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.

 

Reserve your summer Thursdays for bumpin’ live jazz

The umbrella of jazz spans several genres and nowhere is its vast reach more spectacularly exemplified than in the varied lineup of artists on tap for this summer’s Vail Jazz @ Vail Square series.

One of six performance series that make up the summer-long Vail Jazz Festival, the Vail Square lineup for 2017 is confirmed, including established favorites as well as internationally acclaimed talent taking the Vail stage for the first time. Other highlights of the Festival include the Vail Jazz Club Series, which lands at The Sonnenalp every Wednesday evening from July 12 to Aug. 2, featuring more intimate performances with Vail Square artists. Plus, back by popular demand, Vail Jazz’s First Fridays shows in Edwards will be upgraded this summer to an expanded series, Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk, bringing free live music to the Riverwalk Backyard Amphitheater on alternating Fridays beginning June 9.

The 2017 Vail Jazz @ Vail Square series, totaling nine performances, kicks off July 6, and will ignite Lionshead with head-bobbing energy every Thursday evening leading up to the 22nd Annual Vail Jazz Party on Aug. 31.

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 Band

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 feat. 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, bigger-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 hotly anticipated return to Vail.

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 22nd 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.

The where and how:

Vail Jazz @ Vail Square performances take place in the all-weather Vail Square tent in Lionshead, which for the first time this summer, features assigned seating (selected online) for Preferred seating and the all-new Premium seating sectioned comprised of cushioned chairs and more space. Preferred and Premium tickets are also available in a discounted four-pack subscription on sale through July 6. General admission seating is available on a first come basis. All Vail Jazz Festival ticket sales begin May 1. For more information, view the Vail Jazz @ Vail Square page or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

Vail Jazz launches Vail Jazz Party with Thursday triple bill at Vail Square

“There is no better audience than the Vail audience. You can hear a pin drop, they are listening so intently.” -Workshop piano instructor Bill Cunliffe

The musical experience in Lionshead on Thursday is as full-circle as it gets. The triple bill serves as the grand finale of the summer’s Vail Jazz @ Vail Square series but is also the mighty kickoff of The 22nd annual Vail Jazz Labor Day Weekend Party. It begins with 12 of the country’s top teenage jazz musicians, freshly minted “Vail Jazz All-Stars” having just graduated from a workshop with six of the world’s most respected and established jazz pros. A selection of Workshop alumni, now professional artists themselves, take the stage after the teenagers. The ultimate culmination of talent wraps up the evening with a performance by the mentors themselves, the Vail Jazz Party House Band.

“There is a healthy understanding of the importance of giving back, moving things forward and investing in the future,” says John Clayton, leader of the Vail Jazz Party House Band and Workshop. “The Vail Jazz Party has committed to simultaneously presenting first-class performances as well as being responsible for a high level of jazz education.”

Besides helping launch the inaugural Vail Jazz Party 22 years ago and the educational workshop a year later, Clayton’s repertoire of positive impact and star-mingling spans decades. Like the 250-plus students he has mentored in Vail (and thousands of others across the globe), Clayton tapped into his musical talent as a small child. By the time he was 16, he was playing bass at UCLA in a class taught by Ray Brown. In the 1970s, he joined the Monty Alexander Trio, then the Count Basie Orchestra before crossing the Atlantic to settle into a decade in Amsterdam as principal bassist for the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and instructor at Holland’s Royal Conservatory. He returned to California to juggle a number of successful touring ensembles, educational workshops and jazz festivals as well as arranging, conducting, performing and recording with a long list of big name artists. It was Clayton who arranged Whitney Houston’s rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the 1990 Super Bowl. He has collaborated with Diana Krall, Natalie Cole and Whitney Houston. He won a GRAMMY for Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist for Queen Latifah’s “I’m Gonna Live Til I Die” and seven additional nominations.

Regardless of which hat he’s wearing – be it composer, arranger, mentor, or performer – Clayton claims that the most rewarding interactions he has are the variety that confirm a powerful connection is made.

“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,” he says.
But Clayton’s certainly not the only member of the Vail Jazz Party House band who’s been places. New to the Vail Jazz Party House Band as of last year, saxophonist Dick Oatts has performed and recorded with an amazing array of stars, including Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Mel Tormé. He is a former faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music and a professor alongside trumpeter Terell Stafford at Temple University.

