Drummer Tommy Igoe’s sextet returns to Vail Square

The coordination required of playing the drums is not ingrained in many of us, but Tommy Igoe’s father, legendary drummer Sonny Igoe, claimed his child was born with the beat.

“He always said I came out playing the drums. I was always drum crazy. I used to follow the drummers in the parades and learn their cadences. You couldn’t tear me away from the drums. And believe me, my father did try,” said Igoe, who has led the Birdland Big Band in New York City over the last several years and is responsible for the drum lines that give Broadway’s musical hit “The Lion King,” its thunder. He has also toured the world with the likes of Art Garfunkel, Stanley Jordan and Blood Sweat and Tears.

NOT MISSING A BEAT

Rather than being a typical kid who liked to beat on things, or even a kid that beat on things with an uncanny sense of rhythm, Igoe has always had an expert musical ear. He nurtured it not only by learning the drums since age 2 but by playing several other instruments, including classical piano, which he studied for 20 years. This well-rounded understanding refined Igoe’s sense of rhythm to a precision that few musicians, drummers especially, possess.

“In my experience, the best musicians and leaders understand the role, vocabulary and challenges of instruments beyond their own,” he said. “My training on piano and by extension harmony, theory, ear training etc., allow me to speak to all the other musicians in my bands in their own language which allows me to be a more knowledgeable and compassionate leader. And, it goes both ways. I encourage all other instrumentalists to take some drum lessons. It would help their musical expression greatly.”

As one might expect, leading a band from behind a drum set is no easy task. The first challenge that comes to mind is the fact that unlike any other instrument on stage, the drums are, as Igoe puts it, “anchored to the ground.” But this, he says, “is not a big deal.” Of everyone on stage, the drummer is the one who cannot ever miss a beat. While Igoe admits that this is indeed a challenge, he views it as an advantage as well.

“As a drummer, you never stop,” he said. “Most people don’t realize that many of the other instruments in a band stop, start and rest, but not the drums in modern settings … and rhythm sections as a whole. We are always playing and that allows me a greater connection to every bar than if I was stopping and starting all the time.”

ENDLESS GENRES

Igoe leads bands of all sizes, from the sextet he heads up on Thursday comprised of Marc Russo and Tom Politzer on saxophone, James Genus on bass, Allen Farnham on piano and Rolando Morales Matos on percussion to his 14-piece, San Francisco-based supergroup, Tommy Igoe Groove Conspiracy, featuring members of Santana, Tower of Power, The Doobie Brothers, Boz Scaggs and Steely Dan. The best part of wearing so many hats is that the world is Igoe’s oyster. His range of genres and sounds is boundless.

“All my bands operate under the same foundational vision of being ‘music events.’ I have no allegiance to any genre or style. We’ll play anything from any source – jazz, Latin, funk, reggae … there are no limits. The only requirement is exceptional quality,” he said.

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 found a way to put it in one word: relax. If you relax, you can do anything. Really … ANYTHING,” Igoe said. “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.”

Experience the power of the Tommy Igoe Sextet from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday for Vail Jazz @ Vail Square in Lionshead. Jazz Tent tickets are $15 or $30 for VIP seats (including front of the tent seating and a drink ticket). Ticket prices go up an hour before showtime. For tickets or more information, visit www.vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

Spotlight on the Vail Jazz Festival

Tony Gulizia speaks to Vail Mountain about what makes the Vail Jazz Festival so special!

 

“If you are a jazz aficionado and you follow the different styles of jazz you will see at this festival undoubtedly some of the greatest names in the world and you can sit down and listen to what I consider to be the cream of the crop. Over the years with all of the musicians who I have had the opportunity to perform with, or just to hang with, these players love so much to come here.

For the whole year they look forward to coming here, not just because of the venue but because of the surroundings, hanging and playing in Vail. Here you can sit in a small room and listen to some of these great players and actually get to meet them… some of the greatest players in the world, and when they’re done you can go up and shake their hand.

I think that one of the highlights of the Vail Jazz Festival is that the artists are so close-knit to the audience. They become part of the whole jazz family, and after 4 or 5 days while they’re here at the festival they really get an opportunity to meet these people and realize that gosh, these jazz musicians really are cool guys, or cool cats as people say.”

 

The Vail Jazz Festival culminates over Labor Day Weekend with the Vail Jazz Party, from September 3-7. With over 40 of the jazz world’s biggest name convening in Vail, this event is a must-see for music lovers! Find out more information here.

 

 

Four in one … the story of how drummers came to be

Lowering your cost per unit of output is the goal of the savvy businessman. Why pay four people to do a job when with some equipment, one can do all the work? So this is the story of how one musician ended up doing the work of four and changed jazz forever.

