Swingin’ Affair celebrates Sinatra’s 100th birthday

The material form of Frank Sinatra isn’t around to celebrate his 100th birthday this year, but his legacy is embodied in a force that will impact the music and entertainment industry for centuries to come.

Revered by many as the most popular entertainer in history, Sinatra kicked off his career as a big band singer in the 1930s with the Tommy Dorsey and Harry James bands. His hypnotizing voice first won its way into the world’s hearts crooning classics like “New York, New York” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” His unmistakable, swinging vocal style has become gospel for these hits. Sinatra was quickly appointed a master of song and, among other nicknames, The Chairman of the Board. He went solo in 1942 and broke ground for a steady, nonstop string of solo artists that continues today.

The Voice

Sinatra was the first to draw attention to the fact that the voice is a complex and specialized instrument. (Another of his nicknames, after all, is The Voice). He used it in a way that crossed musical genres, strategically creating a catalogue that not only dominated the musical charts (“Only the Lonely,” “My Way” and “Strangers in the Night,”) but also resonated with pop fans, big band purists and even classical music lovers. Of course, the man could also act, and he won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his role in “From Here to Eternity” and landed leads and much acclaim in classics like “The Man with the Golden Arm” and “The Manchurian Candidate.”

Even into old age, Sinatra swooned audiences before passing away in 1998 at the age of 82. This December, The Sultan of Swoon would be 100 years old, but his legacy is eternal.

Sinatra’s influence and inspiration lives on, which is why the world will celebrate his 100th. Several documentaries and historical exhibits have popped up throughout the country, sports teams have been acknowledging Ol’ Blue Eyes with a tribute night, Jack Daniels has made a select Sinatra whiskey blend and, yes, there is even a free mobile app (search for “Frank Sinatra 100” in the App Store). This spring, dozens of musicians gathered in New York City for a tribute at Carnegie Hall. In one form or other, his style has influenced every musician.

Curtis Stigers on Frank Sinatra

One artist unquestionably inspired by Sinatra is Curtis Stigers, who will star in the Vail Jazz Festival’s A Swingin’ Affair on July 13, Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday celebration, in which he will perform a rare lineup of Nelson Riddle arrangements written expressly for Sinatra. While Stigers cites a variety of artists as inspiration — Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan — he said “Frank wins out as my favorite.”

“Sinatra’s ability to tell a story with a song’s lyrics is second to none,” Stigers said. “He also had an incredible ability to swing and to move in and out of a song’s time with ease and mastery. I’ve studied his records like textbooks, trying to absorb his technique and style and put it into my music.”

Stigers’ goal in the upcoming Vail performance is not to channel Sinatra but to pay homage to The Chairman’s talent with his own flare.

“The trick to singing Sinatra arrangements for me is to find a way to be true to what Frank did and still sing in my own voice,” he said. “I want to celebrate Sinatra without doing an impression of him. These arrangements are so much fun to sing.”

More than etching his one-of-a-kind sound and style into the world, Sinatra’s incomparable ability to continuously rise to the top over a career that spanned a whopping six decades resonates with other artists.

“Every time it looked like he was washed up as a pop star, he managed to evolve and grow, make a great album or series of albums, and suddenly he was back on top again,” Stigers said. “Frank Sinatra is the best pop singer in the history of recorded music. He combined pop and jazz and show music to create a way of singing that has influenced several generations of singers.”

Hazel Scott: To thy own self be true

This year as part of the 21st Annual Vail Jazz Festival, we pay tribute to the contributions that women have made to jazz, presenting some of the top performers in jazz today. The festival culminates with the screening of the wonderful documentary film “The Girls in the Band” and a special performance of a “Multi-Media Tribute to Women in Jazz” over Labor Day Weekend. Much has been written about the plight of women in jazz and how difficult their journey has been in the male dominated genre. While focusing on this issue in an upcoming article, today I want to pay tribute to Hazel Dorothy Scott, a jazz pianist, singer and entertainer, not because of her prodigious musical talents (she was a remarkably gifted and dedicated musician), but because of her dedication to her ideals that epitomized her strength of character and a commitment to honesty and integrity that we all too often pay lip-service to: “to thy own self be true.” Her story has rarely been told, but it deserves to be known by all as she was a remarkable person.