Stafford is Director of Jazz Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia and leads his own quintet, which will perform this weekend in Vail. He’s performed and recorded with many GRAMMY winning artists, including Diana Krall, Bobby Watson and Herbie Mann.

A Vail Jazz Workshop mentor for many years, Stafford views the triple bill Vail Jazz Party kickoff performance as “a big reunion” and says that there is something unquestionably validating about such a “family affair.”

“One particular year, the parents of a student came up to me and let me know their son had a rough year and that the Vail Workshop was the highlight of his year. You always hear growing up that music is powerful and healing, not just from a listening standpoint, but from a mentoring one,” Stafford says.

Wycliffe Gordon, who has won Downbeat Magazine’s Critic’s Choice award for Best Trombone numerous times and has performed with the likes of Wynston Marsalis, Dizzy Gillespie and Tommy Flanagan describes the triple bill experience as “playing it forward.”

“It’s a great opportunity for us to meet the next bandleaders, composers, arrangers and conductors,” he says.

Not only are the students and musicians focused on the energy afoot when the Vail Jazz circle of past, present and future comes together, but the audience is completely enraptured.

“There is no better audience than the Vail audience. You can hear a pin drop, they are listening so intently,” says GRAMMY-winning composer and pianist Bill Cunliffe, who is a Professor of Music at California State University Fullerton and has shared the stage with Frank Sinatra, James Moody and Freddie Hubbard.

Lewis Nash, the most recorded jazz drummer of all time, has performed and recorded with everyone from Clark Terry to George Michael, Hank Jones to Bette Midler. He says he was once approached by a Vail fan who told him, “I never liked drum solos before hearing you play.”

So again, the fire of talent burns in a complete ring, heated up by the 12-piece ensemble of teenage protégés – the Vail Jazz All-Stars, comprised of pianists Carter Brodkorb and Jake Sasfai, trumpeters Zaq Davis and David Sneider, bassists Philip Norris and Gabe Rupe, saxophonists Alex Yuwen and Austin Zhang, trombonists Joseph Giordano and Jasim Perales and drummers Nick Kepron and Brian Richburg. The Vail Jazz Alumni Quintet then ramps up the flames, featuring pianist Adam Bravo, bassist Russell Hall, drummer Lucianna Padmore, trumpeter Benny Benack III and saxophonist Braxton Cook. The fire reaches inferno proportions as Clayton, Stafford, Cunliffe, Oatts, Nash and Gordon take the stage as the Vail Jazz Party House Band.


Catch the triple bill of the past, present and future, featuring the Vail Jazz All-Stars, Alumni Quintet and House Band at Vail Jazz @ Vail Square from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 1 inside the all-weather jazz tent in Lionshead. General admission tickets are sold out but premium seating is $40 in advance. The All-Stars also perform FREE sets at Vail Square at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For tickets or more information, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

H2 Big Band leaders sum up the unique, danceable magic of Count Basie

The 17-piece ensemble channels generations of hits by the swing king on Thursday in Vail

From tapping your foot to bobbing your head to launching yourself into an all-out Lindy Hop, swing music simply makes you want to move. When it involves 17 musicians and originates with Count Basie, the dance formula is pretty much guaranteed.

“One thing is that there is a heavy swing feel that only the Basie band was able to create. All jazz players agree that the Basie band swung more than any big band ever. The thrill of the big band sound is unlike any other musical experience,” says Dave Hanson, pianist, composer and co-founder of H2 Big Band. “As a composer, I get a rush to hear what each musician offers. Nothing is more fun than playing the Basie arrangements.”

Hailing from Denver, H2 Big Band’s two albums have reached top 15 status on Jazz Week’s national play list and the band’s original target was set on the studio. Then they realized how exhilarating it was to perform, which they will do in Vail on Aug. 25, paying tribute to Count Basie. In addition to Hanson and co-leader/trumpet player Al Hood, the band features a rotating line-up of 15 acclaimed artists, including a massive brass section, which it turns out is pivotal to the Basie sound.

“The arrangers had a certain style characterized in a way that each section was complete within itself,” Hanson explains. “If you heard the Basie saxophone section, it would sound complete within itself, the trombone section, too. The unified way they work together is the formula for the sound. Every Basie chart has a shout chorus unique to the Basie big band.”

The explosive performance will cover Count Basie tunes from the 1940s through the 1970s as well as a handful of H2’s original compositions.

