Vail Square lineup, new Club Series and live tunes at Sweet Basil!

Cartwheeling into its 21st year, the Vail Jazz Festival is admittedly a full-grown adult, but as evidenced by its lineup for this summer’s Thursday evening Vail Jazz @ Vail Square series, not to mention the brand new Vail Jazz Club Series and Vail Jazz at Sweet Basil events, the festival is unquestionably keeping things young and fresh.

VAIL JAZZ AT VAIL SQUARE

The lineup of national and internationally acclaimed artists has just been confirmed. Beginning July 2 and ending Sept. 3, there will be 10 total performances, all taking place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays — rain or shine — under the jazz tent at Vail Square in Lionshead Village. Tickets are $15 general admission, $30 VIP or $199 for the 10-show VIP pass. Each event includes beverage tastings featuring 10th Mountain Whiskey, Bonfire Brewing and Ironstone Winery. Tickets and information available at vailjazz.org or 888-VAIL-JAM. Here’s the lineup:

July 2: Django Festival All-Stars

In the lightning fingers style of legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt, the five members of Django Festival All-Stars are bonafide Frenchmen and include a pair of six-finger sensations, a romping accordion and bass, sweet strains on the violin and a touch of high-speed vocal instrumentation. The quintet are regulars at Birdland in New York City and are bound to make a swingin’ debut in Vail.

July 9: Nicole Henry

Referred to as America’s current First Lady of Jazz, vocalist Nicole Henry has spent the last decade hypnotizing audiences with her sultry, versatile take on traditional jazz with a touch of soul, blues and gospel. She makes her Vail debut with her regular, uber-talented quartet.

July 16: Cyrille Aimee and Michael Valeanu Duo

Though she’s barely 30 years old, Cyrille Aimee has won awards all over the world for her hypnotizing vocal abilities. Hailing from a small village in France where she was lulled into the magic sounds of gypsy jazz, she returns to Vail for an intimate performance with fellow French New York City transplant and guitar master Michael Valeanu.

July 23: Tony DeSare

Based in New York, young singer and jazz pianist Tony DeSare returns to the Vail Square stage with a sound lying somewhere between Harry Connick Jr. and Billy Joel. He’s one of the hottest up-and-comers in jazz and in addition to his award-winning original music is known to tackle anything from the American Songbook to mash-ups fusing old pop hits with current top 40 favorites.

July 30: DIVA

It’s not every day that you come across a 15-piece big band comprised expressly of women. Based in New York, DIVA is an unstoppable ensemble led by drummer Sherrie Maricle. Their classic big band thunder is punctuated by spontaneity and improvisation.

Aug. 6: Hiromi: The Trio Project

Hailing from Japan, pianist Hiromi lights up the keys in a virtuosic style that defies even the broad confines of jazz with hints of rock and classical. When she’s not dazzling audiences with original melodies, she’s creating jingles for Nissan.

Aug. 13: Tommy Igoe Sextet

Splitting his time between San Francisco and New York City, Tommy Igoe leads his sextet from behind the powerful, pounding harmony of his drum kit. You might recognize his sound from Broadway’s original “The Lion King.” His range of beats fall somewhere between Count Basie and The Beatles.

Aug. 20: Bria Skonberg Quartet

Again defying stereotypes, this Canadian-born vocalist resides in New York City, and her main act is the trumpet. One of modern jazz’s most rapidly ascending stars, Bria Skonberg can heat up the brass like Louis Armstrong but has been known to infuse some humor into her hot jazz, holding notes while hula hooping on stage. The 31-year-old is soon to be gobbled up by every huge jazz festival in the world.

Aug. 27: Gregory Porter

California-born, Brooklyn-based baritone Gregory Porter got a full-ride scholarship for football in college but traded his shoulder pads in for a show-stopping jazz career. He won a Grammy last year for Best Jazz Vocal Album and delivers a soaring, sincere performance with a booming voice that will be recognizable for decades to come.

Sept. 3: Vail Jazz All-Stars, Alumni Quintet and House Band

It’s a triple bill for the grand finale of Vail Jazz @ Vail Square and the opening blowout for the multi-day Vail Jazz Party. The All-Stars are 12 of the nation’s most up-and-coming jazz prodigies fresh off of their intense workshop week. Their show is followed by the spontaneous grooves of five former Vail students who are now sizzling professional musicians. John Clayton leads the star-studded Vail Jazz Party House Band — Terell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe, Wycliffe Gordon, Lewis Nash and Dick Oatts — in an energetic, unforgettable set featuring the best of contemporary jazz.

ALL NEW THIS SUMMER

Vail Jazz Club Series

Replacing the popular Jazz After series of the last two summers, this summer, Vail Jazz heats up Wednesday nights in July with an even more enticing, one-of-a-kind performance. The Lodge at Vail’s Cucina Rustica restaurant transforms into an intimate, New York City-style dinner lounge as select artists from the Vail Jazz @ Vail Square series take the stage for an indoor evening performance over cocktails and authentic Italian fare. Nicole Henry performs July 8, Cyrille Aimee on July 15, Tony DeSare July 22 and Five Play (two soloists and three rhythm members from DIVA) on July 29. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and music kicks off at 9 p.m. Tickets are limited and run $30 plus a $20 food and beverage minimum.

