Chicago-born Cesar makes Vail debut

Growing up on the south side of Chicago, Cesar thought playing the guitar was his life’s calling. His family traveled to Indianapolis twice a year for a big family cookout, and he’d watch his cousin, Odell Rhodes, jam in the living room with Wes Montgomery, who, unbeknownst to 8-year-old Cesar, would come to be regarded as one of America’s most seminal jazz guitarists.

“I would stand there mesmerized,” Cesar said. “When we returned home, I begged my father to buy me a guitar for my birthday.”

By the time he was a freshman in high school, Cesar played in the jazz band and, after numerous early-morning hours delivering newspapers, saved up enough money to buy himself a Gibson Les Paul Red Sunburst. The young musician, who was also captain of his football team, as well as a baseball and basketball player, eagerly awaited his first performance in front of his peers in the school talent show. But while at football practice one day, his guitar was stolen out of the band vault.

“I ended up singing in the talent show,” Cesar said. “I won. The rest is history in the making.”

MUSICAL MAINSTAY

Jazz music was a mainstay in Cesar’s house. Every weekend, he and his father would sit in the basement for hours listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, Billy Eckstine, Brook Benton, Joe Williams, Arthur Prysock and their favorite, Nat King Cole. As he performed more and more frequently, Caesar’s voice and vocal style was likened to Cole’s, a fellow baritone and Chicago native.

“It is an honor and humbling to be compared to one of the greatest singers of all time,” Cesar said. “He was the first African American to host a radio and television show and one of the highest-paid artists in the music industry long before the Civil Rights movement. The one thing that we can all agree on is that his voice and timeless lyrics brought people together.”

‘YOU’VE GOT IT’

Like Cole, Caesar moved to Los Angeles to pursue his vocal career. He was performing at a club in Encino, California, covering one of Cole’s most memorable recordings, “Route 66,” which had taken on special firsthand meaning to the recently relocated singer, when who should walk in but the King’s famed daughter, the late, great Natalie Cole.

“Natalie Cole walks in with Star Jones and sits in the second row,” Cesar said. “I start singing ‘Route 66,’ and something came over me. It was probably the best performance of my life. After the show, we hung out and talked and laughed. I told her about my Nat King Cole project. She said, ‘Cesar, you’ve got it.’ I will always cherish that moment.”

Cesar and Natalie kept in touch for years, and she attended several of his performances before her passing last December. He regards her “you got it” comment as the most memorable piece of feedback he’s ever received.

STORIED CAREER

As far as other career highlights to date, Cesar names being chosen by Julio Iglesias as a background vocalist on his Tango World Tour. He was the first baritone vocalist to tour with Iglesias, one of the best-selling artists of all time. Another big notch on his wall was touring and recording with Peter White and recording his album “Jazz Standards for Today’s Audience” at Capitol Studios in Hollywood using the original microphone and Steinway piano Cole used in the 1950s.

“The record was engineered by Al Schmitt, winner of 23 Grammy Awards. Al worked with me right after working with Paul McCartney and Diana Krall in the same studio,” Caesar said. “The Capitol Records building is called ‘the house that Cole built’ because Nat’s record sales built that building.”

The night before Cesar’s monumental day of recording, he came down with a severe case of laryngitis.

“I had dreamed of playing in that studio,” he said. “You’ve got Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis … everyone has played in that room. The day of the session, I couldn’t talk. My throat was so sore. Al looked at me and said, ‘We’ll get you some tea.’

“I walked through the hallway and took the time to look at the photos on the wall of all the people who had played there. All of a sudden, the adrenaline kicked in. I used Nat’s microphone and sang ‘I Wish You Love.’ Something crazy happened, and it sounded amazing. Al said, ‘You’re channeling Nat.’”

Jazz Ghosts and Yellowjackets

Jazz is truly a unique form of music, the hallmark of which is improvisation. But this article is not about what sets jazz apart from other forms of popular music. Instead, we focus on what it has in common with all popular music.

No, it is not melody, harmony and rhythm; it is the need for an audience. Yes, many musicians play music for the love of it, but let’s face it, if you are going to dedicate your life to making music, you need an audience. You can be a virtuoso and possess a compelling stage presence, but for better or worse, you need to have an audience, and they better dig what you do, so you can have a career, or you need a back-up plan, usually a day job.