“The H2 Big Band is extremely well versed in the Basie tradition, particularly our well-oiled rhythm section of Dave on piano, playing the Count himself, Todd Reid on drums and Ken Walker gliding the band via streamlined swing on the bass,” Hood says. “The icing, of course, will be the Freddie Green stylings of rhythm guitarist Mike Abbott.”

Without seeing the Count in the flesh, die hard Basie fans with their eyes closed will be hard-pressed to distinguish H2 Big Band from the swing king’s original band, the sound is that authentic … not to mention infectious.

“The legacy of the Basie band, in my opinion, is steeped in feel good swing, uncompromising time feel, ‘in the pocket’ groove and exuberant solo episodes,” Hood says. “This is certainly the essence that we will bring to that night of tremendous music. Swing will most assuredly be king.”

Each member of the big band is faced with a complex task of timing, harmony and connecting with the audience, but for Hanson, who plays the role of Basie, nailing the formula is especially involved.

“As the piano chair, you have to know the very unique style of Count Basie,” he says. “If there were one word to describe the playing of Count Basie it is sparse. He would only play the notes that were necessary. He would only play if the wind instruments weren’t playing. The Basie ending is a piano fill – a ‘plink-plink-plink’ – on most of his charts. It’s so identified as his that any piano playing the ‘plink-plink-plink’ is acknowledging Count Basie. We think of him as playing simply because he played very few notes, but he could be a great stride pianist. He could go into amazing stride piano solos, based on ballroom stride piano players from the ‘20s.”

The broad gamut of Basie’s sound including many of the Count’s classic arrangers will be summoned by H2 big band during the Vail performance. Even for audiences not familiar with Basie’s legacy, the urge to dance will be undeniable. Hanson says that every live H2 Big Band performance is characterized by one fixed reality above all others and that’s to expect the unexpected … especially when Count Basie is the theme.

“It’s a chance for the band to really show off the musicians in a great way. Hearing us all firing up together is a great thrill,” Hanson says. “There’s an element of chance involved. Every concert is different. Every acoustic is different. There’s a chance for something to happen that’s never happened before.”

Catch the H2 Big Band Tribute to Count Basie at Vail Jazz @ Vail Square from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 25 inside the all-weather jazz tent in Lionshead. General admission tickets are $20 in advance and premium seating is $40 in advance. For tickets or more information, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

H2 Big Band Tribute to Count Basie

 

There’s no jazz pioneer like the incredible William James “Count” Basie who graced the jazz scene in the 1930’s with his memorable and exhilarating performances and compositions. This summer the H2 Big Band will pay tribute to the monumental music of this jazz big band leader in an uplifting, and inspirational performance.

 

Back for a second year in a row, the H2 big band will perform with an outstanding 17 piece band led by trumpeter Al Hood and pianist Dave Hanson. They will tackle the greatest hits of Count Basie that the whole family can hum and dance along to! After all, there’s no big band sound like Count Basie’s arrangements. With Count Basie’s distinctive sounds and melodies, it’s hard not to fall in love with this sophisticated yet playful music.

 

Count Basie was indeed a founding father of the big band musical era, thriving through the decades of vaudeville, the swing era, the bebop era and the Soul/Blues era. In an era when African-Americans did not lead bands, Count Basie took the initiative to start his own orchestra, including the hottest jazz musicians of the day. With his remarkable leadership and jazz composition skills, it was no surprise his songs would instantly become household hits.

 

Over the span of his career, earning nine Grammy awards and a spot in the Grammy Hall of Fame, some of Basie’s most loved songs would include “One O’clock Jump”, “April in Paris”, “Alright, Okay You Win”, and “Everyday I Have the Blues”. Collaborating with different instrumentalists and notable jazz singers including Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra, Count Basie performed for fans all over the world, and recorded over 480 albums.

 

Count Basie not only made an impact in jazz music, but also served as a humanitarian and philanthropist and received a Kennedy Center Honor. 2015 marked over 80 years of Count Basie’s music, and thanks to tribute bands such as the H2 Big Band, Basie’s music is still swinging today! While it is truly hard to replicate the exact sound of Basie’s music, the H2 Big Band creates an engaging and authentic representation that makes you feel like Basie is musically present.