Vail Jazz at Sweet Basil

Most people were familiar with the famous Sunday evening Vail Jazz performances at Kelly Liken Restaurant starring local piano king Tony Gulizia. While Kelly Liken is gone, Gulizia’s gig is only going to be better as he brings in a rotating cast of jazz stars to accompany him at a delicious new venue: Sweet Basil. What better place to enjoy the sweet sounds of jazz over dinner, a cocktail or dessert than in Vail Village’s most beloved restaurant? Music begins at 9 p.m. every Sunday from June 28 to Aug. 30. Entry is free.

Frank Sinatra 100th birthday bash

In celebration of the late, great Frank Sinatra and what would be his 100th birthday, famed vocalist Curtis Stigers returns to Vail with the H2 Big Band for A Swingin’ Affair, a tribute performance covering Sinatra’s classic songbook’s original Nelson Riddle arrangements. This one-time event kicks off July 13 at 6 p.m. at the Lodge at Vail with cocktails, appetizers and silent auction, followed by dinner and what is sure to be an exceptionally moving performance. Prices start at $200 and all proceeds benefit Vail Jazz educational programs.

 

Tony DeSare lights up the Vail Jazz stage twice this summer

Just as comfortable covering Pharrell as he is old standards from The Great American Songbook, Tony DeSare has a talent for putting his own style stamp on just about anything.

As evidenced by winning first place in the 2013 USA Songwriting Contest, the 37-year-old New Yorker is a solid composer, too.

En route to becoming the next Harry Connick Jr., DeSare cannot remember a time that he didn’t love music. “My dad played guitar and sang in the house every night. I started on violin when I was 8 years old. I fell in love with the piano at 10 years old. I started playing and then performing and before I knew it, I was getting paid to perform at bars and hotels,” says DeSare, who became a father himself last year.

DeSare constantly finds fresh ways to make the keys dance while belting out classics and originals, not to mention several unexpected covers, from Prince to current radio hit, Bastille’s Pompeii.

Three of his recordings were ranked among Billboard’s top 10 jazz albums and his original songs have been handpicked for a number of film soundtracks over the last few years. It was his tune “Chemistry” that won the USA Songwriting Competition, placing first in the jazz category and second overall.

Earlier this year he was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall (one of his regular haunts) with New York Pops for Frank Sinatra’s 100th Birthday Show.

Around this time last year, DeSare spent the day playing pianos all over the streets of New York City– in Central Park, Time Square, in Brooklyn and Queens. The pianos were scattered throughout the five boroughs for a project by Sing for Hope, a charity organization that strives to make art accessible to everyone. There was a total of 88 individually painted pianos on the streets for two weeks, after which the organization donated them to schools, hospitals and community centers. DeSare went out on his own early one Sunday morning with a couple of camera guys dressed like tourists and hit about 15 of the pianos, sitting down at each to play Irving Berlin’s “I Love a Piano.”

“The thing that struck me the most is how every place is such a different experience. Everyone was walking by and if the music caught them enough to stop, they did. All walks of life stopped and shared the moment together. That was the coolest thing,” DeSare says. “That song is almost 100 years old but it’s still enjoyable to old people, young people … all people. It’s an excellent reminder of the power of song.”

The video documenting the experience has gotten tens of thousands of views on DeSare’s YouTube channel, as have several of his other mashups and covers that cannot be found anywhere else.

When selecting a song to perform in a video – such as his jazzed up mesh of Pharrell’s “Happy” and Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” DeSare chooses only numbers he believes will take on new life once given his bonafide twist. “In the case of the ‘Happy’ video, it was the thought of putting those two songs together – Bobby McFerrin’s, which I loved when I was a kid, and the Pharrell hit. It’s a cultural match, which is the musical reason, but it’s also just the fun and joy of it,” he says.

Fun and enjoyment are unsurprisingly two of the characteristics that resonate during DeSare’s live performance, which typically include several jazz standards from the Great American Songbook as well the singer’s heartfelt, high-energy originals and perhaps a doo-wopped rock track by Bob Dylan, Elton John or Prince.

“I’ve got different stories to go with the songs. I come from a school that believes the process of music should be entertaining and have enough to it along with the presentation of music to make it fun,” he says.

Don’t miss DeSare’s Vail debut at 6 p.m. July 17 in Lionshead for Jazz @Vail Square. Jazz Tent tickets are $15 or $30 for VIP seats (including front of the tent seating, access to 1st Bank VIP Lounge and a drink ticket).

For more information, visit vailjazz.org.

Also, on July 16, DeSare and his trio will perform at the Vail Jazz 20thAnniversary Benefit Dinner. Tickets and tables for this special evening are available for $150 and $1,500, respectively.

Thursday evenings are set for jazz this summer

VAIL — There’s no mistaking the sounds of a soulful summer in the air on Thursday evenings in Vail — the distinctice and familiar ring of world-class jazz music.

Beginning April 15, tickets are on sale for this summer’s Thursday night Jazz @ Vail Square concert series. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Vail Jazz Festival, the Thursday concerts offer an A-list lineup of artists.