After the Civil War, freed slaves in New Orleans organized marching bands to play at funerals and other events. Inspired by the marching bands of the Civil War era, they used brass instruments, a bass drum, often with a cymbal attached, and a snare drum. By the early 20th century, the bands had moved indoors and were playing for parties and dances and so-called “Dixieland” jazz was in its infancy. No longer marching, band members were seated and because of indoor space constraints, bands had fewer musicians. It is unknown whether someone had the “eureka” moment and said, “since our drummer is seated, let’s cut our payroll and have him play two drums at once,” but that’s what happened. The snare drum was placed on a chair or stand and the bass drum put on the floor with a cymbal attached, allowing one musician to play all of them.

Drumming techniques had to change because striking a bass drum is nothing like playing a roll on a snare drum and these new techniques began to influence the way the band played. It wasn’t too long until drummers were trying to figure out how to use one of their feet to play the bass drum and ultimately the bass drum pedal was perfected. Next came the “snowshoe cymbal beater” – two small cymbals each attached to a board and hinged together so that they could be compressed (clashed) by a downward foot motion to make the desired sound. Ultimately, the “beater” was enhanced by adding a pedal device to work the cymbals (the “low-boy”). By the 1920s, drummers were searching for new ways to express themselves and the modern “hi-hat” became (and has remained) one of the staples of a drum kit.  By raising the level of the cymbals on the low-boy, the drummer could strike the cymbals of a hi-hat with his sticks, while his foot caused the cymbals to clash or held the cymbals together or apart, thereby creating a whole new series of sounds that pushed jazz forward.

The result of all these innovations was the simple fact that the drummer was now capable of simultaneously using both of his feet and hands to play the kit.  Bingo – one musician instead of four! As drummers were gaining the ability to in essence, play four instruments at once, they began switching from being a simple time-keeper for the band to a more integral part of the music making. The musical possibilities were greatly expanded by adding to their drum sets other drums, notably various sized tom-toms (round drums without snares) and percussion instruments, including multiple cymbals (see below), as well as woodblocks, tambourines, slapsticks, cow bells and other “contraptions” (as these sound-effect instruments were known) and in fact, the word “contraptions” ultimately morphed into “traps” and today many people refer to a drum set as a “trap set.”

Along with the hi-hat, drummers added combinations of cymbals – crash, ride, splash, swish, sizzle, Spanish and Chinese – to create their own sound. Each cymbal had a distinctive sound and by varying its size (diameter), thickness, alloys used, appendages attached and where it was struck, a drummer could create a signature sound.

As jazz has evolved, drummers have been ready. With additional drums arrayed before the seated drummer (it is interesting to note that the drummer sits on a “throne,” which may be an insight into the personalities of many drummers) and many contraptions in the drummers arsenal within easy reach, the drummer has become a central interactive part of a small jazz ensemble, supporting the improvising soloist and in turn soloing and improvising.

But it isn’t the equipment that makes the music, it is the drummer of course and many drummers, including “Baby” Dodds, “Papa Jo” Jones, Max Roach, Art Blakey, “Philly Joe” Jones, Roy Haynes and Elvin Jones, to name a few, have made important contributions along the way as jazz moved forward through the 20th Century and the new millennium has seen a new generation of drummers advancing the music with new and exciting sounds and rhythms.

On the evening of Sept. 5 at the Marriott Hotel, as part of the 21st Annual Vail Jazz Festival, the incomparable drummer Lewis Nash will present his Multi-Media Tribute to His Drum Influences, exploring the contributions that some of the greatest drummers have made to jazz. To read more about this performance, view pg. 63 of the Vail Jazz Festival Program online. Tickets are $75, to buy click here.

Internationally renowned pianist Hiromi sits down with Vail Jazz

Although her head is swaying and her eyes are closed, Hiromi Uehara’s fingers are a blur as she thunders out a one-woman symphony every time she sits down at the piano. As far as how she explains what’s happening, she says playing the piano is like digging for emotional treasure.

Since the age of 6, the Japanese-born composer, now 36, has been using the piano as her voice, the complex sound piece for her many emotions. At the age of 14 her unique talent earned her a spot performing with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and at 17, famed jazz pianist Chick Corea invited her to play with him after a chance meeting the previous day. She went on to study under Ahmad Jamal at the Berklee College of Music. Her original tunes can be heard promoting massive international brands such as Nissan and, more importantly, channeling each note directly from her heart.

For the last decade, the pianist has toured the world, enrapturing audiences with her sound, which has the quality of boisterous laughter, intense sadness, contentment, unrest and pure joy, all within the course of a single song.

