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.

Hot young artists on the bill for Vail jazz summer

The 20th anniversary festival lineup exemplifies that jazz is a genre embraced by all ages.

Anyone who thinks jazz is a fading breed of music embraced only by the older generations has obviously not witnessed the bouncing mass of revelers at a Red Baraat concert. The eight-piece “party band” from Brooklyn makes its local debut July 31 at Jazz @ Vail Square.

Pumping out an eclectic combination of brass funk, North Indian bhangra rhythms and go-go, in spite of forming just six years ago, Red Baraat has already landed gigs at the White House, the New Orleans and Montreal Jazz Festivals as well as big rock festivals such as Bonnaroo.

Band leader and Dhol player Sunny Jain believes his band’s quick success and presence at such a variety of large scale performances is due to the phenomenon that the very definition of “jazz” is its inherent knack for transformation.

“The idea of what jazz is has constantly developed and changed,” Jain says. “It’s really a main element of the band. Several of us come from a jazz background, bringing the idea of improvisation, in-the-moment spontaneity, the conversation and dialogue within the music.

In terms of what we do relating to the audience, it’s to make sure we’re passionate about what we’re doing onstage, producing joyous music that includes everyone. It’s a party regardless of how old, young or mixed the audience. It doesn’t matter if there’s 10 people or a thousand people out there. Our prime goal is to deliver the music and bring our passion.”

Passion is the overarching characteristic of the otherwise eclectic lineup of artists in this summer’s 20th Anniversary season of the Vail Jazz Festival, which kicks off July 3 with the six-string talent of guitar duet Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo, who also pride themselves on departing from the jazz tradition, intermixing their set of classic jazz tunes with say, a comical but amazingly precise rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

New York-based pianist Tony Desare, who performs at Jazz @ Vail Square on July 17, recently performed his personally stylized versions of American Songbook tunes for Frank Sinatra’s 100th Birthday show at Carnegie Hall, but also plays awardwinning originals and regularly posts his unique jazzed up renditions of current pop tunes (Bastille’s Pompeii, a clever fusion of Pharrell’s Happy and Bobby Ferrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy) on his YouTube channel.

“I come from the school of thought that the process of music should be entertaining and moving. It should be fun,” Desare says.

The Vail Jazz Festival’s 20th anniversary begins June 22 with live performances every Sunday at the Vail Farmers Market and starting July 3 every Thursday, culminating in the Vail Jazz Party over Labor Day Weekend.

For more information, visit vailjazz.org.

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.

Vail Jazz Unveils 20th Anniversary Image

February 12, 2014 – Vail, Colorado – As part of the 20th Anniversary celebration of the Vail Jazz Festival, The Vail Jazz Foundation unveiled its festival image, the brand of the summer-long festival.

With over 40 performances spanning 12 weeks, offerings will include free and welcoming outdoor concerts, large format performances as well as intimate soirées.

Each year, we work with a graphic artist to capture the essence and excitement of our festival through a captivating image,” said Robin Litt, executive director of The Vail Jazz Foundation. “This year, we decided to go about things differently than in the past and we conducted a contest to get designers interpretations of Vail Jazz. We are excited to be working with AJ McCormick, whose winning trombone image seems to explode with mountains.”

Entries came from all over the country, including Eagle County and the Front Range. McCormick, a graphic designer based in Denver, spends a lot of time snowboarding in Vail.

The image becomes the brand of the festival, which will commence on June 22 and wrap up with the Vail Jazz Party on September 1st. The 12-week festival will be filled with over 40 performances ranging from free outdoor performances to intimate and elegant small-venue shows.

Addressing the Vail Jazz mission of presenting performances and educational opportunities that promote jazz, with specific focus on young artists and young audiences.

The season gets a jump start on June 27th with a collaboration with Bravo! Vail at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater featuring jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jeff Tyzik.

Jammin’ Jazz Kids, which debuted in 2013, will be expanded to offer free interactive programming for youth every Sunday in July at the Vail Farmers’ Market, in conjunction with the weekly Jazz @ The Market series.

“Jazz After” jam sessions at Larkspur will continue in partnership with Bravo! Vail following performances at the GRFA.

The cornerstone of Vail Jazz summer activities is the weekly series at Lionshead each Thursday night, Jazz @ Vail Square.

Artists will include Monty Alexander and the Harlem-Kingston Express, John Pizzarelli Quartet, Tony DeSare, one of the hottest singer/pianists on the scene todayand Vail Jazz “House Band” made up of John Clayton, Jeff Clayton, Terell Stafford, Wycliffe Gordon, Bill Cunliffe and Lewis Nash. The full line up will be announced in March.

The grand finale of the festival takes place over Labor Day Weekend with the Vail Jazz Party. The Party is a unique format that brings the audience up close with over 40 artists, who will jam for over 35 hours over Labor Day Weekend. Artists who will perform along with the House Band over Labor Day Weekend include: pianists Benny Green and Monty Alexander, vocalists Curtis Stigers and Ann Hampton Callaway, drummer Jeff Hamilton and his trio, trumpeter Byron Stripling, clarinetist Ken Peplowski, drummer Ernie Adams, bassist Marty Wind and the Vail Jazz Alumni Ensemble, all past members of the Vail Jazz Workshop who are current touring musicians.

Special shows will include: the popular Gospel Prayer Meetin’ led by Niki Haris, Multi-Media Tributes to Benny Goodman, Clark Terry and Sarah Vaughn, Piano Duets featuring all of the party’s pianists, and a partnership with the Vail Symposium – a screening of “Keep on Keepin’ On”, a documentary featuring Clark Terry and one of his last students, Vail Jazz alumnus, Justin Kauflin.

“We’ll have more exciting programming over Labor Day Weekend than ever before – and we already have a packed weekend of music!” Litt remarked. “Each of these artists is a tremendous headliner in his or her own right, but when we bring together so many jazz powerhouses at our party, the output is like nothing you’ve experienced before.” Tickets for the Vail Jazz Party will go on sale in March.

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