New this year, Jazz @ Vail Square offers two-tiered pricing for seating under the tent. General Admission tickets are $15 per show or $30 for VIP seating, which includes priority seating, access to the VIP lounge area and a drink voucher. Information available at www.vailjazz.org or 888-824-5526. Passes for the nine-performance series are also available.

July 3

Kicking things off at Vail Square, guitar virtuoso duo Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo return with their quick-fingered, quick-witted performance covering everything from jazz classics to rock hits, all with a humorous flair.

July 10

Also returning by popular demand, the foot-stomping, dance-inspiring rhythms of conga drumming sensation Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band.

July 17

Young singer and jazz pianist Tony DeSare hits the stage with energy described to lie somewhere between that of Harry Connick Jr. and Billy Joel. He’s one of the hottest up-and-comers in jazz at the moment and plays Vail for the first time.

July 24

Long-time Vail Jazz favorite and world-renowned pianist Marcia Ball returns with New Orleans-infused, feel-good melodies. See why they call her “saucy.”

July 31

When a New Orleans brass band collides with the strains of Eastern Indian horns and percussion in the form of a large but harmonious ensemble, it looks and sounds something like Red Baraat. Also likely to instigate some dancing.

Aug. 7

Jamaica’s one and only Monty Alexander brings his addictive jazz piano and the classic grooves of a full band, the Harlem-Kingston Express, from their usual setup at New York City’s Lincoln Center to those lucky to witness the experience in the tent at Vail Square.

Aug. 14

Guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli returns for a rich and riveting performance along with his quartet, including brother Martin on bass.

Aug. 21

Expect to dance, swing-style. Artist TBA.

Aug. 28

It’s a triple bill for the series’ grand finale. Resident favorites, The Vail Jazz Party House Band wrap up Jazz @ Vail Square with a white-hot performance preceded by the nation’s top lineup of teenage protégés, the Vail Jazz All-Stars and also the now-famous All-Star alums. The performance, while closing the Thursday night series, kicks off the 20th annual Vail Jazz Party.

Turning 20 means going big: Summer lineup released for the Vail Jazz Festival’s 20th season

Twenty years ago, the Vail Jazz Festival planted its heels into Vail and with a soaring but humble brigade of trumpets, bass, drums and guitars, launching an event that nobody would envision snowballing to the proportions it has reached this season.

Growing from a Labor Day weekend lineup of performances to a summer-long event featuring weekly performances by some of the country and even world’s top jazz musicians, the Vail Jazz Festival is poised to blow the doors off in celebration of its 20th anniversary.

“Jazz started in New Orleans and it’s truly a gumbo. It’s a living music – a changing, breathing creature,” says Vail Jazz Festival founder Howard Stone. “For this 20th anniversary season, our lineup is not just a New Orleans gumbo, it’s a world gumbo with more energy and variety than we’ve ever had.”

Beginning at the end of June, twelve weeks of performances include free jazz every Sunday at the Vail Farmers’ Market and Restaurant Kelly Liken along with hands on, educational workshops – Jammin’ Jazz Kids. Then of course, there are the Thursday evening Jazz@ Vail Square performances with a line up that will have long-time jazz diehards brimming with anticipation and young jazz skeptics readily admitting that the genre is worth exploring.

The names immediately recognizable to the former group include iconic guitarist John Pizzarelli, who made his inaugural appearance at last summer’s Vail Jazz Festival and kicks off the season June 27 with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra as a collaboration with Bravo! Vail, a collaboration that also brings a series of three jam sessions – all of which sold out last season – on July 2, 12 and 23.

The Jazz @ Vail Square performances have truly evolved into an event of their own, filling the jazz tent in Lionshead with a brimming crowd every Thursday evening and the entire side of town with uplifting melodies. Advanced tickets to each show are $10 or $25 for VIP preferred seating.

 

Jazz @ Vail Square

July 3: The series kicks off with the return of hypnotizing guitar duo Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo. Appearing in Vail for the first time last summer, Frank & Vinny have a knack for enthralling a crowd with their lightning fast fingers covering a litany of tunes from classics like “Stardust” to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” all while conducting their own silly choreography and drawing laughs from the crowd. Keep an eye out for the duo on the best-sounding float in Vail’s Fourth of July parade.

July 10: Also returning by popular demand, the foot-stomping, dance-inspiring rhythms of conga drumming sensation Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band.

July 17: Young singer and jazz pianist Tony DeSare is quickly becoming known for making the keys dance while belting out original compositions as well as upbeat renditions of his favorites from a gamut that runs from Billy Joel to Harry Connick Jr. This marks the Vail debut of his quartet.

July 24: Jazz festival favorite Marcia Ball returns to Vail with her romping New Orleansinfused piano and vocals.

July 31: Imagine New Orleans Brass Band colliding with the strains of Eastern Indian horns and percussion. The young and energetic Red Baraat grabbed NPR’s attention for a Tiny Desk Concert and are sure to have Vail Square thumping.

Aug. 7: Jamaica’s one and only Monty Alexander brings his addictive jazz piano along with the classic grooves of his full band, the Harlem-Kingston Express, from their regular setup at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City to a very special show in Lionshead.

Aug. 14: Guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli returns for his own riveting performance along with his quartet, including brother Martin on bass.