Making her Vail debut as the Trio Project with bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Steve Smith, Hiromi took a few moments to answer some questions for Vail Jazz.

Vail Jazz: Many children are introduced to the piano at an early age, but few connect with it the way you did. What allured you to the piano as a small child and how does it continue to inspire you?

Hiromi: I was very lucky to have met a great teacher at age of 6 years old. She was a piano teacher in my hometown and she was a big jazz fan as well. She introduced me to the recordings of Errol Garner and Oscar Peterson. When she taught me the classical music, she always colored the score with colored pencils and said “Play Red” instead of playing with the dynamics of forte, “Play Blue” instead of playing with the dynamics pianissimo [soft touch].

Vail Jazz: What were the most important points your piano teacher taught you at that age?

Hiromi: She tried to always explain that music comes from heart to heart, not from fingers to the brain and she encouraged me to see the music visually.

Vail Jazz: Of all the individuals who have influenced your musical career, who has made the most resounding impact?

Hiromi: It is impossible to list one. If I have to name a few, Errol Garner and Oscar Peterson who I listened to when I was 8 years old, Chick Corea who I first met at 17 years old, Ahmad Jamal who has always been the big inspiration and support to my career, and Frank Zappa, my musical hero.

Vail Jazz: In watching your studio video clip of Alive, you look as if you’re lost in a different world, completely possessed by emotion as you play. Can you describe the energy coursing through you?

Hiromi: When I am playing the piano, I feel so alive, I feel so energized.

Vail Jazz: How does it help your performance to close your eyes as you play?

Hiromi: I never even thought about it, it is something very natural..

Vail Jazz: How do you measure the success of a performance? When do you know you’ve crossed the threshold of really becoming one with the music?

Hiromi: When I find something new when I play, that’s the most exciting moment. It is like treasure hunting. I am trying to look for

new landscape in music everyday.

 

Hiromi Uehara makes her Vail debut from 6 to 8 p.m. on Aug. 6 for Vail Jazz @ Vail Square in Lionshead. Jazz Tent tickets are $15 or $30 for VIP seats (including front of the tent seating and a drink ticket). Ticket prices go up an hour before showtime. For tickets or more information, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

Girl-powered jazz comes to Vail

VAIL — When it comes to talent, gender has nothing to do with it. DIVA, the 15-piece all-female jazz orchestra from New York, delivers a jaw-dropping wall of sound that puts many all-male acts to shame. That each ironclad musician looks like she’s having the time of her life at every performance makes for incomparable, swinging and gripping entertainment.

DIVA drummer Sherrie Maricle became the first member of DIVA when the band was formed more than 23 years ago by fellow drummer and artist manager Stanley Kay. As Maricle tells it, she was performing in the pick-up orchestra at a Maurice Hines concert that Kay was conducting for the Shubert Theater’s 75th anniversary. After the show, Kay approached Maricle and “asked if I knew other women who played as well as I did.”

Of course, she knew plenty. After an audition bringing in 40 top musicians from all over the world, the group was whittled down to 15 and DIVA was born.

“Over the last 23-plus years of leading the band and playing with dozens of others, I can tell you with 100-percent certainty that there is absolutely NO difference in talent, skill, passion or creativity between DIVA and any other world-class concert jazz orchestra,” Maricle said, naming Jazz at Lincoln Center, Maria Schneider, Clayton-Hamilton, Count Basie, Vanguard and Gordon Goodwin as examples. “The only thing I have noticed is that the DIVA performance dynamic – collectively and individually – is one that is fully engaged, aware, supportive and wildly enthusiastic regarding the music, each other and the audience. I don’t always experience that with other groups.”

“The most fun for me is being in the center of the band — literally and metaphorically — and leading from the inside, creating a pulse like a heart beat. Drummers naturally have a lot of control, leader or not, over the band dynamics, energy and phrasing … so that’s exciting. I also aspire to always inspire, highlight and support my bandmates.”Sherrie MaricleDrummer, DIVA

The highlights

When asked to name highlights in DIVA’s decorated career, Maricle says “Oh My Gosh…there have been soooo many!”

Among them, the first of DIVA’s many featured performances with The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, the 25th Anniversary of the Kennedy Center’s TV Special and the band’s first tours of Finland, Japan and Vietnam. Then there was the feature on NPR’s “Piano Jazz,” and creating the soundtrack for New York City’s (NBC and Macy’s) enormous fireworks display. Oh yes, there was also that pivotal appearance in the award-winning documentary “The Girls in the Band” (which will be presented at this Labor Day Weekend’s Vail Jazz Party). Maricle says that her band’s (DIVA and also the jazz quintet Five Play, each of which produces and performs all original compositions and arrangements) 13 albums, including a couple of new additions coming soon, “are like my children.”