 

Join us at the Vail Jazz Festival on August 25th at 6pm in Vail Jazz Square for an exciting evening with the H2 Big Band playing the music of Count Basie. Tickets range from $20-$40 and are available at https://www.vailjazz.org/events/h2-big-band-tribute-count-basie/

 

Check out this video of Count Basie’s “One O’clock Jump ” to get you in the mood, and we’ll see you at the show!

 

Shake it with ‘Maraca’ this Thursday

Maraca Valle to deliver distinctive brand of Cuban jazz

 

The famed flutist and his Latin Jazz All-Stars set to sizzle Vail Square

 

It might be surprising that a flute player stirs up the kind of energy that causes audiences to leap on stage and start dancing. Or to make a blind man claim that he can see. But such is the miracle of Orlando “Maraca” Valle’s music.

 

“Many times before getting on stage, there are so many high spirits and so much burning desire to listen that I think success is guaranteed. And it’s true that when we get on stage a kind of mysterious interaction between the audience and the band is established, and it can get to extreme ways of communicating,” Valle says. “Sometimes the artist gets off the stage, going toward the audience, or sometimes people from the audience get on stage. In any case, we care about sincerity and self-confidence when we perform because these are the ways to engage the audience.”

 

Hailing from a family of musicians in Havana, Cuba, Valle took up the flute at the age of 10 on the suggestion of one of his talented brothers.

 

“I agreed although I preferred the guitar or the alto saxophone,” Valle says. “But then I fell in love with the flute and later it became the tool through which I express myself … my body extension. The flute has been carrying my voice, my thoughts and feelings all over the world.”

 

In his 20s, Valle joined the band Irakere as arranger, flute and keyboard player. Founded by Chucho Valdés and Paquito D’Rivera, the ensemble was famous throughout Cuba and Latin America. Soon Valle was rubbing shoulders and performing with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Chick Corea. It was in 1994 that Valle launched his solo career and has made remarkable traction ever since as a widely respected writer and arranger, collaborating with some of the hottest jazz artists across the globe.

 

“I’m very grateful to all of them because all of them are masters for me,” Valley says. “But I have to say that playing with Tito Puente, Tata Guines, Cesaria Evora, Chucho Valdes, Wynton Marsalis or Al Di Meola provided me with priceless experience. And most of these experiences and collaborations were spontaneous, so natural and fluent that they’re locked in my heart.”

 

Spontaneity is the cornerstone of Valle’s style and live performance energy. It’s also what brings him his greatest joy on stage.

 

“Improvising [has] been coming naturally to me since I was a child. Improvising allows me to express my own vision of the world, of life, my feelings and my dreams,” he says. “It brings me a lot of inner peace. I enjoy it so much.”

 

Then again, Valle can name many sources of musical passion.

 

“I enjoy conducting an orchestra, composing and arranging music, performing other composers’ music, different styles of music from different cultures…I also find it fascinating the communication and feedback between musicians,” he says. “Sometimes without knowing each other before performing together, nor having rehearsed together, they establish a unique musical conversation which can remain in the mind of all who assist this show forever.”

 

When it comes to playing with musicians he does know, for instance, his own Latin Jazz All-Stars, the “musical conversation” reaches sonic proportions.

 

“This is the kind of energy our planet needs – solar energy – but this energy doesn’t pollute,” Valle says. “It does heal hearts. On stage we’re all delighted to perform together and we enjoy everyone’s performance. And you can feel this. Our mutual admiration allows the audience to enjoy an exceptional concert.”

 

So exceptional is Maraca’s music that it has literally delivered vision and an uncanny urge to dance, even to the most unassuming of audiences.

 

“The most memorable feedback came from a fan of mine who is blind. When he first met me in person, he got so nervous that he was shaking with excitement and he confessed that my music made him see,” Valle says. “I also remember a great show in Grand Rapids, MI, where the front part of the audience was made of people in wheelchairs and some of them with artificial limbs got on stage and danced with the band. Finally, the most important feedback may come from children, because children don’t lie about what they like or what they don’t. When you see that your music is making them happy it is because something beautiful is going on.”

 

Orlando “Maraca” Valle performs with the Latin Jazz All-Stars at Vail Jazz @ Vail Square from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 17 inside the all-weather jazz tent in Lionshead. General admission tickets are $20 in advance and premium seating is $40 in advance. For tickets or more information, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM

Explore the roots of Cuban music with Maraca and his Latin Jazz All-stars

Join us August 18th, as Vail greets flutist Orlando “Maraca” Valle and his Latin Jazz All-Stars to Vail Jazz @ Vail Square starting at 6 pm. Performing with a seven piece band, you can already hear the exotic Latin beat of the congas and percussion, the warm sounds of salsa on the piano, the bright melodies of the trombone, groovy, fusion inspired bass lines, and the hot jazz sax making their way to Vail.