Aug. 21: Defying the classic conventions, young, blonde and uber talented trumpeter Bria Skonberg makes her inaugural appearance in Vail. You’ve never heard a horn wail in such inspiring melody as this. Swing dance?

Aug. 28: The kings of Vail Jazz, The Vail Jazz Party House Band wrap up Jazz @ Vail Square with a white-hot performance followed by the future of jazz embodied in the nation’s very best, carefully selected ensemble of Vail Jazz All-Stars.

Vail Jazz Party Labor Day Weekend

The ultimate grand finale, the 20th anniversary party brings an onslaught of more than 40 of the world’s finest jazz musicians, including the genre’s most renowned pianists Benny Green along with the return of Monty Alexander, drummers Jeff Hamilton and Ernie Adams, trumpeter Byron Stripling, saxophonists Ken Peplowski and Grace Kelly and vocalists Curtis Stigers and Ann Hampton Callaway.

The weekend will include mind-blowing multimedia tributes to Benny Goodman, Clark Terry and Sarah Vaughn, singer Niki Haris at the helm for the wildly popular Gospel Prayer Meetin’ and a true star power lineup of Vail Jazz All-Star alums, including the remarkably talented blind pianist Justin Kauflin, featured in the gripping documentary “Keep on Keepin’ On.” To be viewed over the festival weekend.

“Each of these artists is a jazz powerhouse in his or her own right,” says Vail Jazz Foundation Executive Director Robin Litt. “To get this many of them in one place, on one weekend, is something that just doesn’t happen anywhere else.”

For more information or to purchase to any of the festival’s upcoming events, visit vailjazz.org.

Let’s conga! Poncho Sanchez brings hot Latin Jazz to Vail

Growing up poor in Los Angeles, Poncho Sanchez thought he might have found his calling after he bought a three-string Spanish guitar for $.50 from a neighbor. “The guy across the street had a band doing a lot of Motown stuff,” recalls the Grammy award-winning Latin jazz bandleader. “He had a Fender and he’d let me touch it but not too much because I was just the kid across the street. I bought this little Spanish guitar and started plucking on it. I got to playing four or five songs and thought I was pretty good.”

It wasn’t until the young Sanchez went to join a neighborhood band that his true province emerged, or at least part of it. With the three-string in tow, Sanchez immediately saw that the band already had a guitar player that put him to shame. But they informed him that what they really needed was a singer.

“I didn’t think I was a singer,” Sanchez says. “But I got up there and sang a James Brown song. I started dancing around like James Brown. When the song was over, they said, “wow. You can sing and you can really move.”

The youngest of 11 children, Sanchez can thank his seven sisters for the dance moves. He and his siblings listened to late 50s mamba and cha cha cha records incessantly as children but while his sisters danced around the house, Sanchez would stare at the album covers and hone in on the deep rhythms of the songs.

“What attracted me to the Latin percussion is the sound of the drum itself,” he says. “It was the flavor of them, or, as we say in Spanish, el sabor. I felt it, the rhythm, the flavor, the ‘unk-cha, chik-ah, chi-ka.” My sisters would dance and I would hear their feet shuffling on the floor. I’ve loved it as far back as I can remember.”

Needless to say, Sanchez was a born bandleader. And in high school, he bought his first conga drum. “I learned the trade of how to be a front man in a band. But all this time, I always liked the conga and the timbales,” he says. “Nobody in my neighborhood knew nothing about Latin percussion stuff. I bought a conga – my father bought one in a cheap pawnshop. I went home, put Cal Tjader’s records on and started to play.

Just the sound of the instrument, when I laid my hand down and learned how to slap it, there’s an open sound – ‘oon-go, oon-go.’ It felt right to me. It felt good on my hands.”

Sanchez and his congas were front and center, leading several local bands for years of his youth in Los Angeles. Then in 1975, the drummer’s hero Cal Tjader invited him on stage to perform with his band. The famous vibraphonist was so taken with Sanchez that he made him the official conguero in his band until the older musician passed away in 1982.

Sanchez’s time with Tjader provided him a fantastic dose of full circle magic in his career and he embraces that time period as the most memorable and poignant in his 35 years of professional music.

“I never dreamed I would play with him, especially for seven years,” Sanchez says. “I was with him when he died – we were on tour. It was a heavy, heavy experience, a big learning experience. The first time I played with Dizzy Gillespie was also one of the special moments. You don’t forget the great legends.”

Without even trying, Sanchez is poised to become a legend himself. In Lima, Peru, a couple of weeks ago, Sanchez found himself on the country’s most popular TV programs – hosted by “a gentleman who is like the Larry King of Peru.” Sanchez was interviewed in Spanish, which does not come easily to him as English has always been his more comfortable language. Sanchez’s entire family saw it a couple of days later on YouTube. “My sister called me and was crying. She said it was beautiful. She said, ‘You did a great job,’” Sanchez says. “She said, ‘the part that really got me is you were telling this guy there were 11 of us and we’re all alive and well.’ I’m the youngest. I’m going to be 62 My brother is 80. It’s really nice that I get along with all my brothers and sisters. They’re very proud of me. I’m the baby brother that did well.”