Since attending parades as a small child and singling out the drummers as the coolest members of the band because they never stopped playing, Maricle has been drawn to the drums. But “the true enlightenment moment” came when she was 11 and saw Buddy Rich perform with His Killer Force Orchestra.

“When the band played their first note, I got goose bumps and was riveted the entire night,” she recalled. “I had never heard or seen anything like that before – the intense power, force, energy, swing and sophistication of a big band … music played with such fire and passion. I ran home and told my mother I was going to be professional drummer. Since that night I never wanted to do anything else with my life.”

As a bandleader, Maricle has aimed to follow in Rich’s footsteps, as well as those of Mel Lewis, Louis Bellson, Jeff Hamilton, Gene Krupa and Chick Webb.

“The most fun for me is being in the center of the band — literally and metaphorically — and leading from the inside, creating a pulse like a heart beat. Drummers naturally have a lot of control, leader or not, over the band dynamics, energy and phrasing … so that’s exciting. I also aspire to always inspire, highlight and support my bandmates, as well as listen to their musical opinions. Each and every one of them is a stellar musician and creative artist,” she said. “I’m very honored to share the stage with them.”

Moved to tears

The inspiration goes well beyond the stage. Over the last two decades, Maricle and DIVA artists have provided “life-changing” instruction for dozens of young and up-and-coming musicians, and several audience members have experienced such sheer awe at performances that they’ve been brought to tears.

“I remember an older woman coming up to us sobbing with joy, saying she always wanted to be a musician, but wasn’t allowed. She just couldn’t believe how great we played. It made me cry, too,” Maricle said.

The 15-piece, all-female powerhouse DIVA jazz orchestra performs for Vail Jazz @ Vail Square from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday in the Vail Jazz Tent in Lionshead. General admission tickets are $15 and VIP tickets are $30. Ticket prices increase an hour before showtime. For tickets or more information, visit www.vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

Shauna Farnell is a freelance writer contracted by the Vail Jazz Foundation. Email comments about this story to mwong@vaildaily.com.

Jazz as a religious experience

When my wife Cathy and I began dating, I explained to her that I had loved jazz since I was kid and that something inside of me intuitively responded to the music in a way that I couldn’t explain. She in turn advised me that she had grown up with opera and classical music and she was equally as passionate about them as I was about jazz.

We agreed that if the relationship was going to survive (it has, 50-plus years and counting), each of us had to be willing to enter the other’s musical world. I remember one of our first dates when she took me to see and hear one of the greatest pianists of the mid-20th century, Rudolf Serkin. “Groovy Rudy,” as I instantly renamed him, played a concert of Beethoven sonatas on a Steinway 9 foot concert grand piano. When I left the concert hall I recall thinking that I had died and gone to heaven. Here was another world of music that I knew nothing about and was eager to learn about. Yes, I knew that the world of classical music existed. But I also knew that ice fishing existed and I, to this day, haven’t tried it yet and probably won’t in this lifetime.

Over the years Cathy has shared her vast knowledge and passion for opera and classical music with me and my life has been enriched beyond anything I could have imagined that faithful night when I heard Groovy Rudy play so sublimely. While I have grown to love opera and classical music, I am first and foremost a “jazzer.” I have to confess (pun intended) that when I hear jazz it is a religious experience.

Over the ensuing years, I have been extremely fortunate to have heard many different genres of music which have opened my ears and expanded my world and with each new listening experience I am so grateful to have entered a new domain full of exciting sounds and melodies. I now understand that music is a universal calling that transcends time and place.

When I am listening to music, especially jazz, my sub-conscious mind allows me to feel a sense of well-being and pleasure that transports me to another place. Is this a religious experience? I don’t know, but I know I love going there. On a conscious level, I constantly marvel at the creative processes of the geniuses that compose the music and I am in awe of the technical wizardry of the players who appear to effortlessly command their instruments to deliver up exquisite sounds. For me, when great music is being played, the supreme being is present.

I should confess at this juncture that I have tried and failed miserably to play an instrument. Actually I am a two-time loser. Starting with the piano as a kid, I actually advanced to Piano Book No. 6 by the age of 9. I had to abort my brief career as a pianist immediately following my debut in a recital with the other students of Miss Ione V. Fencestead. Unfortunately my lack of talent was all too obvious as I destroyed “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” Re-starting with the alto sax when I was an adult, I had visions of standing shoulder to shoulder with Charlie Parker in the pantheon of great jazz musicians. I was not put off by the numerous requests from my family and our neighbors to practice at another location, but when our dog ran away from home, I knew I had to put my alto sax down for good. The truth is that I really loved that dog.