Ah, the commercial side of things. How mundane and disappointing, but so important! In the 18th century, Franz Joseph Haydn was fortunate to connect with the wealthy royal Esterhazy family; he found patrons that provided him lifetime employment as a composer. Today, you need loyal (not royal) support — an audience that sticks with you.

FINDING AN AUDIENCE

So how do dedicated, talented musicians find and keep their audience? If you Google “finding your audience music,” you will get more than 19,000,000 entries of sure-fire, can’t-miss self-help guides and advice. Let’s say you are one of the fortuitous ones: You have the talent and perseverance to succeed, and you connect with like-minded, great musicians to form a band that rises to the top. Long odds, but doable, right?

Every day new names and faces, playing “new and old” music, enter our consciousness and vie for our attention in the hyper-competitive world of music. We marvel at their talent as they entertain us, and if they are truly special, they can have more than 15 minutes of fame, but it is extremely hard to stay at the top.

And yet for graying audiences, nostalgia is a powerful emotion and the number of bands that have lived off the glory of their past is testament to the powerful desire to reconnect with our youth. But to live off the past, you first need to have been very successful at building an audience — no past, no future.

In jazz, there are the “ghost bands” — the leader is deceased, but the band carries on in his name. Glen Miller went missing more than 70 years ago, but the band plays on. So, too, for the Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Harry James ghost bands and many, many more. And, of course, there are the innumerable tribute bands that play the music of (insert the name of your favorite deceased jazz musician).

But we live in the here and now, and the question is: How does a successful jazz band keep its audience?

YELLOWJACKETS KEEP EVOLVING

For the answer we turn our attention to the Yellowjackets, the iconic, multiple Grammy Award-winning jazz quartet that has flourished over a 35-year period, recording 22 albums, while successfully touring the world and enjoying unparalleled critical acclaim — quite a run for a band, jazz or otherwise.

Founding member Russell Ferrante on piano and keys anchors the band. Bob Mintzer is on saxophone and joined the band 25 years ago. William “Will” Kennedy holds down the drum and percussion throne, having had two stints with the band — 1987 to 1999 and 2010 to present. And the newest addition is Australian bass player Dane Alderson, who joined the band in 2015.

So how have the Yellowjackets been able to stay on top all these years? By combining extraordinary musicianship with superb new compositions, while performing music that spans the worlds of jazz — straight ahead and smooth, R&B, funk, fusion and more — the band has continued to successfully reinvent itself, thereby staying connected to its fan base while continuously attracting new fans. Quite a feat!

As for the band’s name: Pressed to come up with a catchy name during the band’s first recording session, Russell Ferrante recalls being presented with a list of “just awful” names. Forced to pick one, the band members agreed upon Yellowjackets since it seemed to communicate “something lively, energetic and something with a ‘sting.’ That’s really about as deep as it went. Once you choose a name, you’re stuck with it.”

While the name has stayed the same for 35 years, the music keeps on evolving, allowing the Yellowjackets the opportunity to take their audience to new and compelling musical places. The Yellowjackets will appear at the Vilar Performing Arts Center on Wednesday at 7:30 pm. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to be part of the audience to see and hear this great band!

Howard Stone is the founder and artistic director of the Vail Jazz Foundation, which is partnering with the Vilar Performing Arts Center to present the Yellowjackets in concert.

New Donovan Pavilion shows bring jazz club setting to snowy Vail

Summer is not the only time that Vail transforms into a hub for some of the world’s greatest jazz artists. While the snow falls and nighttime entertainment ebbs, Vail Jazz pours a tall glass of first-rate live music on select special evenings this winter.

Vail Jazz’s 2016 Winter Series lineup is confirmed and consists of two exclusive, invite-only soirées at private residences, a big-time Vilar Center performance and a pair of one-of-a-kind evenings in Vail, transforming Donovan Pavilion into an intimate dinner lounge scene reminiscent of jazz clubs in Chicago or New York.

Magical jazz evenings in Vail

The heart of the Winter Series beats at Donovan Pavilion, transforming the beautiful wooden lodge on Gore Creek into an alpine jazz club with beer, wine and scrumptious gourmet bites from Edwards foodie favorite eat! drink! and a pair of performers that are bright lights on the up-and-coming jazz world radar.