Tommy Igoe Drummer Extraordinaire at Jazz @ Vail Square

Jazz @ Vail Square continues this Thursday, Aug. 8 with the high-energy, seat-thumping sounds of the Tommy Igoe Sextet.

One of the world’s preeminent drummers, Igoe has led the Birdland Big Band in New York City over the last several years, created the beats for Broadway’s “The Lion King” and has toured the world with the likes of Art Garfunkel, Stanley Jordan and Blood Sweat and Tears.

When leading his big band, Igoe charges into each number on his drum kit as all the other musicians – the horn section, guitars, piano and bass – weave in.

Unlike most drummers who hold up the beat in the background, Igoe is always the leader, forever driving the train. Smaller in size than the big band, his sextet promises the same caliber of whistles and steaming momentum. “The small group together has been an answer to the big band,” says Igoe, who now resides in San Francisco. “The big band got so much attention, but it was hard to move around with so many people. I came up with the idea of doing the same kind of thing with the same energy in a sextet form. It follows the same artistic DNA as the big band. It’s much more than just a jazz event; it’s a music event with music from all over the world.”

The Vail show will feature Igoe on drums, Phil Palombi on bass, Matthew Aaron Jodrell on trumpet, Allen Farnham on piano, Nathan Childers on alto saxophone and Rolando Morales Matos on percussion.

While delivering plenty of favorites from the core of jazz, the sextet will also cover pieces from Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela and of course, good ol’ American tunes. The vast gamut of musical genres is not the only aspect of Igoe’s profound repertoire.

Barely 2 years old when he started playing drums, Igoe has studied plenty of other instruments but always takes what he learns back to his drumming. “I studied classical piano for 20 years,” he says. “I have a love-hate relationship with the piano because I love to hate it so much. Ha ha! No really, I love the piano. Studying the piano has made me a much better drummer. I studied all the instruments, and it has all helped me on the drum set.”

In addition to conducting and performing in various-sized bands, Igoe spends the other half of his life educating young up-and-coming drummers.

Even as his sticks become a blur as he hits dozens of strikes per minute and magically incorporates additional beats as if he has 20 limbs rather than four, there is one simple piece of advice Igoe offers to all of his students. “I’ve invested a lot of my time and energy into the education field. I’ve made a lot of DVDS and in so many different ways I’ve addressed that whole question – How do you do that and not get tired? And more importantly, how do you not hurt yourself? I’ve found a way to put it in one word: relax. If you relax, you can do anything. Really, anything, anything. You’ll never hear any music teacher say ‘OK students, get ready … get as tense as you can be.’ In any activity – especially anything physical – the secret is relaxing.”

If you’ve seen Igoe rapid-firing with his drumsticks and his entire body moving with his orchestra of beats, you’d never guess he’s relaxing. See and hear it for yourself this Thursday.

John Pizzarelli’s and his Hip Guitar visit Vail Square

John Pizzarelli puts an extra pop in jazz. The internationally heralded guitarist/vocalist and his quartet land in Lionshead on Thursday.

There was no such thing as silence growing up in the Pizzarelli household. Mind you, the sounds emanating from the place were nothing close to noise.

Coming from one of the most talented, harmonious families in jazz history, there was never any pressure for John Pizzarelli to take up music as a young boy. He was never pushed to follow in the footsteps of his famous father, Bucky Pizzarelli.

Playing music was pure fun for John and everyone else in the house. It was 100-percent natural. “It was very easy. We had all the guitars and all the equipment,” says John, who will be making his inaugural appearance this Thursday at Jazz @ Vail Square, performing with his brother Martin on bass, Larry Fuller on piano and Tony Tedesco on drums. “

The house was one big instrument room. There was always some kind of music going on – my father playing, rock bands in high school … It’s always been enjoyable to me. Never like a job.”

Over the last 22 years, the enjoyment has led to more than 20 studio albums, 11 collaborative records with his father and four more with his wife, singer Jessica Molaskey, with whom John co-hosts the nationally syndicated weekly radio program, “Radio Deluxe.”

When asked if guitar was also the obvious fit for John and bass the natural choice for Martin, John says he actually started out with the tenor banjo. “The Martin question is easier,” John says, laughing. “He chose bass because we needed a bass player. We forced it on him. The guitar was around the house but it wasn’t until I found an Elton John book lying around that I picked it up and played along. That got me rolling.”

While Bucky has a very busy musical schedule of his own, John tries to team up with his father as much as possible and when the family talent converges on the holidays, the doors are virtually blown off at the Pizzarelli household.

“Whenever I can rope him into playing with me, I do,” John says of his father. “He’s so busy, it’s good we’ll play with him when we can. For the holidays we always get together. For Christmas, all hell breaks loose.”

When it comes to performing with his brother, Tedesco and Fuller – his quartet of the last seven years – Pizzarelli cherishes the band’s ability to instantly read one another. “The thing I like about having the group is when you go, you can have a set booked and arrangements and you’re able to do whatever you want to do at a moment’s notice,” he says. “It’s nice to have music you’re always prepared for. It doesn’t have to be the same every night.”