Ultimately, therefore, I have resigned myself to be a dedicated listener. Unfortunately in this world of multi-tasking I am afraid that this is becoming a lost art. When I attend a music performance and see someone in the darkened room with their eyes glued to the glowing screen of a cell phone, reading and texting away, I feel sorry for them. As the great Art Blakey said: “Music washes away the dust of everyday life.”

Amen!

This year the 21st Annual Vail Jazz Festival will present 52 separate jazz performances with hundreds of musician creating music for our audiences. Come join us and get the religion!

Howard Stone is the founder and artistic director of The Vail Jazz Foundation, which produces the annual Vail Jazz Festival. Celebrating its 21st year, the Vail Jazz Festival is a summer-long celebration of jazz music, culminating with the Labor Day weekend Vail Jazz Party. Visit vailjazz.org for more information.

Five Play set to shine for intimate Wednesday, DIVA will deliver big band Thursday

From the early days straight to the big time, band leader Sherrie Maricle tells the story

When it comes to talent, gender has nothing to do with it. DIVA, the 15-piece all-female jazz orchestra from New York, delivers a jaw-dropping wall of sound that puts many all-male acts to shame. That each ironclad musician looks like she’s having the time of her life at every performance makes for incomparable, swinging and gripping entertainment.

DIVA drummer Sherrie Maricle became the first member of DIVA when the band was formed more than 23 years ago by fellow drummer and artist manager Stanley Kay. As Maricle tells it, she was performing in the pick-up orchestra at a Maurice Hines concert  that Kay was conducting for the Shubert Theater’s 75th anniversary. After the showA, Kay approached Maricle and “asked if I knew other women who played as well  as I did.” Of course, she knew plenty. After an audition bringing in 40 top musicians from all over the world, the group was whittled down to 15 and DIVA was born.

“Over the last 23-plus years of leading the band and playing with dozens of others, I can tell you with 100-percent certainty that there is absolutely NO difference in talent, skill, passion or creativity between DIVA and any other world-class concert jazz orchestra,” Maricle says, naming Jazz at Lincoln Center, Maria Schneider, Clayton-Hamilton, Count Basie, Vanguard and Gordon Goodwin as examples. “The only thing I have noticed is that the DIVA performance dynamic – collectively and individually – is one that is fully engaged, aware, supportive and wildly enthusiastic regarding the music, each other and the audience. I don’t always experience that with other groups.”

When asked to name highlights in DIVA’s decorated career, Maricle says “Oh My Gosh…there have been soooo many!”

Among them, the first of DIVA’s many featured performances with The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, the 25th Anniversary of the Kennedy Center’s TV Special and the band’s first tours of Finland, Japan and Vietnam. Then there was the feature on NPR’s “Piano Jazz,” and creating the soundtrack for New York City’s (NBC and Macy’s) enormous fireworks display. Oh yes, there was also that pivotal appearance in the award-winning documentary “The Girls in the Band” (which will be presented at this Labor Day Weekend’s Vail Jazz Party). Maricle says that her band’s (DIVA and also the jazz quintet Five Play, each of which produces and performs all original compositions and arrangements) 13 albums including a couple of new additions coming soon “are like my children.”

Since attending parades as a small child and singling out the drummers as the coolest members of the band because they never stopped playing, Maricle has been drawn to the drums. But “the true enlightenment moment” came when she was 11 and saw Buddy Rich perform with His Killer Force Orchestra.

“When the band played their first note I got goose bumps and was riveted the entire night,” she recalls. “I had never heard or seen anything like that before –  the intense power, force, energy, swing and sophistication of a big band … music played with such fire and passion. I ran home and told my mother I was going to be professional drummer. Since that night I never wanted to do anything else with my life.”

As a bandleader, Maricle has aimed to follow in Rich’s footsteps, as well as those of Mel Lewis, Louis Bellson, Jeff Hamilton, Gene Krupa and Chick Webb.

“The most fun for me is being in the center of the band  – literally and metaphorically – and leading from the inside, creating a pulse like a heart beat. Drummers naturally have a lot of control, leader or not, over the band dynamics, energy and phrasing … so that’s exciting. I also aspire to always inspire, highlight and support my band mates, as well as listen to their musical opinions. Each and every one of them is a stellar musician and creative artist,” she says. “I’m very honored to share the stage with them.”

The inspiration goes well beyond the stage. Over the last two decades, Maricle and DIVA artists have provided “life-changing” instruction for dozens of young and up-and-coming musicians and several audience members have experienced such sheer awe at performances that they’ve been brought to tears.

“I remember an older woman coming up to us sobbing with joy, saying she always wanted to be a musician, but wasn’t allowed. She just couldn’t believe how great we played. It made me cry, too,” Maricle says.