A music prodigy, Scott was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago in 1920, and was brought to New York City at the age of 4. By the time she was 8, she was attending the Juilliard School on scholarship and by her teens she was an accomplished pianist performing in a jazz band and on the radio. Among her early credits were performances at the Roseland Dance Hall with the Count Basie Orchestra, Café Society’s “ From Bach to Boogie-Woogie” in Carnegie Hall and theater appearances in the “Cotton Club Revue of 1938.” Scott was equally comfortable performing classical and jazz (including blues and boogie-woogie) repertoire on the piano and singing ballads and Broadway tunes.

Scott felt strongly about civil rights and as her star power grew she had the opportunity to become more of an activist. In the early 1940s Scott began making films in Hollywood and together with Lena Horne was the first African American woman to successfully demand that she not be cast as a singing maid or in other demeaning roles. Instead Scott played roles where she was cast as herself. Her film career with Columbia Pictures ended abruptly when she clashed with the studio over a costume which she felt “stereotyped blacks.”

By the mid-1940s she was a major star earning $75,000 per year – equivalent to $1,000,000 per annum today – and her commitment to her ideals and civil rights were even more at the forefront of her ambition. While touring in Texas, Scott refused to perform before a segregated audience and had to be escorted by Texas Rangers from the venue. After the incident she asked: “Why would anyone come to hear me, a Negro, and refuse to sit beside someone just like me?”

 

When she and a companion were refused service in a restaurant in Washington in 1949, Scott brought suit and inspired civil rights organizations to successfully pressure the state of Washington to pass legislation outlawing discrimination in public accommodations.

By 1950 she was the star of “The Hazel Scott Show,” becoming the first African American woman to have her own television show. By all accounts, she was sitting on top of the world, having conquered stage, screen, nightclubs and finally television, but storm clouds were gathering in the U.S. and Scott was one of many caught up by the Red Scare of Joseph McCarthy.

Called before the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee to testify, Scott’s lifetime of hard work was destroyed in one afternoon. The week following her testimony, Scott’s television show was cancelled and her career began to decline and work became harder and harder to get.

By the late 1950s with her career in shambles, Scott left the U.S. for Paris and for the next decade she struggled to maintain her career, appearing in French films and touring periodically in Europe. In 1967 with the Civil Rights movement well underway, she returned home but never regained the career she once had. Playing occasional nightclub gigs, Scott began appearing in daytime television soap operas until 1981, when she died of cancer at the age of 61.

Hazel Dorothy Scott paid a dreadful price for having the courage to stand up and fight for what she knew was right, but her commitment to her principles inspired countless others to defend their rights and paved the way for successive generations of people of color to have an equal opportunity in the film and entertainment industry and beyond.

Howard.mugShot 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.

 

Singing from the soul to the soul

Combining traditional jazz with funk, blues and contagious joy, Nicole Henry makes Vail debut.

Nicole Henry believes that human beings are all connected. She strives to instill her audience with this notion every time she hits a particular note or loads a verse full of heart-resounding fervor.

“That’s the reason that I sing. We, in our own little way, want to either save ourselves or save the world as artists. We want to make a difference. The reason we want to inspire people is that we know we’re connected. We have the same fears, the same desires, the same spirit,” Henry says.

The Miami-based singer cites Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughn as inspiration and has been sized up as a traditional jazz vocalist (she won the 2013 Soul Train Award for Best Traditional Jazz Performance). But really, her style straddles the borders of jazz, R & B, funk, gospel and contains a solid dose of soul. Swaying with eyes closed, reaching and quivering on stage, Henry summons each word from her core. The glowing aura – both visual and auditory – that she emanates serves as an intimate conversation with the audience.

