Jazz Goes to School returns for Session 2

December 31, 2013 – Vail, Colorado Jazz Goes to School, The Vail Jazz Foundation’s jazz education program for 4 th and 5th graders, returns to Eagle County schools January 13-16, 2014.

The program features a quintet of professional musician/educators who travel to 15 local elementary schools to share their love of jazz and American history, and inspire young people to embrace jazz: America’s own art form.

While September’s Session 1 focused on the origins of jazz and the rhythm section with handmade bongos and drums, this second session of the four part program adds in the horn section.

“We want to introduce the kids to the heart of jazz; the cool combination of drums, piano and bass forms the core of all jazz music”, said program director Tony Gulizia. “Now we add in the saxophone and trumpet to create a clean cool sound they love” continued Gulizia.

Later in the Jazz Goes to School curriculum, the older students try their hand at writing their own jazz music. The final concert includes blues compositions created by the fifth graders, performed in medley at the final concert.

Gulizia is not the only one who appreciates how Jazz Goes to School makes a difference for local kids. Vail Resorts Echo, the company’s philanthropy program, has identified Jazz Goes to School as a necessary and valuable way to help bring the arts into our schools. “Vail Resorts supports Jazz Goes to School as an incredibly important program that teaches the wonders of Jazz to the children of Eagle County,” said Nicky DeFord, Manager of Charitable Giving for Vail Resorts Echo. Additionally, Alpine Bank’s grant to The Vail Jazz Foundation provides funds to bring the accomplished jazz instructors into all elementary schools in the region.

“We encourage parents of 4th and 5th graders to attend their children’s programs to share their enthusiasm for what they’re learning. Their love for the program can be really infectious!” says Robin Litt, Executive Director of The Vail Jazz Foundation.

Tony Gulizia (keyboard and vocals), directs the Jazz Goes to School program for the Vail Jazz Foundation. Gulizia is joined by his brother Joey, who is also a professional jazz musician and educator, on drums. Other musician/educators performing this week include Andy Hall (bass), Roger Neumann (saxophone), and Mike Gurciullo (trumpet).

 

About Jazz Goes To School

Jazz Goes to School, which is in its 16th year, supports and promotes the jazz art form with a focus on educating young musicians and young audiences – fulfilling the mission of the Vail Jazz Foundation. Jazz Goes to School is presented by The Vail Jazz Foundation (VJF) to Eagle County 4 th and 5 th graders, including all public schools plus the Eagle County Charter Academy, Vail Mountain School, Vail Christian Academy, Stone Creek Elementary Schools, and St. Clare of Assisi. Jazz Goes to School reaches over 1,100 students each year, and has exposed over 15,000 school students to the course about this uniquely American art form.

Elements of Jazz Goes to School will be presented in a summer program entitled Jammin’ Jazz Kids at the Vail Farmers’ Market as part of Vail Jazz’s weekly free Jazz @ The Market series in July, 2014.

The Vail Jazz Foundation is celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2014.

Jazz Goes to School offers a unique interactive learning experience that enhances the basic school curriculum and is provided free of charge, thanks to each school’s PTO and program sponsors, including Vail Resorts Echo, Alpine Bank, Colorado Mountain Express (Official Transportation Provider), Eagle County RE-50J School District, Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, United Way of Eagle River Valley, Vilar Center Community Performance Fund, and East West Resorts, Antlers at Vail and other corporate sponsors and individual donors.

Jazz Goes to School hits schools for 16th year!

September 30, 2013 – Vail, Colorado – Jazz Goes to School, the Vail Jazz Foundation’s jazz education program for Eagle County 4th and 5th graders, returns to schools the week of September 30th.

The innovative educational program features professional musician/educators who visit with 16 local schools to share their love and knowledge of jazz and American History, and inspire young people to embrace jazz: America’s own art form.