Caesar sings Nat “King” Cole on Feb. 25

Nothing makes for a cozier winter evening than the rich strains of Nat Cole, especially when delivered by acclaimed baritone Caesar. With constant flashes of a huge, bright smile not unlike Cole’s, Caesar, a Chicago native, enraptures audiences with deep, spellbinding vocals that have been compared to the King’s long before Caesar began performing the legend’s greatest hits. Caesar’s voice earned him the first and only baritone spot on Julio Iglesias’ world tour and brings back the vocal velvet of Nat “King” Cole’s Golden Age with every performance.

Sarah McKenzie Quartet on March 10

If you haven’t heard of Sarah McKenzie, be assured that you will. The young Australian pianist has sung alongside Michael Buble and is referred to by James Morrison, one of her many A-list mentors, as “a musical marvel.” With vocals that have been likened to those of Diana Krall and Norah Jones, Morrison says that McKenzie’s “groove of the piano is the stuff that makes people want to play jazz.”

Vail Jazz Winter Series performances at Donovan Pavilion kick off at 7:30 p.m. (food served beginning at 6:30 p.m.) and are limited to audiences of about 120. Seating will be lounge/jazz club style at small tables with wine, beer and gourmet fare served cash bar-style by eat! drink! of Edwards. Parking is free. Tickets are $30 in advance, available beginning Dec. 29 at vailjazz.org or by calling 888-VAIL-JAM.

Private soirées

The Winter Series kicks off with an invite-only intimate soirée on Jan. 29 as six- string virtuoso Frank Vignola and accordionist Julien Labro stoke the flames of the hot gypsy jazz tradition. The second soirée in the Series wraps up the winter on March 25 with a truly grand finale starring renowned New Orleans-based pianist and singer Jon Cleary performing The History of New Orleans Piano. Touring internationally with the likes of John Scofield, Taj Mahal and Bonnie Raitt, Raitt has touted Cleary to be “the ninth wonder of the world.”

Beaver Creek big stage

On Feb. 10, Vail Jazz partners with the Vilar Performing Arts Center as two-time Grammy winners Yellowjackets make their Beaver Creek debut with a mix of R & B, fusion and straight ahead jazz. The four piece, which has been nominated for a whopping 17 Grammy Awards and whose hit song “A Rise in the Road” debuted as No. 1 on the iTunes Jazz Charts, is about to release its 24th album.

Vail Jazz festival’s winter series continues Sunday

VAIL — Tickets are on sale for Vail Jazz Winter Series live performances, which take place through early April. Featured performances include a soiree with Marcus Roberts on Sunday, as well as a trio of performances at Cucina at the Lodge at Vail. Sunday will be a very special performance by Roberts, who Wynton Marsalis calls “the greatest American musician most people have never heard of.” His impressive technical ability and remarkable interpretive skills will be showcased at this intimate event. Limited tickets are available.

The Gypsy Jazz Jam on Feb. 28 kicks off the new Cucina series, which highlights Frank Vignola, Vinny Raniolo and Andreas Oberg, three of today’s most outstanding guitarists in the French Gypsy swing style. This series is a great way to catch dinner and a show in the Vail Valley, and harkens back to those smoky bars and bistro corners of Paris, when Django Reinhardt first laid the foundations of this style in the 1940s. Nearly 80 years later, torchbearers of this captivating music play on, supplementing the classic sound with the jazz idioms of today.

Hammond B3 organ extraordinaire Tony Monaco will return to Vail with his signature Jimmy Smith sound on March 27. Vail Jazz and Cucina will turn the restaurant into a jazz club for a night of Monaco’s fiery, explosive flavor of jazz.

The Allan Finney Sextet will hold its CD release party on April 2 as a lively conclusion to the Vail Jazz Winter Series. You’ve seen him grace the stages of the Vail Jazz Party, lead bands throughout the state of Colorado and share the stage with performers such as Curtis Stigers, Tony Monaco and Tony DeSare. Now, Finney celebrates the release of his first CD with Eric Gunnison on keyboard, Bob Rebholz on sax, Mark Simon on bass, Bill Kopper on guitar and Justin Allison on vocals.

Vail Jazz’s new partnership with local Edwards eatery eat! drink! continues Feb. 20 with Vail vocal favorite, Cyrille Aimee. Aimee will kick off the evening by celebrating the composers and songs of New Orleans, the historic epicenter of jazz. The evening continues with The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra’s special premiere of the “New Orleans Jazz Market”. A Salute to Betty Carter on March 6 will feature Benny Green, a frequently featured artist at the annual Vail Jazz Party, and vocalist Charenee Wade. Carter blazed her own trail as one of the most original jazz vocalists of our time, known for her flawless phrasing, uncanny unpredictability and signature glissando. Expect to hear familiar favorites from Carter’s legacy.