Even while belting out emotional sentiments, Henry’s delivery is powerfully uplifting. Perhaps this is because the overriding feeling she’s always had while singing is pure happiness. Oddly, she took little notice of her ability to enrapture an audience as she was growing up, even as she was continuously asked to perform.

“I didn’t realize I had a unique talent necessarily until I was in college,” she says. “I always just did it. I sang the national anthem at every basketball game, every football game, but it was just something I did. I took it for granted. Even winning the talent competitions at my high school, I didn’t think about it as a real passion. It was just something I had fun doing. It was when I had a chance to sing for people who didn’t know me that it hit – these people don’t know who I am and they really like what I’m doing. I realized the power of being an entertainer and that’s when I was addicted. It was like, OK.This is what I’m capable of.”

The jazz world’s most acclaimed new vocalists, Nicole Henry, will play at Vail Jazz Club Series and Vail Jazz @ Vail Square on July 8th and July 9th

That was in 1997 and since then Henry has released seven studio albums, a new single last year and is in the process of putting together a new record, rife with original material. She has also wandered down the path of theater and acting, appearing in several commercials and voice overs. But music is the backbone of her artistic expression.

“It was a natural gravitation because music has this immediacy that I really enjoy. With theater, it takes much more time. I think singing is like a sprint, acting is more like a marathon, short term satisfaction. It just wound up that singing was more fulfilling to me, at least immediately.”

When she’s on stage, Henry views her performance as a three-part power formula.

“One is listening to my band, particularly when a song intro begins. If I just focus on how supportive my band is, how much feeling they put into it, I get so lost and appreciative,” she says. “That’s the dim light going bright in my mouth and here I am floating on top of this music. The other place is  – when I hear that, I think of how grateful I am, how appreciative I am that I’m – I get so lost and happy about that. That’s the light starting the dim going bright. The other part is where I’m in the song, the sound coming out like a stream of light and here I am floating on top of this music. Then I look at this audience and I feel their energy and their desire to be entertained. It’s those three coming together. It’s a real buzz.”

Anyone familiar with Henry’s performance can attest to the fact that the buzz is contagious. The light she generates moves through every ear, every soul, every molecule within sound range.

“I would say it’s an inspired performance, uplifting and inspiring. We have so much fun when we’re making music, my band and I. We go between heavy and light as far as content and messages. It’s all for forward progress,” she says. “When I sing, I’m there to remind people that we are all human. As different as we are, we share the same basic things. I love reminding people to celebrate regardless of how confused they are, how unfortunate, how fortunate, that music is something we can all enjoy.”

Was Sinatra a jazz singer?

On July 13, Vail Jazz celebrates the centennial of the birth of Francis Albert Sinatra in a special show entitled “A Swingin’ Affair,” featuring Curtis Stigers and the H2 Big Band. Sinatra, variously known as “The Voice,” “Ol’ Blue Eyes,” “The Chairman of the Board,” “Frankie” and “The Sultan of Swoon,” was by most accounts the greatest entertainer in the history of American pop culture, with a career that spanned more than five decades from the late 1930s to the 1990s. Dropping out of high school with no formal music training, he couldn’t read music, but he went from a teen idol to a living legend. His first hit, “All or Nothing at All,” foretold his future and summed up his philosophy and the arc of his career.

Much has been written about him as a cultural icon and the public has had an insatiable appetite for the salacious details of his personal life and all his exploits, womanizing, connections to the mob, leader of the Rat Pack and much more. It should not be forgotten that he was the winner of nine Grammy Awards, three Academy Awards, a Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Congressional Gold Medal. In addition, he spoke out against anti-Semitism and was involved in the civil rights movement as well as being very philanthropic.

DEFINING JAZZ

Sinatra was no doubt a great pop singer, but I focus here on a simple question: Was he a jazz singer? I’ll answer that with another question: Does it snow in Vail? The unequivocal answer is YES!