Don’t miss Sherrie Maricle and jazz quintet Five Play at 9 p.m. July 29 in the intimate lounge dinner setting of Cucina at the Lodge at Vail for the Vail Jazz Club Series. The talent pool multiplies into 15-piece jazz orchestra DIVA from 6 to 8 p.m. for Vail Jazz @ Vail Square on Thursday, July 30 in the Vail Jazz Tent in Lionshead. For tickets or more information, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

 

ABOUT THE VAIL JAZZ FOUNDATION

 

In 1995 life-long jazz fan Howard Stone launched the inaugural Labor Day Weekend Vail Jazz Party. A resounding success, the Weekend Party spawned the Vail Jazz Foundation, its mission to showcase the talent of prominent and up-and-coming jazz musicians as well as educate and nurture the genre’s next generation of greats. Vail Jazz has grown to include year-round programming such as Vail Jazz Goes to School and 12 weeks of live performances every summer with The Vail Jazz Festival’s Vail Jazz @ Vail Square, Vail Jazz @ The Market, Vail Jazz @ Sweet Basil, Jammin’ Jazz Kids and The Vail Jazz Workshop for a total of 52 live performances and 10 educational programs.

 

ABOUT THE TOWN OF VAIL

 

There’s no place like Vail for year-round recreation, outdoor pursuits and cultural activities in the heart of the Rockies. Located just two hours west of Denver, Vail’s fresh air, rugged beauty and charming pedestrian village await visitors. Discover a quaint mountain town where outdoor activities abound and the performing arts flourish. Matching the incredible winter mountain experience, Vail from May through October is characterized by a rich culinary scene, family activities, a world-class events schedule and everything in between. This summer guests can experience events like the new Vail Summer Bluegrass Series, GoPro Mountain Games, Vail Jazz Festival, the Vail International Dance Festival, BRAVO! Vail, USA Pro Challenge, Gourmet on Gore culinary festival and much more. Vail offers a diverse range of lodging options from luxury brands to boutique hotels, condominiums and vacation rentals. For more information on a Vail vacation, please visit www.vail.com. For more information on the community, please visit www.vailgov.com

Tony DeSare returns for two energetic nights of Vail Jazz

Fresh off of an elite Carnegie Hall Sinatra celebration, the dynamic pianist is charged to charm with classics, originals and current pop hits

Since making his Vail Jazz debut last summer, New York’s Tony DeSare has been etching his name onto the world map in some pretty high places.

The young pianist has been dubbed “the next Harry Connick Jr.” but truly has a sound and style all of his own. He dives into the keys with unique gusto whether he’s covering a classic from the Great American Songbook or jazzing up the latest Billboard pop hit. He is also a successful songwriter and composer. His tune “Chemistry” won the USA Songwriting Competition’s No. 1 jazz award and was second overall among all genres. Three of his recordings were ranked among Billboard’s top 10 jazz albums and his original songs have made their way into a number of film soundtracks.

His charismatic and unquestionably charming stage presence earned him an invitation to perform with the Philadelphia Pops this spring and then with the New York Pops for an elite group of celebrities attending Carnegie Hall’s special centennial tribute to Frank Sinatra. A huge Sinatra fan, DeSare went on to perform two sold out tribute gigs at the Kennedy Center earlier this summer.

“I’m loving what I get to do these days,” DeSare says. “One night I’ll be with a world class orchestra, another in a small theater and another at an outdoor festival. I find that I love all those different setups and it always comes down to making music for an audience and trying my best to convey how much I love the material and make them feel what I’m feeling when I perform it.”

Judging by the laughter, clap-a-longs, multiple standing ovations and and impromptu dances that break out among his audiences, the 38-year-old is accomplishing that mission.

A born improviser, DeSare has a unique gauge of the ambiance of each venue and the energy of any given audience. He is known to shift gears frequently, never failing to make each performance fresh and surprising.

“I will change my set based on how things sound in the room and also adapt during the show to what the audience seems to be really into,” he says. “Some audiences like more jazz improv, some respond more to ballads and some want to party.”

DeSare grew up listening to his father sing and play the guitar every night and took up the violin at the age of 8. By the time he was 10, he’d fallen in love with the piano and was scarcely of legal drinking age when he was hired to perform at bars and hotels around New York. His joy for playing everything from jazz classics to Prince was so apparent to everyone who heard him sing and play that it was and still is uncontrollably contagious.