“With the expansion of our community outreach activities this year, Vail Jazz is offering this incredible webcast series as an accessible, informal option for music lovers in our community to gather and enjoy great jazz performances,” said Robin Litt, executive director. “While live concerts are core to our summer festival and winter series, this series is a great opportunity for those infrequent jazz listeners to explore the genre in a really fun, casual way. Our partnership with Jazz at Lincoln Center speaks to a shared goal of both of our organizations, to expand the audience of this exceptional American art form. Come early to secure your seats for this growing series of shows!”

Visit www.vailjazz.org or call 970-479-6146 to learn more.

Catch live jazz at Solantro’s in Vail

world-champsVAIL — Enjoy nights of free live jazz in the heart of Vail Village as part of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships each night through Saturday.

Jazz, a truly American art form, will permeate through Vail Village each night during the Championships festivities.

Solantro’s at the top of Bridge Street (formerly The Tap Room) is host to live music each night from 9 to 11 p.m. And while there’s live concerts at Championships Plaza every night, guests and locals can enjoy the intimate setting that Solantro’s provides each night starting at 9 p.m. with free live jazz.

JAZZ LINEUP

On Monday, Denver saxophone sensation Bob Rebholz will join Justin Allison. The two will soon release a much-anticipated CD together. On Tuesday, the Delta Sonics Duo will perform. On Wednesday, Gary Regina Tranceport will perform. The duo is made up of the talented saxophonist Gary Regina with local drummer Brian Loftus. Regina may even show his extraordinary talent of playing two saxes at one time. Thursday brings the return of Justin Allison and Bob Rebholz. On Friday, catch the After Midnight Trio of Roger Campbell (clarinet), Jerry Weiss (keyboard) and Ced Forsyth (bass). The trio is another regular fixture during Vail Jazz Festival’s Sunday series, Jazz @ The Market, and in demand on the Denver music scene. On Saturday, Gary Regina Tranceport will perform again.

Vail Jazz and the Vail Valley Foundation are partnering to put on the series. Vail Jazz continues its winter series with a soiree on Feb. 15 featuring Marcus Roberts. For more information and a full schedule of events, go to visit www.2015beavercreekvail.com. For information about Vail Jazz, go to www.vailjazz.org.

Vail Jazz presents live webcasts in Edwards

EDWARDS — Vail Jazz is hosting live webcasts of Jazz at Lincoln Center performances featuring some of today’s most notable jazz artists. Watching the pros at work from a few thousand miles away with a glass of wine and good company is a wonderful way to combine front-row seats with an intimate viewing experience.

Local Edwards eatery eat! drink! is teaming up with Vail Jazz throughout the winter season to pair live webcasts from Jazz at Lincoln Center with boutique wines and delectable small plates. The series kicked off on in mid December and continues Thursday evening with Papo Vazquez Band of Mighty Pirate Troubadours at 7:30 pm. A veteran trombonist and bandleader, Vazquez presents a seven-piece Afro Puerto Rican jazz combo that melds Caribbean percussion with a blazing jazz horn section, delivering a hyperkinetic party with spirited and soulful improvisation.

February and March dates have just been added.

• Feb. 13th features Dianne Reeves, the most awarded female jazz vocalist of all time. Reeves’ signature sound and fondness for love songs will make for a perfect pre-Valentine’s Day performance. Reeves will treat audiences to an intimate evening of music and storytelling, delivered as only she can.

• Feb. 20th brings The New Orleans Songbook with Vail vocal favorite, Cyrille Aimee. Aimee, described as having “a voice like fine whiskey — oaky and smooth, with a hint of smokiness,” will kick off the evening by celebrating the composers and songs of New Orleans, the historic epicenter of jazz. The evening continues with The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra’s special premiere of the “New Orleans Jazz Market.”

• A Salute to Betty Carter on March 6th will feature Benny Green, a frequently featured artist at the annual Vail Jazz Party, and vocalist Charenee Wade. Carter blazed her own trail as one of the most original jazz vocalists of our time, known for her flawless phrasing, uncanny unpredictability and signature glissando. Expect to hear familiar favorites of Carter’s legacy.