Dropping out of high school with no formal music training, he couldn’t read music, but he went from a teen idol to a living legend.

So what is a “jazz singer”? While there is no rigid definition, the hallmark of jazz and therefore a jazz vocalist is to swing and improvise. Swing is hard to define, but according to jazzinamerica.org, a performance swings when it uses “a rhythmically coordinated way … to command a visceral response from the listener (to cause feet to tap and heads to nod).” If you still don’t get what swing is, listen to “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” from “Songs for Swingin’ Lovers,” one of Sinatra’s greatest recorded tunes. If you still don’t get it, I suggest that you focus your listening on polka music!

To improvise in the world of jazz is to compose on the spot. Techniques such as singing behind the beat, accenting words and changing the phrasing (grouping lyrics in a way that is different than the composer wrote them, but suits the vocalist’s sensibility of how the lyrics should be interpreted), altering (and substituting) lyrics, all allow a vocalist to make a song his own. In essence, by using these techniques (not just as techniques, but as a way of communicating with the listener), the vocalist becomes the composer of a new song (based of course on the original one) and if the vocalist can make the listener tap his feet, click his figures or nod his head, you have a jazz vocalist.

Sinatra had swagger, and his half-cocked hat said that he was a jazz musician, but attitude and attire are not enough. He sang and recorded with many jazz greats. His phrasing and music sensibility were admired by great jazz musicians such as Count Basie, Miles Davis and Lester “Prez” Young and many more, but it is not the company you keep or the admirers that you have, but how you sing that determines your bon fides as a jazz singer. He recorded albums with the great Nelson Riddle with titles such as “Swing Easy,” “Songs for Swingin’ Lovers” and “A Swingin’ Affair,” but branding is one thing and really swinging is another.

AN ‘HONEST’ SINGER

Ultimately, you have to be able to deliver the goods and The Chairman of the Board could. Learning early in his career how to sustain long unbroken phrases without pausing to catch his breath allowed him to be adventurous with the phrases of a song. Sinatra listened to the jazz instrumental soloists he admired and used similar phrasing in his performances. Students of Sinatra’s catalog can point to numerous renditions of Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer lyrics that Sinatra “tweaked,” remaking these standards into his own. His diction was impeccable but yet had a conversational quality. It has been said that he had an incredible sense of time which allowed him to alter a phrase so the beat didn’t always coincide with the ending of a rhyme, but created a sense of sincerity making the lyrics more personal and causing the listener to believe the story that was being told. In fact he was quoted as saying: “When I sing, I believe. I’m honest.”

How ‘Gypsy Jazz’ moved from India to France to Vail

Our story begins in northern India more than 1,500 years ago when a small group of Hindi people began migrating from their homeland. Over centuries they made their way through the Balkans to Eastern Europe and ultimately throughout the world. They are the Roma or Romani people, known as Gypsies, a term many feel is used pejoratively against a people who have been persecuted wherever they have settled. Being predominately dark skinned, they have not been welcomed in their host countries and have continuously been on the move with a nomadic lifestyle. Originally thought to have come from Egypt, the term “Gypsy” was derived from the mistaken belief that this was their country of origin, but geneticists using the DNA of the Romani have conclusively traced their origins to the Punjab region of India.

The critically-acclaimed Django Festival All-Stars, who will play at Vail Jazz @ Vail Square on July 2

Blessed with a rich musical tradition, many earned their living by being nomadic entertainers and wherever they took refuge, they greatly influenced the music traditions of their hosts. This outsized impact can be heard in the flamenco music of Spain, derived directly from Romani music. Turkish, Russian and Eastern European music has been greatly influenced by Romani music (e.g., Liszt’s famous “Hungarian Rhapsodies”) and there is now a well-established technique of violin playing known as Gypsy Violin.