“After recently concluding our most successful summer jazz festival,” says Executive Director Robin Litt, “we are more excited than ever to bring jazz to local school kids. There’s nothing like Jazz Goes to School elsewhere in the country, and we are privileged to have such a talented teaching staff lead the program.”

Jazz Goes to School, now in its sixteenth year, supports and promotes the jazz art form with a focus on educating young musicians and young audiences – fulfilling the mission of The Vail Jazz Foundation.

This first session of the four part program traces the evolution of the music from its origins in Africa and the American south through to today’s jazz.

Local jazz musician and program director Tony Gulizia explains, “We look at the geographical movement of Senegalese, Yorbuba-Dahomean and Ashantis slaves to the United States. We examine their customs and culture with a particular emphasis on the musical traditions they brought to America.”

The history of great jazz giants, such as Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, W.C. Handy, Scott Joplin, King Oliver, Kid Ory, and how the migration of the black population brings the blues to New Orleans is also featured in this lesson.

Additionally, the history of many musical instruments is discussed, and students are encouraged to try their hand at playing special percussion instruments from West Africa. Students learn about African rhythms which found their way to New Orleans, where they began to blend with European church music.

Tony Gulizia (keyboard and vocals), directs the Jazz Goes to School program for the 16 th year for The Vail Jazz Foundation. For this first session, Gulizia is joined by his brother Joey, who is also a professional jazz musician and educator, on drums and Michael Pujado, on percussion.

Subsequent sessions include up to six jazz musicians as they share their various functions within the jazz band.

 

About Jazz Goes To School

Jazz Goes to School is presented by The Vail Jazz Foundation to Eagle County fourth and fifth graders, including all public schools plus the Eagle County Charter Academy, Vail Mountain School, Vail Christian Academy, Stone Creek Charter School and St. Clare of Assisi.

Jazz Goes to School reaches over 1,100 students each year, and has exposed over 14,000 school students to a course about this uniquely American art form.

The final session in the spring is a true jazz concert performed by the Jazz Goes to School Sextet at the Vilar Performing Arts Center.

Jazz Goes to School offers a unique interactive learning experience that enhances the basic school curriculum and is provided free of charge, thanks to each school’s PTO and supported with grants from: Alpine Bank, United Way Eagle River Valley and Vail Resorts Echo, along with festival sponsors: AT&T, Alpine Party Rentals, Colorado Creative Industries, Colorado Mountain Express – Official Transportation Provider, Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, The Jazz Cruise, KUVO 89.3 & KVJZ 88.5 Jazz Public Radio, Vail Daily, Vilar Center Community Fund, Woods and Son Pianos and Yamaha. In addition, individual donations support Jazz Goes to School.

Lights on the ladies of jazz at the 19th Annual Vail Jazz Festival

Meet the five big-time female artists at this year’s Vail Labor Day Weekend Party.

Like any history, the history of jazz has been marked by some very notable ‘hers’. There’s been Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Ellie Fitzgerald … the list goes on.

Of all the contemporary favorites bound to one day find a place on this iconic list, the 19th annual Vail Jazz Labor Day Weekend Party features some awe-inspiring potential candidates.

The five-day live music celebration is stacked with more than 30 of the country’s most highly acclaimed artists. From Shelly Berg’s History of Stride and Boogie Woogie to Byron Stripling’s tribute to Miles Davis, the weekend is of course bubbling with dynamic sets of straight-up jazz, but the lineup and styles also reach every possible corner of the rather vast umbrella of what we know as jazz music.

“You can really say to the few naysayers out there saying that jazz is dying, ‘Hey! Look at Vail,” says Vail Jazz Party pioneer and director of education John Clayton. “What’s happened is, through the years, people have grown to trust [founder and developer] Howard Stone and trust his taste. There will be people the Vail Jazz supporters have never heard of, but they know they’ll always, always go home from a jazz performance and say, ‘God, that was great.’”

Among the greats at this year’s jazz party, there are five female artists that are unquestionable standouts.