 

For over twenty years, Maraca and his Latin Jazz All-Stars have composed and arranged the authentic sounds and feelings from the Cuban culture. In 2003, Maraca received a Grammy nomination for Best Salsa Album with their album Tremenda Rumba, while also, topping the Billboard charts.

 

Having performed Afro-Cuban music in over 41 countries, the road has not been easy for this Cuban band. While politics have played a frustrating part in many Cuban musicians careers, as many Cuban bands have been restricted to travel and performing this rich music for fans abroad. However, Maraca continued to fight for Afro-Cuban music, and despite overwhelming visa and immigration laws, they encouraged listeners to not forget Cuban music and the Cuban people. In this time of turmoil, it was music that played a large part in bridging cultures together. It was musicians such as Maraca that started normalizing relations between countries, fighting for music to bring one another together.

 

Maraca’s music makes the listener feel intrigued and sparks conversation. With important messages and themes expressed in emotional vocals, this band practices what they preach, and have lived through incredible life experiences. Always giving a first class show, this band works extremely hard on stage to put on a spectacular show. Pouring their blood, sweat and tears into every salsa song.

 

Even today, Maraca plays with the traditional Cuban style and introduces contemporary harmonies and rhythms that sound energizing. Brining a little flair of Cuba to the audience, even here in Colorado! Music has truly shaped these musicians lives, and it’s evident as they perform with high enthusiasm night after night.

 

 

Catch this New Jazz Fronteirs Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxqeU6s4sLs

 

See you at the show! General Admission tickets are $20 and Premium tickets are $40, tickets can be purchased at https://www.vailjazz.org/events/maraca-latin-jazz-stars/

Cécile McClorin Salvant strikes fine balance between the silky and surly

The GRAMMY winning vocalist lands on Vail Jazz stage Thursday

Not one to mince words, Cécile McClorin Salvant is grateful for the tidal wave of fanfare she’s received in the last few years, but is also OK with people who don’t like her sound.

“If you know of me and like my music, thank you for your support,” she told La Foresta earlier this year. “If you don’t like it … give it to people you hate.”

With a French mother and Haitian father, Salvant was born and raised in Miami, where she took an avid interest in music at the age of 5. By the time she was 8, Salvant was singing in the Miami Choral Society and was drawn to classical voice. Skip ahead to the vocalist’s later teen years and she moved to France to study both baroque voice and law. In Aix-en-Provence, it was teacher and famed reed player Jean-François Bonnel who introduced her to jazz. She began performing with a band and performed throughout Paris, going on to record her first album – Cécile – with Bonnel’s own Paris quintet. She returned to the states to win the prestigious Thelonius Monk Jazz Competition in Washington, D.C. at the age of 21.

Citing vocal inspiration from the likes of Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Betty Carter and Bessie Smith, Salvant struck up a fascination with American music, likening her own vocal style to not only jazz but also vaudeville, folk and blues. It is often obscure tunes centered around a powerful story, some dating back to the early 1900s, that resonate most with Salvant, who sings in French as well as in Spanish and English.

Salvant’s second album, 2013’s WomanChild, included a handful of original compositions and garnered a landslide of acclaim, including a 2014 GRAMMY nomination for Best Vocal Jazz Album and Downbeat’s Jazz Album of the Year, Female Vocalist, Rising Star–Jazz Artist and Rising Star–Female Vocalist awards.

Salvant’s third studio album, 2015’s For One to Love, won the GRAMMY for Best Vocal Jazz Album. Honed onto a theme of strong, independent women, the record exudes a delightful melancholy and features five original compositions, a handful of jazz standards, and a couple of bright takes on rarities such as Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Stepsisters’ Lament” from Cinderella.

“Other musicians and composers really inspire me, film, books, things like that,” Salvant says. “And of course, people … seeing how people interact with each other in life, how they speak and describe their experiences.”

A conversation with her grandmother, a stroll through a visual art museum or even an observation of a strangers’ discussion from afar are fodder for Salvant’s muse.