Jean Baptiste “Django” Reinhardt, the son of a traveling entertainer, was born in Belgium in 1910 but grew up in France in a Gypsy settlement outside of Paris. Django began to play music at an early age, but his left hand was severely burned in a campfire when he was 18. He overcame the disability by inventing a unique fingering technique on the guitar, and by the ’30s, he was touring internationally, becoming one of the most important jazz guitarists of all time. As a founding member of the Quintette du Hot Club de France, he invented a style of jazz known as “Gypsy Jazz” that has been played for more than 80 years throughout the world. Django could not read music, but that didn’t matter. By using a guitar as a rhythm instrument (the player strums it in a distinctive percussive manner), Django was able to dispense with the drums and was able to combine two guitars (one rhythm and one melody), a violin, an accordion and a bass to create the classic “hot club” sound. With the emphasis on the second and fourth beat of each measure, Gypsy Jazz has a “swinging” toe-tapping feel that never fails to entertain.

The vocal sensation Cyrille Aimée, who will play at Vail Jazz Club Series on July 15 and Vail Jazz @ Vail Square on July 16

Branding is everything today, and in the world of Gypsy Jazz, there is no shortage of “Hot Club” bands here in the U.S. — the Hot Club of Detroit, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and even Cowtown, to name a few. In addition, there are many Django festivals in cities throughout the U.S. and Europe, with some straying from the authentic into a more commercialized form of the music, which is sometimes jokingly referred to as “Gadjo Jazz” (Romani for “non-Romani jazz”).

Carrying on the true tradition of Django is the Festival de Jazz Django Reinhardt presented annually in Samois-sur-Seine, France (the town where Django lived at the end of his life — he died tragically of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 43). This lovely town is venerated by the Gypsy Jazz community as being the place where authentic Django music is presented each year. With devotees (listeners and performers alike) from throughout the world descending on this beautiful village not far from Fontainebleau, it becomes the center of Gypsy Jazz for one week each year in late June.

So now you know the part of the story of how a unique music made its way from India to France, but where does Vail fit into the story? This year, Vail Jazz is pleased to celebrate the music of Django in Vail during our 21st annual Vail Jazz Festival by presenting two of the most compelling internationally known interpreters of Gypsy Jazz: The Django Festival All-Stars (6 p.m. July 2 at Vail Jazz at Vail Square in Lionshead); and vocalist Cyrille Aimee (9 p.m. July 15 at Cucina at the Lodge at Vail and at 6 p.m. July 16 at Vail Jazz at Vail Square in Lionshead). The All-Stars are a quintet with classic instrumentation and a commitment to swing hard and faithfully play the music of Django. Aimee is a Vail Jazz Festival favorite who grew up in Samois-sur-Seine and fell in love with Gypsy Jazz as a young girl. She is now entertaining audiences with a wide range of vocal stylings, including Gypsy Jazz, that have propelled her to the top of the world of jazz.

 

2015 Vail Jazz Festival programs + merchandise now available!

Check it out! The 21st Annual Vail Jazz Festival programs are hot off the press! Be sure to pick up your own copy, at Vail Daily newsstands and throughout the Vail Valley, for information on this summer’s performances and events.

Can’t wait to get your own copy? Click the button below and you can view our program online now!

Vail Jazz would like to give a big thank you to our generous sponsors and advertisers who helped to make this years program such a success.

 

Also, 2015 Vail Jazz Festival merchandise is now officially on sale! Check out our new online shop, and grab your Vail Jazz gear before the Festival starts – only 4 days away!

Vail Jazz Workshop among America’s most promising outlets for young musical prodigies

It’s true that the key ingredient behind history’s most respected jazz musicians is innate talent. Of course, passion, heart and focus also play a role, but at some point along the way, each musician has learned from another.

The United States has famously produced many of the world’s greatest jazz artists through a slew of famous and elite programs and schools, but the Vail Jazz Workshop has flown under the radar as a springboard for young, prodigal musicians, although it has quietly helped shape the future of jazz for the past 20 years.

This summer, the Vail Jazz Workshop celebrates its 20th year and, as a telltale token of its success and growing reputation, a whopping 140 nominations were submitted for the workshop’s 12 slots.