Of the many popular videos on Desare’s YouTube channel, including his entertaining mash-ups of famous songs from a variety of eras, one of the most striking pieces is the documentary he filmed two years ago in which he traveled around New York City performing on painted pianos placed by art charity organization Sing For Hope. DeSare hit about 15 of the 88 pianos in every borough playing the Irving Berlin classic “I Love a Piano.” The crowds that compulsively gathered around him – jumping children, slow-dancing elderly couples, joggers, tourists and onlookers running the colorful gamut found only in New York City – were all entranced by his mini performances. He called it “an excellent reminder of the power of song.”

“The process of music should be entertaining and have enough to it along with the presentation of music to make it fun,” he says.

Like so much of the musical world, this year DeSare is on a Sinatra kick, naming Ol’ Blue Eyes as the one performer who has, in unparalleled fashion, “influenced everyone from Miles Davis to rock bands and rappers.”

“This summer I’m planning on bringing some of the Sinatra material that I have been doing all over the country in celebration of the Sinatra centennial this year,” DeSare says. “I’ll still mix in some of my originals and pop jazz classics from other eras but will definitely take some time to pay homage. I’m looking forward to being back in Vail.”

Tony DeSare and his trio perform at 9 p.m. July 21 in the intimate lounge dinner setting of Cucina at the Lodge at Vail for the Vail Jazz Club Series. Then he and his quartet (Edward Decker on guitar, Steve Doyle on bass and Allan Finney on drums) return to the big state in the weather-friendly jazz tent in Lionshead from 6 to 8 p.m. for Vail Jazz @ Vail Square on Thursday, July 22. For more information, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

French vocalist returns to Vail in dynamic new duo

Cyrille Aimée and Michael Valeanu are poised to hypnotize Vail Jazz audiences with one-of-a-kind stage magic

Genetically speaking, Cyrille Aimée is not a gypsy. But she always has been at heart. The 30-year-old grew up in the small town of Samois-sur-Seine in northern France and was constantly intrigued by the caravans of musicians and gypsies that would plant themselves in her neighborhood every summer for the annual Django Reinhardt festival.

“The Django festival was part of my life even before I wanted to be a musician. I’d go run around in the street for the festival. It was free for little kids … all the other kids were running around. But little by little I started to be interested in the music part of it,” she says.

Stemming from a spontaneous but circus-like episode when Aimée found herself pedaling down the street on her bike with three gypsy girls packed on it, it wasn’t long before she became an honorary member of the visiting clan.

“A couple of gypsies came over and said I had a nice bike. Three of them hopped on the bike with me, riding down a hill – one on the handlebars, one on the seat, one on the back. They became my friends. I started going into the campsite. The guys were always there playing the guitar. My friend’s brother would teach me how to play and I would teach him how to read.”

Aimée started sneaking out of the house late at night to join the gypsies around their musical campfire and developed a love for singing. By the time she was 18, she was invited to perform on Star Academy, the French equivalent of American Idol. At that point however, she had already decided to head to New York to study Jazz At Purchase College. She did not, however, grow out of her affinity for the gypsy lifestyle. Between semesters, she would bring Jazz Studies friends back to Europe and they toured around performing on street corners for cash.

“We did a tour through Europe, slept on benches for a whole summer,” she says. “We really didn’t have anything. We’d have to play so we could buy food. We had two guitars. My sister was playing the shakers. There was a sax player playing duets with me.”

In Italy, the crew performed at a club during a jam session. The manager was impressed.

“The guy from the club said, ‘If you play for the lunchtime crowd we’ll feed you. Play for dinner and we’ll feed you.’” Aimée ventured to Montreux, Switzerland on her own as her friends waited in Italy to try her vocal chords in a vocal competition at the Montreuz Jazz Festival. She won.

After this adventurous summer, Aimée and her friends returned to Purchase, where she graduated and relocated to Brooklyn, her new base, from which she travels the world performing with orchestras, ensembles and guitar quartets. One of her favorite stage appearance setups is performing as a duet.

“I do love the duo setting,” she says. “It’s kind of like a dance. There’s just the one other person. I like when you never know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if mind-reading is the correct word … it’s more like a connection. It’s not trying to know what the person is thinking, but what the person is feeling.”

Aimée discovered compatriot and fellow NYC transplant Michael Valeanu at a rehearsal in the city and the two immediately connected.

“The first time I ever heard Michael was at a little club in Paris. He was playing in an organ trio, playing a Michael Jackson tune. I loved it. I thought, ‘I have to play with this guy.’”

Aimée had a vision of creating a collection of songs with three guitars and all original material. Thus her collaboration with Valeanu began, and the two released “It’s a Good Day,” a collection of dazzling arrangements featuring Aimée’s gypsy guitar roots as well as hypnotizing accompaniments of Brazilian island string guitar. When Aimée and Valeanu perform, it’s an eclectic, energetic blend of every flavor the French couple has come to know and love.