“We all have a character depending on certain situations, how people communicate or try to hide emotion. How people lie and sometimes give a little bit of the truth is very fascinating to me,” she says. “Humor and laughter, the importance of humor and how people use that in their lives is important and interesting to me.”

Often sporting colorful, historic hats and/or retro frame eye glasses, Salvant’s vocal range is as unpredictable as her fashion choices, sometimes whispering over one word while wrenching out every syllable of another. She turns 27 this August and while finding herself surrounded by unquestionable popularity and acclaim as one of the world’s most quickly rising jazz stars, she says the limelight has never been something she has deliberately gravitated toward.

“I tend to not look at articles or interviews or videos of myself,” she says. “I feel really grateful for what’s been happening, but I don’t really like to be the center of attention. I don’t like to brag.”

Cécile Mclorin Salvant makes her Vail debut Thursday, Aug. 11 at Vail Jazz @ Vail Square The performance is from 6 to 8 p.m. inside the all-weather jazz tent in Lionshead. General admission tickets are $20 in advance and premium seating is $40 in advance. For tickets or more information visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

Joey Alexander … Jazz Musician

A “child prodigy” is a young person endowed with extraordinary talent. When a well-respected music critic makes the pronouncement that a 6-year-old classical violinist is a child prodigy, he is opining that the young musician possesses the skills to produce a musical output comparable to what a very skilled adult violinist can produce. The critic is not saying that the prodigy is the best player the critic has ever heard (which would be a foolish statement about any musician, but it is regularly made), the critic is saying this kid is so good, he/she can enter the realm of adults who play classical music.

It should not be forgotten that possessing prodigious talent doesn’t necessarily lead to fame and fortune. The pressure placed on a youngster branded as a prodigy is enormous. The world of music (and other disciplines) is littered with kid virtuosos, who for various reasons didn’t make it in their chosen fields, or for that matter, didn’t live productive and balanced lives.

So, what if you are a true musical child prodigy, what does that lead to? It certainly puts you in the game at a very early age and many doors will be opened for you. Assuming you can successfully navigate puberty, stay focused, handle the media circus that swirls around you, deal with the expectations of family, friends, managers and agents, mature and develop as a person and definitively determine over time that you really enjoy making music, you then enter the challenging world of adulthood, where you are no longer a child, prodigy or otherwise. Hopefully the skills that you possessed when you were 6 have been honed and enhanced and you have “raised your game,” because the marketing edge of a being a wunderkind is gone.

Josiah “Joey” Alexander is a 13-year-old jazz piano player from Indonesia. Proclaimed by many to be a child prodigy, his meteoric rise to international fame is a compelling story. Born in Bali, not exactly the hotbed of jazz, he learned about jazz by listening to his father’s records. By the time he was 6, Joey had taught himself how to play piano on an electronic keyboard that his parents had purchased for him because he was hyperactive and they hoped that the keyboard would allow him to focus his outsized energy. Learning by ear the music of the giants of jazz, he also taught himself how to improvise.

He began playing in clubs in Bali while still 6 and shortly thereafter his family moved to the capital city of Jakarta, where he had greater opportunities to jam and begin formal jazz music studies. Home-schooled by his parents, his piano studies and the small world of jazz in Jakarta were the center of his universe. By the time he was 8, Herbie Hancock had heard him play and inspired him to continue. At 9, Joey competed against 43 musicians from 17 countries and won the Grand Prix at the 2013 Master-Jam Fest in the Ukraine. By 10, his fame had spread to the U.S. and in May 2014 he was invited to perform at Jazz at Lincoln Center in NYC. “Down Beat” critic Allen Morrison wrote after his performance: “If the word ‘genius’ still means anything, it applies to this prodigy.” Thereafter, he began touring throughout Asia, Europe and the U.S., performing at some of the most prestigious venues in the world of jazz, including the Newport Jazz Festival, where last summer he was the youngest performer in the history of the event.

In 2015 when Joey was 11, he released, to great critical acclaim, his debut album, My Favorite Things. The album contains jazz standards that are some of the most complicated and nuanced music in the jazz canon, all of which he arranged. Also included was Joey’s own composition “Ma Blues,” establishing his standing as a composer. The album and his performances to follow have demonstrated that Joey is no longer a child prodigy, but that he is evolving into a great jazz musician without regard to age. For you see, to truly be a jazz musician is not about technical virtuosity, but it is the ability to bring to the music a creativity that is beyond, and frankly unrelated to, technique. It requires a creativity that is based upon a form of self-expression that is separate and apart from any endowed gift and requires the musician to have the ability to communicate with the listener. This musicality generally comes from a love and understanding of the music built over years of study and performance and a maturation generally shaped by the vicissitudes of life.