It’s always a tough pick, said Howard Stone, founder of the Vail Jazz Foundation, which brings the lucky 12 to Vail every summer, providing full or partial scholarships. Stone has even shopped for dress shoes with at least one workshop student and run out to purchase a trumpet for another whose instrument could not hold up to the demands of the program, as many participants come from poverty-stricken backgrounds.

Look at any of the 238 artists that have attended the Vail Jazz Workshop over the last two decades and the vast majority has gone on to notch jaw-dropping accomplishments.

For example, Vail alumni and recent Labor Day Jazz Party returnee Tia Fuller is the band leader of Beyonce’s notoriously talented all-female band. Obed Calvaire drums for the San Francisco Jazz Collective and performs with Monty Alexander, Wynton Marsalis and many others. Saxophonist Grace Kelly has been featured on CNN, NPR and in Glamour Magazine, and of course you’ve all heard of Grammy-winning pianist Robert Glasper, who won the 2013 Grammy for Best R&B album and nabbed his second Grammy this year for Best Traditional R&B Performance.

“Getting to study and meet the incredible faculty was an experience I can’t quite put into words,” said Kelly, who returned last Labor Day weekend as part of the Vail Alumni Quartet.

“I learned so many important lessons musically at Vail and the most important thing is they didn’t teach out of music books. They taught right out of their life experiences,” Kelly said.

‘YOU HAVE THE POWER’

Vail Jazz Workshop faculty members are also the talent behind the Vail Jazz Party House Band — John Clayton, Terrell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe, Wycliffe Gordon, Lewis Nash and new this summer, Dick Oatts replaces 20-year Vail Jazz saxophone instructor Jeff Clayton, who is now living in Australia.

Unlike programs set up more like masters lessons, the Vail Jazz Workshop is focused on rounding out the students’ existing talent with the ability to play by ear, using memorization and no written music during the 10-day program.

“It’s about balance. The person who can play by ear and read music and understand theory — they have more choices,” said John Clayton, who effectively masterminded and launched the Vail Jazz Workshop 20 years ago along with Vail Jazz founder Howard Stone. “On that first day at the workshop when we get a feel for their level, through the years, our eyebrows go up higher and higher. We look at each other and say, ‘Wow. Not only are they doing stuff we could never do at their age, but they’re doing stuff we can’t even do now.’ Still, we offer them things they haven’t been exposed to and that they can really take with them even if they can — and I’m exaggerating a little bit — play rings around us.”

With six instructors and 12 students, each young musician gets ample one-on-one mentor time in the workshop, and in Fuller’s case, the introspective coaching she received from Clayton has truly shaped her career.

“What I value most from John Clayton is his ability to show you that you have the power,” Fuller said. “Whenever I’ve asked him a question about my playing or a problem, he always turns the question right around on me and I have had the solution the whole time.”

All students are nominated for the program by individuals who have taken stock of their talent … often a high school music teacher or band leader.

“It’s amazing to have a program that reaches out to the kids who would not be able to afford to participate in such an event,” said Calvaire, who learned to play drums by ear in his family’s church while growing up in Miami. “At 16, you’re still looking for a voice and looking for ways to find your musical journey and path, and that program really helps you find it.”

Riverwalk First Fridays debuts June 5th

The Riverwalk at Edwards is home to a new four-part concert series in summer 2015 – Riverwalk First Fridays. Held in Edwards’ delightfully scenic new gathering place for community functions and entertainment – the Riverwalk Backyard Amphitheatre – First Fridays will bring together local merchants and jazz greats from the Front Range for 4 iterations of what is sure to be a charming assembly of great music, local beer, wine, food and vendors.

Nestled on the banks of the Eagle River and flanked by Riverwalk’s shopping and dining options, Riverwalk First Fridays promises to deliver a casual, affordable experience on the first Fridays of June, July, August and September.