 

Niki Haris

Although some might consider gospel in a classification other than jazz, anyone who’s attended Niki Haris’s Gospel Prayer Meetin’ knows that the same elements that define the jazz genre are on fervent display. “The word gospel means ‘good’ and many voices speaking about one good. All races, all colors come together to be part of this spiritual celebration,” says Haris, who is a singer, songwriter, dancer and choreographer and will be performing several times throughout the weekend culminating in her 9:30 a.m. Sunday Prayer Meetin,’ featuring the Mile High Gospel Ensemble and for the first time in history, including lyrics for the audience to not only clap along but raise their voices too.

“Jazz is about freedom of expression,” she says. “I’m so happy and proud that [Vail Jazz Party organizers] have taken a step out and made this gospel prayer spiritual meeting to be an integral part of this festival. Not only do they love jazz but they understand the core of it.”

Gospel is only one of Haris’ points of focus, as she has worked with everyone from Ray Charles to Mick Jagger and spent 18 years touring and recording with Madonna. Along with the Gospel Ensemble and several special guests, Haris delivers what’s arguably the highest energy performance of the whole festival, guaranteed to have everyone in the Jazz Tent on their feet, singing, clapping and swaying.

“I love the entire energy of the Vail Jazz Festival but one of the best parts is that it is set in the most pristine, beautiful part of the country,” Haris says. “I always say God was having a great day when he made Vail, Colorado – or should I say she? The point is, this is the world we all want to see – everyone celebrating in their own way to whatever God they serve. We’re all here together.”

 

Cyrille Aimeé

Performing several times throughout the weekend beginning on Friday night, Cyrille Aimeé’s enchanting vocals have won her first place in the esteemed Montreaux Voice Competition and have also landed her on the list of most acclaimed regular artists on the New York City jazz scene.

With a French father and Dominican mother, Aimeé has spent much of her life in both France and the Dominican Republic and her singing style resonates with influences from each – the hypnotic rhythms of traditional Domican beats and also some spice of French gypsy swing.

 

Tia Fuller

Does the name Beyoncé ring a bell? You may recall the international star’s unforgettable all-female band from such highlight reels as last year’s Super Bowl halftime show and among this glittering group, Tia Fuller on saxophone was a standout.

The Colorado native is also well-versed in piano and flute and co-directs Esperanza Spalding’s rising band, the Radio Society.

Fuller was a student in the Vail Jazz Workshop in 1996 and is back at this weekend’s Jazz Party with the Vail Alumni Quartet to demonstrate to the valley just what heights she has reached with her talent and her career.

 

Akiko Tsuruga

Another Vail Jazz Party favorite, Akiko Tsuruga has been known to spark audiences to attention by striding onstage in a traditional kimono and attack her B3 organ as if it were the last night of her life.

Since moving to New York City, the native of Osaka, Japan has established herself as a crowd-pleasing mainstay at Jazz at Lincoln Center and has also won over many an audience headlining Birdland and Blue Note.

She will be performing Saturday and Monday afternoons in the Jazz Tent.

 

Karen Hammack

First lured by blues piano at the age of 14, Karen Hammack quickly embarked on her singer/songwriter career incorporating all elements of jazz, gospel, funk, soul and rock and is now a master recording artist with a long list of original numbers that have been singled out for their heart-gripping sincerity.

Hailing from California, Hammack has worked with Jackson Brown, Michael McDonald, Bill Frisell and a slew of others and recently released her latest, 14-track album, My Beating Heart.

She delivers riveting solo performances Saturday and Monday in the Jazz Tent and will also be the music director and pianist for Niki Haris’s Gospel Prayer Meetin’ on Sunday.

 

Running today through Monday, tickets to this year’s Labor Day Jazz Party are close to sold out. For more information on availability and more info on performances, visit vailjazz.org or call 1-888-VAIL-JAM.