“With the expansion of our community outreach activities this year, Vail Jazz is offering this incredible webcast series as an accessible, informal option for music lovers in our community to gather and enjoy great jazz performances,” said Robin Litt, executive director. “While live concerts are core to our summer festival and winter series, this series is a great opportunity for those infrequent jazz listeners to explore the genre in a really fun, casual way. Our partnership with Jazz at Lincoln Center speaks to a shared goal of both of our organizations, to expand the audience of this exceptional American art form. There’s something special about the combination of eat! drink!’s cozy atmosphere and the music of Wynton Marsalis and these fabulous musicians, albeit from afar!”

Tickets are on sale for Vail Jazz Winter Series live performances, which take place through early April. Featured performances include soirées with Marcus Roberts on Feb. 15 and Diego Figueiredo on March 13, each at private homes as well as a trio of performances at Cucina at the Lodge at Vail. Gypsy Jazz Jam on Feb. 28 highlights Frank Vignola, Vinny Raniolo and Andreas Oberg, three of today’s most outstanding guitarists in the French Gypsy swing style, Hammond B3 organ extraordinaire Tony Monaco will return to Vail with his signature Jimmy Smith sound on March 27, and finally the Allan Finney Sextet will hold their CD release party on April 2 as a lively conclusion to the Vail Jazz Winter Series.

More information is available at www.vailjazz.org or by calling 970-479-6146.

Vail Jazz expands winter lineup

VAIL — Vail Jazz announced its winter series lineup this week and it has more live performances than years past. The series includes intimate soirees in private homes, jazz club-style performances in the heart of Vail Village and, new this year, Vail Jazz hosts live webcasts of Jazz at Lincoln Center performances, featuring some of the most notable jazz artists on the scene today. New partnerships with local venues are highlighted in the Vail Jazz Winter Series with Cucina at the Lodge at Vail as the primary winter venue for live music, along with eat! drink! as the host of the live webcasts.

“The lineup of winter artists mirrors what Vail Jazz is known for — exceptional performances presented in intimate and intriguing locales,” said Howard Stone, artistic director. “We are so fortunate to bring such an impressive lineup of top jazz performers all of whom are compelling and captivating entertainers. These performances will cover a varied spectrum of appealing jazz styles that are sure to please audiences, whether a hardcore jazz fan or just someone looking for a great musical experience.”

LIVE PERFORMANCES

The live performances kick off on Dec. 26 in partnership with the Vilar Performing Arts Center, with the presentation of Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. A hard-edged funk/rock/jazz/hip-hop band led by New Orleans native Trombone Shorty, the group employs hip-hop beats, rock dynamics and jazz improvisation. Beginning his career as a bandleader at the young age of 6, and then touring internationally at age 12, he spent his teens playing with various brass bands throughout New Orleans and touring worldwide with Lenny Kravitz. Tickets for this performance are available at www.vilarpac.org.

On Feb. 28 Gypsy Jazz Jam, featuring three of today’s most renown guitarists, Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo with special guest Andreas Oberg, will perform at Cucina. The sound of Jazz Manouche, or Gypsy Jazz, has been whispering its way out of smoky bars and bistro corners since French guitarist Django Reinhardt first laid its foundations in the 1940s. Almost 80 years later, torch bearers of this captivating music play on, supplementing the classic sound with the jazz idioms of today. Guitarists Vignola, Raniolo and Oberg have risen to the top in the most recent generation of Gypsy Jazz greats, playing Reinhardt’s originals, the American Songbook and their own creations. Tickets go on sale on Jan. 5 and are available for one or both sets.

Ever popular Hammond B3 organist Tony Monaco will return to Vail’s Cucina on March 27 to perform with his touring trio. After finishing a series of world tours with Pat Martino, Monaco brings his own fiery, explosive flavor of jazz to the table, backed by Fareed Haque on guitar and Greg Fundis on drums.

The season of jazz at Cucina comes to a close on April 2 with a performance by the Allan Finney Sextet and the celebration of their first collaborative CD. A longtime Vail local, Finney will release his debut album with a raucous, celebratory blowout. The evening will feature Eric Gunnison on keyboard, Bob Rebholz on sax, Mark Simon on bass, Bill Kopper on guitar and Justin Allison on vocals.

A winter soiree will take place on Feb. 15 at a private home in Singletree, featuring Marcus Roberts on piano as well as cocktails, appetizers and an intimate concert by one of today’s most well respected jazz pianists.