Dovetailing on that vein of fresh takes, although he is known to sing and play hypnotizing renditions of jazz classics and The Great American Songbook, Pizzarelli’s latest musical focus his most recent album release – “Double Exposure” – is pop songs by the likes of Neil Young, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Seals and Crofts and The Allman Brothers, to name a few.

Only Pizzarelli infused his own arrangements into the core of the tunes … jazzed them up, if you will. “It started with records I made with my wife, the idea of having these songs inside of songs,” he explains. “I thought I could apply it with songs I grew up with – ‘I Feel Fine,’ ‘Diamond Girl’… I would always look for a jazz song or something to throw in so it still had jazz at its center. I felt it was really creative. It was one of my records that took the most work and I was glad with the way it turned out.”

As comfortable and energetic as he is with his quartet, some of Pizzarelli’s most prized performance memories to date include sharing the stage and recording with a number of musical icons. “Some of the best moments were playing with James Taylor or Paul McCartney or Natalie Cole,” he says. “What I was really pleased with is that they were as nice personally as they are musically. There’s a reason why they’re tremendous musical stars. They are generous, beautiful people.”

 

What: Jazz @ Vail Square with John Pizzarelli Quartet

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1

Where: The weatherproof Jazz Tent in Vail Square, Lionshead

Info: Preferred seats are $20 in advance, $25 day of show and general admission FREE on a first-come basis. Visit vailjazz.org for more info.

 

Vail, Colo. is universally held as North America’s top year-round destination mountain resort and has become a cosmopolitan community with visitors from all over the world. Founded in December 1962, Vail marked its 50th anniversary this winter as the new home of the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships. Also home to world Alpine ski racing champion Lindsey Vonn, the legendary Back Bowls of Vail Mountain, and in 2015 Vail will host its third World Alpine Ski Championships. Matching the incredible winter mountain experience, Vail from May through October is characterized by a rich culinary scene, a world-class events schedule from adventure sports to classical and Jazz, family activities and everything in between. Leading this lineup is the Vail Jazz Festival, Bravo! Vail Music Festival, the Vail International Dance Festival, America’s greatest bicycle race, the USA Pro Challenge, and the legendary Gourmet on Gore culinary festival and Vail Jazz Party capping off the summer season. Vail also offers exceptional lodging from high-end luxury hotels to practical condominiums and vacation rentals. Getting to Vail is easy via Denver International Airport and close by Eagle Airport, America’s fourth busiest regional airport with non-stop service from nine major U.S. cities including the new Houston flight, and connections from around the globe.

Once here, Vail proudly offers the largest free public transportation system in North America. The Vail consumer website is www.vail.com, and the Town of Vail website is www.vailgov.com.

The 19th annual Vail Jazz Festival is produced by the Vail Jazz foundation and sponsored by Town of Vail, Alpine Bank, AT&T, CME, The Jazz Cruise, Vail Daily, William Hill Winery, New Amsterdam Vodka and Gin, KUVO and KVJZ, Alpine Aire, Alpine Party Rentals, The Arrabelle, Yamaha, KZYR, Mighty Fine Productions, Rocky Mountain Reprographics, Lionshead Summer, Hertz, Larkspur Restaurant, Vail Marriott Mountain Resort, Avalon Clothing and Kelly Liken.

9 Questions with ‘The American Diva,’ Ann Hampton Callaway

The ‘American Diva’ speaks candidly about her many hats, The Great American Songbook and working with Robert de Niro.

Hypnotizing audiences with her rich vocal delivery of the classics, Anne Hampton Callaway is a Tony Award-winning Broadway star, pianist, producer and songwriter who has composed hundreds of songs for everyone from Barbara Streisand to the hit TV series “The Nanny.”

In the Vail area, Callaway most recently leaps to memory for her stage-rattling tribute to Ella Fitzgerald at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in winter 2012.

This Thursday she is back in town, performing The Great American Songbook from 6 to 8 p.m. for Jazz @ Vail Square. Earlier this week she sat down to answer some exclusive questions

 

1. You’d been described as, and are a self-proclaimed “American Diva.” How exactly do you define/live up to that? The word diva has always been funny to me. I use it very tongue in cheek. It allows me to have a larger than life persona so I have more possibilities of reaching my audiences and have fun with them and sort of be a character. Not just me, Anne Hampton Callaway. I’m an introspective person and in certain ways, quiet and shy. No one would ever guess that about me. Because I love The American Songbook and I feel being a musician is like being an ambassador, it gives me a certain twinkle-in-the-eye leadership position to have fun with people.

2. Of all the song-writing collaborations you’ve been a part of with such a huge variety of artists, which ones stand out the most and why? Certainly writing songs for the great Barbara Streisand has been an extraordinary experience. She has reached 11 million people with the first song I wrote her at the same time – “Higher Ground.” That was uplifting to me because I’m a peace activist and that anthem for world peace was something I wanted people to hear and be inspired by.

3. What specific personal associations/emotions do you have tied in to certain tunes from The Great American Songbook? I feel The Great American Songbook has provided me an incredible sort of soundtrack to my life. These songs came in a golden age of writers who were writing mostly for Broadway and film. So they were writing for real situations, songs that had to advance the plot of a character in a timely, important, universal situation. I feel like these songs become more beautiful with time. They’ve become to me the things that understand us better than each other sometimes. They give me great comfort and I’ve learned a lot about life through them.