18th Vail Jazz Workshop commences

You’ve heard of young musical prodigies, seen movies about them discovering their uncanny knack to play a particular instrument like a professional adult when they are only 5 years old and surmount obstacles such as poverty, loss and relocation. But just imagine the energy and combined prowess that abounds when you get 12 of such characters together as one well-tuned team ready to play their hearts out.

The summer grand finale of the Vail Jazz Festival is the five-day live music Labor Day Weekend Party. Bringing in the country’s top contemporary jazz artists, to ensure a future of continued stardom, every year the festival selects 12 teenagers from across the country for an intensive, 10-day workshop with mentors John and Jeff Clayton, Bill Cunliffe, Wycliffe Gordon, Lewis Nash and Terrell Stafford.

After the intensive training, the 12 students transform into the Vail Jazz All-Stars and perform throughout the weekend party, kicking off Thursday for Jazz @ Vail Square and again Saturday and Sunday.

Of course, every one of the students arrives with an inspiring story behind his talent.

Drummer Adrian Cota’s begins when he was 2 years old, listening to his father’s Latin band rehearse at their home in Sinoloa, Mexico. Surrounded by a family of musicians, the young Cota would spend so much time listening and would get so absorbed that one time he fell asleep on one of the speakers. “The reason why I chose drums is I always hear a pulse. I think it started when I was very little. I always liked to be precise – that’s how I see myself. I like pulse, something that’s always there.” says 17-year-old Cota, who started his senior year of high school last week.

Driven by his desire and supported by his family who wanted him to have a real opportunity to steer his talent into the spotlight, Cota left Mexico three years ago to live with an uncle in Los Angeles.

He has made great strides so far, not only selected as a drummer for the Grammy Band Jazz Combo and receiving full scholarships for several residency and jazz programs, but Cota has also managed to adopt a full command of the English language during his short time in the U.S.

Cota has received a full scholarship to this year’s 18th Annual Vail Jazz Workshop. “I couldn’t speak that much English when I got here. I learned most of it here,” he says. “I knew it was something that I really needed. There was no other option. I had a lot of struggle with it, but I got better. I told myself I’m going to learn English. When you want something and know you need it, it just happens.”

It’s with that same drive and commitment that Cota aims to one day be surrounded by his whole family – who visited him for a few days before he made the trip to Vail – and lead his own band.

“You might think I’m getting a little deep right now, but everything is related to love. I moved here and knew it was going to be hard,” Cota says. “But I had a dream. I knew I was going to accomplish it. I would like to be together with my family. If they were here it would be amazing. But my dad is the director for our own family band in Mexico. He’s pretty well-known there. I really want them to be here at some point. I want to stay here and make music.”

As far as being selected for the Vail Jazz Workshop, Cota is still in awe that he was even considered for it. “I was really excited first of all that I got recommended. Lewis Nash is one of my favorite drummers. I saw him in concert once. That inspired me a lot,” he says. “When I auditioned and I got in, I couldn’t believe it. It’s such a beautiful feeling to really want it and then get it. I was prepared, though. If I didn’t make it, I would be glad just that I got the interview.”

Raised in New Orleans in the care of his grandmother, 17-year-old trombonist Jeffrey Miller comes from a different background but his story is equally inspiring. He too, is driven by a love for music … and a good bit of talent, too.

“Music is literally my life,” Miller says. “So, the only thing I really do besides music is school. I go to Ben Franklin High School for my academics and then NOCCA in the afternoon. Ben Franklin has a pretty rigorous curriculum, so I can be pretty hard to juggle that AND my music. For example, since my sophomore year, I’ve been performing every Wednesday night with Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra at Snug Harbor from 8 p.m. to sometimes 12 a.m. You can see how that would be challenging to do that and go to school the next day.”

Miller still manages to “do the regular teenager stuff, like movies and dating,” but he has some notches on his belt that a scarce few 17-year-olds posses, playing with jazz greats and also appearing on the HBO series “Treme.”