WEBCASTS

Local Edwards eatery eat! drink! is teaming up with Vail Jazz throughout the winter season to pair live webcasts from Jazz at Lincoln Center with boutique wines and small plates. “Big Band Holidays” with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will broadcast today at 6 p.m., with special guest vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant, followed by “Birth of the American (Jazz) Orchestra” on Jan. 9 at 6 p.m. January’s program will wrap with “Papo Vazquez Band of Mighty Pirate Troubadours” on Jan. 22 at 7:30 p.m. February and March dates will be added soon.

Tickets go on sale Jan. 5 at www.vailjazz.org or by calling 970-479-6146. For more information, visit www.vailjazz.org.

Vail Jazz Winter Largest Yet

By Thomas Dobrez for KZYR

Vail Jazz announces its winter series lineup with more live performances than ever before. From intimate soirées in private homes to jazz club-style performances in the heart of Vail Village, and new this year, Vail Jazz hosts live webcasts of Jazz at Lincoln Center performances featuring some of the most notable jazz artists on the scene today.  New partnerships with exciting venues are highlighted in the Vail Jazz Winter Series with Cucina at the Lodge at Vail as the primary winter venue for live music, along with eat! drink! as the host of the live webcasts.

The live performances kick off on Friday, December 26th in partnership with the Vilar Performing Arts Center, with the presentation of Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. A hard-edged funk/rock/jazz/hip-hop band led by New Orleans native Trombone Shorty, the group employs hip-hop beats, rock dynamics, and jazz improvisation. Beginning his career as a bandleader at the young age of six, then touring internationally at age 12, he spent his teens playing with various brass bands throughout New Orleans and touring worldwide with Lenny Kravitz. Tickets for this performance are available at www.vilarpac.org

February 28th will bring the Gypsy Jazz Jam to Cucina, featuring three of today’s most renown guitarists, Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo with special guest Andreas Oberg. The sound of Jazz Manouche, or Gypsy Jazz, has been whispering its way out of smoky bars and bistro corners since French guitarist Django Reinhardt first laid its foundations in the 1940s. Almost 80 years later, torch bearers of this captivating music play on, supplementing the classic sound with the jazz idioms of today. Guitarists Vignola, Raniolo and Oberg have risen to the top in the most recent generation of Gypsy Jazz greats, playing Reinhardt’s originals, the American Songbook and stunning compositions of their own creation. Jaw-dropping technique and a wildly diverse repertoire make this performance a highlight of the winter season. Tickets go on sale on January 5, 2015 and are available for one set or both sets.

Ever popular Hammond B3 organist, Tony Monaco will return to Vail’s Cucina on March 27th to perform with his touring trio, including Fareed Haque on guitar and Greg Fundis on drums. Tony “does not swing, smolder or smoke… he burns,” says Critical Jazz Review. Mentored by the legendary Jimmy Smith in what is considered to be the more classic style of jazz organ, Tony Monaco has received considerable acclaim in the past decade as a colossus of the Hammond B3. After finishing a series of world tours with Pat Martino, Monaco brings his own fiery, explosive flavor of jazz to the table, backed by Fareed Haque on guitar and Greg Fundis on drums.

The season of jazz at Cucina comes to a close on April 2nd with a performance by the Allan Finney Sextet and the celebration of their first collaborative CD. You’ve seen him grace the stages of the Vail Jazz Party, lead bands throughout the state of Colorado, and share the stage with the likes of Curtis Stigers, Tony Monaco and Tony DeSare.  A longtime Vail local, Allan Finney will release his debut album with a raucous, celebratory blowout like no musical gathering Vail has seen yet. The evening will feature Eric Gunnison on keyboard, Bob Rebholz on sax, Mark Simon on bass, Bill Kopper on guitar and Justin Allison on vocals.

The popular winter soirées will take place on February 15th and March 13th. February’s event will be hosted in a private home in Singletree, featuring Marcus Roberts on piano and will include cocktails, hors d’oeurvres and an intimate concert by one of today’s most well respected jazz pianists. A superb pianist with a deep love for New Orleans jazz and blues, Roberts has created a sparkling career out of his impressive technical ability, his remarkable interpretive skills and a decade-spanning musical partnership with Wynton Marsalis. In fact, Marsalis deemed Roberts “the greatest American musician most people have never heard of”.