4. How is it difficult to perform the Songbook in distinctive fashion, unlike anything audiences have heard before? In your own words, describe your approach. My musical approach begins with the story and the lyric and where I’m going to be singing it – with a symphony orchestra, in a jazz club, in a foreign country. That might affect my approach a little bit. But usually the feeling I get from a story, from the words dictate what I do with it. Since we’ve heard so many renditions of the songs by great artists, to me it’s important to help people not take the words for granted and not take the story for granted. When my sister and I were putting our show ‘Boom!’ together and these songs from the 60s and 70s, people were so used to singing along that they didn’t even think about them any more. We had fun finding ways to articulate the lyric in a way that people felt moved by it. That is the challenge to every singer today, especially doing this material.

5. What was the most memorable aspect of your last visit to the Vail Valley? I just love the people. I love how much they love this music. It’s a great community of people who have come to support jazz. The beauty of the mountains inspires my performance, even though it’s harder to sing because of the oxygen situation. I usually take a couple hits of oxygen before I go on stage. Performing the wonderful songs of Ella Fitzgerald was a highlight in itself last time.

6. What songs are on your personal playlist? I have a very eclectic record collection. I listen to jazz. I love Brazilian music. To me, Brazilian music is so relaxing and beautiful. It puts me in a very happy mood. I listen to a lot of instrumental music, singer/songwriters, some of the old songs I grew up with – Joni Mitchell, Carole King, James Taylor …. I’m broadening my list all the time. My iTunes get bigger and bigger.

7. How do you go about narrowing down selections from the Great American Songbook for a performance? When I perform, I want every song to be something I can’t wait to sing. If I’m going to sing a love song, I want it to be one of the most beautiful, powerful love songs anyone has ever heard. I want it to surprise people a little bit. I want people to feel brand new when they leave a night of music – refreshed and human all over again.

8. In wearing so many hats as singer, pianist, composer, actress … does one or the other strike you as more rewarding? What is uniquely fulfilling about each? I think my dad once told me that if you want to live a happy, fulfilling life the more you can combine all the things you’re good at, the happier you will be. I think that’s what’s been especially rewarding about my career. I’ve been able to interpret music, create music and my philosophical side as a person, my humorous, silly side, the side that wants to enter different personalities, all of these interests lend themselves to a career in music. Singing has been the most natural, but writing is how I think. Acting to me – I was an acting major – it’s been a great part of my foundation as a singer to step into a story of a song and make it come alive. All of these parts of me are important.

9. Was your feature film debut – The Good Shepherd – all you hoped it would be? How was the experience working alongside stars like Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie? First of all, I didn’t expect to be on the set, in the movie, I thought I was just going to be on the soundtrack. Working with Robert de Niro recording the song, he directed me in every take and I did a large amount of takes because he’s so meticulous. We had fun in the green room talking about The Great American Songbook. When I got the call the next day that he wanted me in the movie I was just beside myself. I loved working on the set with Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie. Robert de Niro insisted I call him ‘Bob.’ He took a special moment to introduce me to the stars.

 

 

INFO:

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, July 18

Where: The all-weather jazz tent in Vail Square, Lionshead

Tickets: Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 day of show for preferred seating and general admission is FREE on a first-come basis. Vailjazz.org. 888-VAIL-JAM

Cuban sensation gets crowd dancing during return to Jazz @ Vail Square

Wil Campa Y Su Gran Union return to Jazz @ Vail Square in 2013.

Wil Campa measures a successful show by looking into the audience and seeing it pulsing with movement. And if there’s anything that makes a person move – or moved – it’s listening to energetic Cuban tunes and witnessing a 13-man orchestra dancing and spinning from side to side in unison, blowing into their horns and never losing the beat.

This is what comes with Wil Campa Y Su Gran Union – the award-winning 13-piece ensemble that returns to Vail Thursday, July 11 to perform for Jazz @ Vail Square as part of the 19th Annual Vail Jazz Festival.

“We would like to perform the music from the Caribbean, the music that surrounds us each day at home,” Campa says via a translator. “[We hope] that the music leaves the Vail audience feeling wonderful and that the audience participates and senses the great energy of the Wil Campa Orchestra.

When the audience is moved by music, they dance and sing with me.” In Cuba, one can’t simply learn to sing or play an instrument and then set out to make a living performing music. “The Wil Campa Orchestra is a versatile show.

All the musicians dance and sing extremely well. It is part of the culture in Cuba – all the musicians have a degree in music, this is a mandatory requirement from the Instituto de La Musica and Minister of Culture to tour outside of Cuba,” Campa explains.

The talent was very much appreciated last year when Wil Campa Y Su Gran Union played their inaugural performance in Vail at Jazz @ Vail Square. The crowd was on its feet swaying as Campa simultaneously danced and sang and the band stepped into effortless rounds of choreography and synchronized drumming.

“The audience of Vail was wonderful – they love to dance, they also love to listen. They are very well versed in world music and appreciate talented musicians. From my experience the public has always been extremely impressed and moved by the Orchestra presentation,” Campa says. “Although I do not speak English the music always seems to translate well. The Vail audience has exceptional musical taste, knowledge and love of Latin music.”

