performance this Friday by none other than the U.S. Air Force Academy Falconaires Big Band. The Falconaires consider jazz to be “America’s only indigenous musical genre” and will fire off one after another of favorite arrangements from the American Swing Era as they deliver their unique take on numerous contemporary tunes.

If you can’t wait to kiss goodbye to a tough week, you might as well do it with a 14-piece horn section and amid the bustling company of friends, neighbors and visitors splitting their time between eating, drinking, picnicking and dancing at the Riverwalk Backyard Amphitheater.

The powerful force of The Falconaires marks the second to last Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk performance of the summer. The series delivers free live music every other Friday along with local food and drink vendors, including paella from Revolution, paninis and salads from Eat! Drink! and cocktails from 10th Mountain Whiskey.

Following this Friday’s performance, the final Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk concert of 2017 will be a grand finale indeed starring 12-piece Latin and Salsa band, Quemando.

“It truly exemplifies the diversity of the jazz genre when Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk moves from our last solo gig with one of the world’s most talented flutists [Nelson Rangell] to the huge Big Band sound of the Falconaires,” says Vail Jazz Operations Director James Kenly. “For people who haven’t checked it out yet, bring your picnic blanket and get to Edwards. It’s going to be an incredible party this Friday.”

In addition to food and drink vendors, Alpine Arts Center offers unique arts and crafts projects for children throughout the evening.

Vendors open at 5 p.m. and music begins at 6 p.m. Picnics are welcome but no pets are allowed. The event is non-smoking. Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk is presented by Alpine Bank and Kaiser Permanente.

Vail Jazz @Riverwalk welcomes The Otone Brass Band

Dancing while playing an instrument is no simple feat, but it appears to come naturally to all eight members of The Otone Brass Band. Whether it’s swinging the sousaphone from side to side or spinning and bobbing while keeping a lightning fast drumbeat, it’s clear that every one in the band views each song as an opportunity to party. The vibe is contagious and it’s usually a matter of seconds before everyone within earshot is moving to the beat.

The Otone Brass Band brings its lively grooves to the Riverwalk Backyard Amphitheater this Friday for Vail Jazz@ Riverwalk presented by Alpine Bank and Kaiser Permanente.

The all-new Vail Jazz@ Riverwalk series kicked off June 9 with The Burroughs, drawing in a sea of picnicking families, passers by and dancers of all ages. The series delivers free live music every other Friday along with local food and drink vendors, including paella from Revolution, paninis and salads from Eat! Drink! and cocktails from 10th Mountain Whiskey.

“Our first Riverwalk show was a fantastic blueprint of what we hope to see the rest of the summer,” says Vail Jazz Operations Director James Kenly. “We had all kinds of people on the lawn – families and couples with picnic spreads watching the show while enjoying their dinner. We had little kids twirling to the tunes. At one point it was like the band sent a wave over everyone. One after another, people started coming to the front of the stage to dance. It was so much fun.”

The Otone Brass Band just might take its stage performance into marching mode through the lawn. It wouldn’t be the first time. Infusing its New Orleans street sound with strains of Latin, soul and funk, whether on stage or off, the Denver-based ensemble is famous for infecting crowds of all ages with positive energy.

If spontaneous dance opportunities aren’t enough for the younger members of the audience, Alpine Arts Center will be on hand offering unique arts and crafts projects for children.

Vendors open at 5 p.m. and music begins at 6 p.m. Picnics are welcome but no pets are allowed. The event is non-smoking.

Vail Jazz launches a summer of lawn parties every other Friday in Edwards

There’s nothing like unwinding from a busy week with free live music and a sunny afternoon picnic.

Vail Jazz observed that such a scene was too good to reserve for only the first Friday of the month, which is why the all-new Vail Jazz@ Riverwalk was born, infusing The Riverwalk in Edwards with an outdoor party every other Friday all summer long.

Vail Jazz @Riverwalk kicks off the summer weekends on a high note beginning at 5 p.m. June 9 with the romping, high-energy tunes of The Burroughs. The homegrown, northern Colorado-based nine-piece calls its sound “sweaty soul,” and fuses its self-proclaimed “powerhouse” rhythm section with a vibrant, four-piece horn section and unquestionably charismatic vocals delivered by front man Johnny Burroughs. The Burroughs return to the Riverwalk Backyard Amphitheater in Edwards, where they had the packed, picnic-toting crowd on its feet dancing for nearly their entire set last summer during Riverwalk First Fridays.

Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk replaces Riverwalk First Fridays, bringing a sizzling variety of regional artists to Edwards every other Friday along with local food and drink vendors, including rotisserie barbecue from Revolution, paninis and salads from Eat! Drink! and cocktails from 10th Mountain Whiskey.

“It became clear last summer that people were hungry for live music on the lawn Friday afternoons, so we doubled our offerings,” says Vail Jazz Operations Director James Kenly. “The Riverwalk Backyard Amphitheater is an ideal setting to showcase this super talented lineup of bands. The scene turns into a massive lawn party with neighbors, friends and visitors – a perfect place to make new friends. We expect it to become everybody’s go-to Friday plan twice a month.”

Following its June 9 summer launch, Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk 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.

Not sure whether to leave the kids at home? Bring them along. Alpine Arts Center offers free arts and crafts for children and the general ambiance delivers entertainment for all ages. Vendors open at 5 p.m. and music begins at 6 p.m. Picnics are welcome but no pets are allowed and the event is non-smoking.

The Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk series is presented by