But the performance at Carnegie Hall is his standout achievement to date. “There are a lot,” he says of his musical highlights so far. “But if I had to choose, it would be performing at Carnegie Hall when I was 15 with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. It was a sold out concert and I was just so thankful from the plane ride out there to the performance itself because not many people get to say that they’ve played Carnegie Hall, let alone at 15. I don’t mean to sound cocky or anything, but I was just so thankful and blessed. And it was my very first time in New York at all, so that in itself was a new experience for me, you know?”

When asked where he sees himself in the future, Miller doesn’t mince words. “You know, standard rich and famous-type stuff,” he says, but is then quick to delve into his more profound ambitions and also gush with gratitude to his one-woman support team.

“I’m not in it just for the money, of course,” Miller says. “I want to change the world with my music. I want my music to make people feel happy, or emotional … just any way they want to feel. But the only reason the money wouldn’t be such a bad idea is because of my grandmother. Since my mom passed when I was a year old, she’s been raising my twin sister and me. Really, without her, I definitely wouldn’t be who and where I am today. She is the one who always supported my endeavors and sacrificed so much so that I’d be where I am today and the least I can and WILL do is make sure I pay her back for all the time, money and love she’s selflessly given to me. I want to be rich for her. I want to change the world for her. I want HER to be happy, and I want her to see that all her hard work and sleepless nights were in no way in vain.”

Miller has also received a full scholarship to the Vail Jazz Workshop. The Vail Jazz Workshop is funded through individual donations from supporters of The Vail Jazz Foundation.

Don’t miss the Vail Jazz Workshop AKA Vail Jazz All-Stars, which, in addition to Cota on drums and Miller on trombone, are comprised of Ashwin Prasanna on drums, Kyle Tilstra on trombone, John Michael Bradford and Fernando Ferrarone on trumpet, Cole Davis and Nashir Janmohamed on bass, Jamael Dean and Micah Thomas on piano and Alejandro Ramirez on alto saxophone.

Following their performance Thursday, their mentors themselves will play a set.

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.

Philadelphia Orchestra members to jam with Cuban jazz artists on July 10!

Cuba’s Gran Union musicians to sit in on Philly Jam.

Philadelphia Orchestra stars meet Cuban jazz favorites on Jazz After stage The hypnotizing musical conversation between orchestra stars on a small stage continues this Wednesday, July 10 with Jazz After: The Philly Jam performance at Larkspur Restaurant.

Following the Bravo! Vail Philadelphia Orchestra concert, select musicians will head to the intimate setting of Larkspur Restaurant’s Great Room at 9:15 p.m. The dynamic will be augmented by the presence of players from Cuba’s Wil Campa Y Su Gran Union, who will join in on the spontaneous and highly unique jam. Jazz After is a joint production of the Vail Jazz Festival and Bravo! Vail, the Philly Jam is the second of the trio of exclusive Jazz After performances this summer.

The final Jazz After performance is set for Wednesday, July 24 and will feature members of the New York Philharmonic with special guest, Bramwell Tovey.

“The Jazz After concerts are pure, spontaneous masterpieces involving the talent of a few select individuals. They are as one-of-a-kind as it gets,” says Robin Litt, Director of the Vail Jazz Foundation. “Even if the exact same musicians were to come together on the same stage again, the set would never be the same. It’s not every day that you get to listen to artists of this caliber play this way. The setting at Larkspur feels just like a cozy jazz club.”

Tickets are limited and can be purchased at vailjazz.org for $20 in advance or $25 day of show. Larkspur will have a $20 food and beverage minimum per person. Complimentary valet parking is available.

 

INFO: 

What: Members of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Cuban jazz stars playing a uniquely spontaneous freestyle set in an intimate lounge setting.

Where: Larkspur Restaurant Great Room

When: Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Jam starts at 9:15 Wednesday, July 10

Tickets: $20 in advance or $25 day of show at www.vailjazz.org

 

About Vail, Colorado

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.