In Cuba, Wil Campa Y Su Gran Union are widely recognized, considering their songs are played daily on the radio and at baseball games and they were recently nominated for a CUBASISCO – Cuba’s version of a Grammy.

Campa himself describes Su Gran Union as “A big band of young artists presenting music from the 50s, 60s and beyond from Cuba, with confidence and well-dressed.”When asked what separates Cuban jazz from other branches of the genre, he says, “Cuban Jazz has so much influence from America, with more percussion, African and Latin rhythms – a lot of deep rhythm. We have so many versions of Jazz in Cuba.” Campa’s version arguably conveys more good energy than just about any other. Rarely is he seen on stage without a smile.

Asked to name his No. 1 most memorable performance, he becomes sentimental. “The one concert that stands out [was] the very last performance of Ibrahim Ferrer [of Buena Vista Social Club) in the North of France’s Marciac Jazz Festival,” he says. “We performed together that evening and he departed for Cuba the same night and passed away at his home and [in his] country. He is a very important figure for Cuba and our music.”

Singling out the greatest concert, however, isn’t easy for Campa. “I love them all. My life is making people happy through music,” he says.

Catch Wil Campa Y Su Gran Union as they heat up the Jazz Tent in Lionshead on Thursday, July 11 at 6pm.

Jazz @ Vail Square starts on July 4th with Curtis Stigers & SaRon Crenshaw

SaRon Crenshaw has never seen someone openly cry while listening to him play the guitar, but there have been times when, after a performance someone has approached him, hold his hand in gratitude and walk away, leaving him holding a $100 bill.

“They would tell me how I’ve touched them,” says the New York City-based blues guitarist, who will be playing the first set in Lionshead on Thursday, July 4 for the 19th annual Vail Jazz Festival’s first Jazz@ Vail Square performance of the season.

Touched as audiences may be, the heartfelt donations his fans have made aren’t that surprising if you consider that Crenshaw’s a guy who’s been caught wandering through the crowd in the middle of a song playing his guitar with his tongue.

And he’s only part of the show on July 4. Internationally touted vocalist and saxophonist Curtis Stigers will fill the other half of the two-hour performance and both artists will pay tribute to “The Red, White and The Blues.”

Needless, to say, the latter color represents Crenshaw’s specialty. When asked about details of what the audience should expect from his performance, he simply says, “something they’ve never seen or heard.”

As far as “jazz” goes, neither Crenshaw nor Stigers are traditional representatives of the genre. Stigers, who melted the vast audience at Ford Amphitheater last year with his epic performance, has made a name for himself as not only a jazz vocalist but also as a saxophonist, guitarist and songwriter. The eclectic gamut of big names with whom he’s performed and recorded also speaks to his versatility: Prince, Eric Clapton, The Allman Brothers, Bonnie Raitt and Rod Stewart to name just a few.

You also may recognize his music from the theme song and soundtrack of the hit TV series “Sons of Anarchy,” and also from his 10th studio album – “Let’s Go Out Tonight” featuring songs by Bob Dylan, Steve Earle, David Poe and Richard Thompson.

“I’ve keep poking my foot through the side of the box,” Stigers says of his genrestraddling talent.

For Crenshaw, whose career has just begun to blossom, the “blues” moniker has been the one he’s heard the most, and to prove it, his guitar is adorned with a signature from the king of blues himself … B.B. King, that is.

“It was in Lynchburg, Virginia at B.B.’s show,” Crenshaw recalls of procuring the signature. “Yes I was nervous and I wanted to play something for him.” Then, a couple of years ago, Crenshaw actually shared a stage with King, opening the show, but his idol has yet to personally hear Crenshaw play. “B.B. didn’t hear me because he was still on the bus,” Crenshaw says. “But his staff and Tony Mason loved it and wanted my info.”

With his soulful vocals and thumping command of every song paired with his fiery guitar, Crenshaw’s sound has been compared to the likes of King as well as Albert Collins and Buddy Guy. Known to meander from heartfelt blues into strains classified by some as “jazz,” Crenshaw discerns the two genres by pointing out that “with the Blues, you can be telling someone a life story and don’t know it.”

When it comes to writing his own songs, the process is more cathartic than it is calculated. “There have been times I just might feel a groove when I’m playing and make it up,” he says. “Other times it would be something I went through.”

Of all the large stages and jazz festivals Crenshaw has played in recent years, his most memorable shows to date are those played at one of his regular venues – Terra Blues in New York’s Greenwich Village. “When I stop or end the song, people went clapping, whistling so loud that my ears went ringing,” he says.

Stigers, who has performed in Vail several times over the last 20 years, is excited to return with his band, long-time collaborators, Matthew Fries (piano), Keith Hall (drums), Cliff Schmitt (bass), and John “Scrapper” Sneider (trumpet). For the Independence Day show, Stigers will focus on the influence Blues Music has had on his recordings and his sound. “I always look forward to returning to Vail to play music and to visit the many friends I’ve made here over the years,” Stigers says. “I love this town!” The Jazz Tent at Vail Square heats up at 6 p.m. with SaRon Crenshaw, followed by Curtis Stigers after the 6:45 intermission.