Diego Figueiredo will present an evening of Latin guitar on March 13th in a soirée at a private home in Lake Creek. This Brazilian guitar phenom rose through the ranks of classical, jazz and his native music of Brazil through the fervent application of one fundamental musical principle: passion. A whirlwind of unprecedented speed and stirring musicality, Figueiredo shines a playful, heart-warming light on jazz, bossa nova and samba standards. Figueiredo is joined by University of Colorado Professor of Bass, Bijoux Barbosa.

Watching the pros at work from a few thousand miles away, with a glass of wine and good company, is a wonderful way to combine front-row seats with an intimate viewing experience. Local Edwards eatery eat! drink!  is teaming up with Vail Jazz throughout the winter season to pair live webcasts from Jazz at Lincoln Center with incredible boutique wines and delectable small plates. Big Band Holidays with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will broadcast on December 18th at 6pm MST, with special guest vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, followed by Birth of the American (Jazz) Orchestra on January 9th at 6pm. January’s program will wrap with Papo Vazquez Band of Mighty Pirate Troubadours on January 22nd at 7:30 pm. February and March dates will be added soon.

Artistic Director Howard Stone announced the lineup for the Winter Jazz Series noting, ”The lineup of winter artists mirrors what Vail Jazz is known for – exceptional performances presented in intimate and intriguing locales.  We are so fortunate to bring such an impressive lineup of top jazz performers all of whom are compelling and captivating entertainers.  These performances will cover a varied spectrum of appealing jazz styles that are sure to please audiences, whether a hardcore jazz fan or just someone looking for a great musical experience.”

 

Vail Jazz Presents Winter Series as Kick-Off to Celebratory Year

January 13, 2014– Vail, CO – The Vail Jazz Foundation celebrates 20 years as the leading presenter of jazz education and performance in the region and kicks off an exciting year of celebration with three unique performances during this winter, 2014.

Plans are well underway for the 20th Anniversary Vail Jazz Festival, a twelve week series of over 40 performances, slated for June 22 – September 1, 2014.

The winter series kicks off on Wednesday, February 12 with an intimate soiree held in a private residence featuring Brazilian diva, Eliane Elias, who will perform with her husband, acclaimed bassist, Marc Johnson. Elias’ sensuous ballads and artful piano playing will enthrall the audience in an exquisite, intimate setting.

The series follows with Diego Figueiredo and his trio. Figueiredo, a fast rising star among jazz guitarists, adds his own Brazilian flair on March 9th at The Fitz Lounge in Manor Vail Lodge. While performing during the past two years at the Vail Jazz Party over Labor Day Weekend, Figueiredo wowed audiences with his superb technique, timing and imagination.

April 3rd marks a collaboration with the Vilar Performing Arts Center featuring Chris Botti, winner of the Best Pop Instrumental Album at the 2013 Grammy Awards.

Artistic Director Howard Stone announced the line-up for the Winter Jazz Series noting, ”The lineup of winter artists mirrors what Vail Jazz is known for – exceptional performances presented in intimate and intriguing locales. We are so fortunate to bring three top jazz performers that are compelling and captivating entertainers. Our first two shows highlight the extraordinary sounds of Brazilian Jazz, followed up with Botti’s smooth wit and awe inspiring talent on his trumpet. These performances will cover a varied spectrum of appealing jazz styles that are sure to please audiences, whether a hardcore jazz fan or just someone looking for a great musical experience.”

Executive director Robin Litt added, “Each of these award winning artists brings an exceptional level of talent to the Vail Valley. We are thrilled to partner with the VPAC, Alpine Bank, Colorado Mountain Express, Vail Resorts Echo, Westin Riverfront at Avon and our other sponsors to present these concerts.”

Celebrating its 20th year, The Vail Jazz Foundation produces innovative and prestigious educational programs including the Vail Jazz Workshop, Jammin’ Jazz Kids and Jazz Goes to School, along with the Vail Jazz Festival, one of the nation’s foremost jazz festivals featuring over 150 artists throughout the summer. The summer-long Festival has met with unprecedented growth over the past five years as attendees have come to recognize Vail Jazz for presenting the highest quality performances. Vail Jazz focuses on perpetuating jazz music through live performances that showcase the artistry and talent of great jazz musicians, and through jazz education, with a focus on young musicians and young audiences. For more information, visit www.vailjazz.org

2nd Annual Vail Jazz Winter Series presents Tony Monaco Quartet

March 5, 2013– Vail, CO – The Vail Jazz Foundation will continue the 2nd Annual Vail Jazz Winter Series with the Tony Monaco Quartet on Thursday, March 14th .