How did Joey go from being a precious child with prodigious talent to an accomplished jazz musician by the time he was 13? I wish I knew and I doubt that anybody does, including Joey. But I do know what Joey wants: “I know many people call me a prodigy; I mean, OK, I thank you, but I still want to be called a jazz musician.”

Vail Jazz will present Joey Alexander in concert on Aug. 4 as part of the 22nd Annual Vail Jazz Festival.

Howard Stone is the founder and artistic director of The Vail Jazz Foundation, which produces the annual Vail Jazz Festival. Celebrating its 22nd year, the Vail Jazz Festival is a summer-long celebration of jazz music, culminating with the Labor Day weekend Vail Jazz Party. Visit vailjazz.org for more information.

Sensational GRAMMY performer Joey Alexander set to light up the keys in Vail

Young pianist and his trio bring masterful sound to Lionshead on Thursday

Living in the moment is a philosophy that Joey Alexander follows not only to his musical career but also in life.

Speaking on the phone with the Balinese pianist, it is nearly impossible to tell that he just turned 13. He is gracious and thoughtful when answering questions and amazingly articulate for a boy his age, especially given that he’s only been learning English for a couple of years.

But considering his eloquence on the piano – evidenced by the rapt attention of fellow musical stars at this year’s GRAMMY Awards performance and pretty much wherever else he plays – it’s really not that much of a surprise.

Joey taught himself how to play an electric keyboard at the age of 6. He received his first real piano at age 7 and by the time he was 8, was performing for the likes of Herbie Hancock.

“I don’t remember exactly when I felt like this is what I’m going to do, I was just playing,” Joey says. “I could just feel it. It’s such a big instrument and the keys, the mechanics … I just loved the big sound of it. It was kind of hard for me to reach the high notes – I was very small at the time – but I loved the big sound. That’s what interests me about the piano … it’s orchestra. It’s a complete instrument.”

At 10, thanks to a special invitation by Wynton Marsalis, he made his debut at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Shortly afterward, he and his family moved from Indonesia to New York City. He performed on two stages at the Newport Jazz Festival. Since moving to the U.S. he has played at major jazz festivals around the world as well as at the White House for President Obama. His debut album – 2015’s My Favorite Things – garnered two GRAMMY nominations for Best Jazz Instrumental Album and Best Improvised Solo (on John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”). A forthcoming album – Countdown – is scheduled for a September release and Joey is excited to perform his new material in Vail this Thursday.

“On this record I explore more musically,” he says, adding that the album features three of his original compositions. “I compose something when I’m practicing but not really thinking about it. It just flows to me, almost [directly] to my hands. It just comes out.”

The young artist was performing in upstate New York on his 13th birthday this June. He says there was no place he’d rather be than on stage to celebrate his existence. The venue surprised him with a piano-shaped birthday cake and the entire audience singing, “Happy Birthday.”

“It was a surprise,” he says. “Everyone was clapping and singing. I was actually very happy that I was even playing. It was [enjoyable] for me to be on stage when I can share my day and the talent that god’s given me.”

When asked to name his most exciting or memorable experience so far in his young musical career, one would think Joey would immediately name his White House or GRAMMY performance, but no.

“For me a small stage, a big stage, everything is really important to me,” he says. “It’s the music I want to give. Every experience has a different vibe for sure. There are people that just want to listen. When I went to Europe, every city was a different vibe, which was great.”

As far as his future goals, the 13-year-old is not someone who looks ahead but who embraces what is right before him.

“I always want to be thankful. I’m really happy with what I’m doing now,” he says. “Of course I’m thinking forward about how I [can] better myself, but not thinking about the future. That’s the thing about jazz …it’s about the moment.”

Joey Alexander, 13-year-old piano sensation, performs with bassist Dan Chmielinski and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. this Thursday at Vail Square. The performance is from 6 to 8 p.m. inside the all-weather jazz tent in Lionshead. General admission tickets are sold out but premium seating is available for $40 in advance. For tickets or more information visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.