“We do a lot of standards, but also songs we wrote together – French songs, Spanish songs, we do a little mix. When it’s just the two of us, there’s a lot of freedom to choose whatever we want. Whatever we feel.”

Don’t miss Cyrille Aimée and Michael Valeanu at 9 p.m. July 15 in the intimate lounge dinner setting of Cucina at the Lodge at Vail for the Vail Jazz Club Series. The duo then takes to the big stage from 6 to 8 p.m. for Vail Jazz @ Vail Square on Thursday, July 16 in the Vail Jazz Tent in Lionshead. For tickets or more information, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

 

Brownie: A trumpet king uncrowned

The quickest way to fame today is to be outrageous. With social media and 24-7 news cycles, everyone has a shot at their 15 minutes of fame and the possibility that they can “cash in” on their celebrity status. What passes for “news” is yesteryear’s gossip. When I was a kid, drug addiction, infidelity and divorce didn’t make you famous, it made you infamous. The path to notoriety today is simple: do or say something stupid and make sure there is video of your antics and hope it goes viral. The more shocking your conduct, the more likely it will be noticed and you will be projected into the limelight (actually limelights were replaced by electric lights in theaters in the late 19th century).

In the 1940s to the 1960s many jazz musicians did a lot of stupid things, especially taking drugs, but their goal was to get high, not get caught. The last thing a jazz musician wanted was to get busted or be known as a drug user since drug use could lead to unemployment in NYC because of the revocation of your “cabaret card.” Many musicians did get busted and the public’s perception of the world of jazz, which was never very high due to its earthy origins and the early venues it was performed in (whorehouses and later speakeasies), suffered even more. It is true that many of the jazz musicians who became famous were drug addicts, but they didn’t become famous because they took drugs, they were great jazz artists. But just like today, shocking behavior got you noticed.

One of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, altoist Charlie “Bird” Parker, and his inner circle of jazz musicians, were drug addicts. Many of Bird’s followers wrongly believed that they had to get high so they could play like Bird. Bird would be dead at the age of 34 because of his drug abuse. Fats Navarro, one of the greatest jazz trumpeters, died at the age of 26 from tuberculosis and complications from his heroin addiction.

Bird and Fats are mentioned because they played a central role in the artistic life of Clifford Brown, fondly known as “Brownie,” one of the greatest jazz trumpeters that ever lived. Who you say? Yes, Brownie stands alongside the trumpet kings Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie in the pantheon of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time. If you are mildly aware of jazz history, you probably at least have heard about the first three trumpeters, but unfortunately it is doubtful that you know who Brownie was.

From late 1951, before Brownie was 21, to mid-1956 Brownie played with the who’s who of jazz, many of whom were drug addicts. By 1953 he had extensively toured and recorded in the US and Europe and his reputation and fame were beginning to spread.

By early 1954 he was co-leader of one of the most respected groups in jazz, being hailed as the next Dizzy Gillespie and winning the “New Star Award” in the Down Beat Critics Poll. After a whirlwind courtship he married in 1954 and before the end of 1955 Clifford Brown Jr. was born.

By 1956 Brownie had it all, having ascended to the pinnacle of the world of jazz. Known as a caring, kind and warm person, both on and off the band stand, he was respected and admired by his peers and fans. He composed a number of tunes, two of which, “Joy Spring” and “Daahoud,” have become jazz standards, played and recorded by legions of great jazz musicians over the past 60 years.

Brownie has been described as a brilliant and profound musician who never played a wrong note. He emerged over a four and half year period as a complete musician who had a virtuosic command of the trumpet, with a warm and pure tone, whether playing in the lowest or highest register of his horn. His technical prowess was remarkable, as he could play in an understated lyrical way or a “burning” way, articulating every note.

He escaped the culture of drugs that surrounded him and that killed so many of his jazz contemporaries and always kept his focus on the music. So why don’t most people know who he was? Why didn’t he join Louis, Miles and Dizzy as a Trumpet King? He tragically died in a car accident before he was 26 and since there were no drugs, no scandals, no shameful or shocking behavior, he quickly disappeared from the front pages of the newspapers. His life was sadly cut short, but fortunately his music can still be heard and on the evening of Sept. 6, Vail Jazz will present Byron Stripling in his Multi-Media Tribute to Brownie at the Marriott Hotel as part of the 21st Annual Vail Jazz Festival.

Howard.mugShotHoward Stone is the founder and artistic director of The Vail Jazz Foundation, which produces the annual Vail Jazz Festival. Celebrating its 21st year, the Vail Jazz Festival is a summer-long celebration of jazz music, culminating with the Labor Day weekend Vail Jazz Party. Visit vailjazz.org for more information.