Tony is noted as one of today’s finest Hammond B-3 organ players on the jazz scene today. Named the top B-3 player for three consecutive years in Downbeat Magazines and Jazz Times Magazine, he will fill the Fitz Lounge at Manor Vail Lodge with a mix of high energy soul and funk jazz along with the blues. “Tony Monaco…crafts a collection of cuts that reveal the depth and versatility of the B-3…Here, Monaco…proves that he…is the sort of high-caliber player who can coax a response, showing off his…incredible range.” – Downbeat Magazine.

Tony started playing keyboard and the age of eight on the accordion. When he was twelve, he first heard legendary B-3 organ player Jimmy Smith and immediately, he knew that the Hammond B-3 was his calling. He played the accordion in nightclubs in Columbus, Ohio as a teenager. However, at the age of fifteen, Monaco contracted a rare disease, neuralgic amyotrophy, similar to polio. Nerves in his right arm, shoulder and triceps were affected first. Six months after his first bout with the disease, it returned to attack his left side. The only treatment available was with large doses of steroids that reduced the inflammation, but did not reduce the immense pain attributed with the disease. Because it was too painful to have the accordion straps over his shoulders, his father bought him his B3 organ. Less than a year after his run in with the disease, on his sixteenth birthday, Jimmy Smith called him and soon became his mentor / teacher, sharing jazz organ secrets with him and instruction over the phone.

A few years later, Jimmy invited Tony to perform at his California jazz club. For many years, Tony ran the family business, Monaco’s Palace Italian Restaurant, while performing in the lounge weekly. He then went into management with Sysco Foods and later with an ad agency. After finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in 1989, Tony returned to the family business, this time as a manager for Monaco Concrete. At the age of 35, Tony was hit with another round with the debilitating disease. This time, it affected his vocal cord and his ankles and forearms. He had throat surgery so he could talk, and to his ankles, so he could walk while assisted by a cane. Despite the limitations he was left with after the disease hit, he continues to perform. While his challenges could have sidelined him from his music career, Tony taught himself to play again, retraining weakened and destroyed muscles through repetition. As a result, Monaco has become the master of the B-3 organ player and masterful performer.

In 2000, he met B-3 organ player, Joey DeFrancesco, who offered to produce a debut CD for Monaco. The international success of the recording became the catalyst for a national tour. He continued to release CD’s and was awarded major endorsements from Suzuki and Hammond, the maker of the B-3. He is an accomplished teacher and has produced a series of instructional DVD’s that have become indispensable for serious organ students. In 2005, he began international tours that have taken him to Australia, New Caldondia, Canada as well as Jakarta Indonesia. He continues to be featured at all of the big jazz festivals in the US.

Monaco, who is affectionately referred to as Master Chops T, says, “I do some traditional organ, guitar, drums, sax-combo blues and shuffles,” Monaco says, “to an acid funk, to a ’60s-ish sidewinder à la funky Austin Powers, to a big band feel vocal of ‘Luck Be a Lady,’ to a smooth journey à la Pat Metheny, to an accordion blues using the organ in back, to a Woody Herman ‘Rhythm’ changes, to typewriter-organ style, bending notes—a secret—to a nostalgic ‘Me & Mrs. Jones’ sung with a horn arrangement similar to the original, to a Caribbean trip on ‘St. Thomas Calypso.”

Tony will be joined by Bob Rebholz on tenor saxophone, Bill Kopper on guitar and Vail’s own Allan Finney on drums. The Fitz Lounge at Manor Vail Lodge will be the “club” setting and the Quartet will perform two sets of music – 7:30 pm and 9:00 pm. Tickets are available for each seating at $20 in advance; $25 at the door. The Fitz will provide a menu for guests who want appetizers, a full dinner or dessert; and have a $10 food and beverage minimum for these performances. Tickets are available at www.vailjazz.org or 970-479-6146.

Now in its 19th year, The Vail Jazz Foundation produces innovative and prestigious educational programs including the pre-eminent Vail Jazz Workshop and Jazz Goes to School, along with the Vail Jazz Festival, one of the nation’s foremost jazz festivals featuring over 150 artists throughout the summer. Vail Jazz focuses on perpetuating jazz music through live performances that showcase the 3 artistry and talent of great jazz musicians, and through jazz education, with a focus on young musicians and young audiences. For more information, visit www.vailjazz.org.