Executive Director Robin Litt on TV8

The series is sponsored by Alpine Bank, a longtime supporter of music and culture in the Vail Valley, and is produced by Vail Jazz and KZYR 97.7 The Zephyr. A free concert series that features kids activities and a weekly vendor theme, First Fridays presents a wonderful new multi-generational, family oriented entertainment option for mid-valley residents and visitors. And for the shopper looking to explore what Riverwalk has to offer, each week will feature a theme, where special promotions and activities will be built around two to three Riverwalk businesses. The themes consists of 4 summery variations on beauty, activities and family fun: June 5th – “Ultimate Camp Out,” July 3rd – “All American Kids,” August 7th – “Something Fishy,” and September 4th – Mountain Makeovers.”

Gates open at 4:30pm for vendor, food and beverage sales and performances will take place from 5:30-7:30pm. The party continues into the night on July 3rd and August 7th at Main Street Grill for an “Official After-Party,” complete with more live music.

The series will commence on June 5th with the salsa and Latin jazz group Ritmo Jazz Latino, one of Denver’s finest Latin bands. The band’s exotic blend of salsa, afro-cuban, and Latin jazz influences have collectively translated into the band’s stunning reputation on the Front Range music scene. Trumpeter Dr. Walter Barr leads the group, a well-known educator and clinician based out of The Metropolitan State University of Denver.

July 3 welcomes the upbeat blues and boogie-woogie songcraft of Lionel Young, a popular bluesman from the Denver area. Young’s All-American blues fiddlin’ will kick off the holiday weekend celebration with a style that hails from Mississipi and Kansas City. With violin virtuosity that has impressed the likes of Count Basie, Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Paige/Robert Plant, and Doc Severenson, Lionel Young and his 4-piece band will get the crowd stomping into the holiday evening with a little extra soul in each step.

Otone Brass Band, an eight piece group comprised of seasoned pros of the Front Range, will bring a funky New Orleans flavor of street music to First Fridays on August 7th. Complete with trumpets, saxes, trombones and even a sousaphone, the occasion is a recipe for a funky dance party.

The series rounds out on September 4th with Brothers Keeper – the hometown boys. You can regularly find these blues rock veterans holding down the late night set at Shakedown Bar in Vail Village. With national tours and regular appearances alongside John Popper and Hall and Oates under their belts, the men of Brothers Keeper are an exceptional Blues Rock and American roots band that will bring a fervent close to Riverwalk First Fridays’ first year in town.

“The goal from the beginning with Riverwalk First Fridays was to utilize this ideal new music venue, and to give Edwards families a great reason to get together and enjoy incredible music, beer, wine, food and good company,” said Vail Jazz Development Manager Owen Hutchinson. “This series is well on its way to becoming just that.”

In addition to Alpine Bank, sponsorship for the new series comes from the Riverwalk Association, Gateway Real Estate, 1st and Main, Alpine Insurance, Bonfire Brewing, Vail Board of Realtors, Bloch & Chapleau, and Riverwalk Wine & Spirits. Vendor space is available with discounts for Riverwalk businesses. Businesses can sign on for one event or for all four at a discount. Vendors already confirmed include all sponsors listed above, plus Merle Norman Cosmetics, Kids Cottage, Sugar Bar, Rocky Mountain Silver and Beads, Old Forge Pizza, Vintage Magnolia, Bishop Orthodontics and more.

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

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

VAIL JAZZ AT VAIL SQUARE

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

July 2: Django Festival All-Stars

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

July 9: Nicole Henry

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

July 16: Cyrille Aimee and Michael Valeanu Duo

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

July 23: Tony DeSare

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

July 30: DIVA

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

Aug. 6: Hiromi: The Trio Project

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

Aug. 13: Tommy Igoe Sextet

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

Aug. 20: Bria Skonberg Quartet

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

Aug. 27: Gregory Porter

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

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

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

ALL NEW THIS SUMMER

Vail Jazz Club Series

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

Vail Jazz at Sweet Basil

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

Frank Sinatra 100th birthday bash

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

 

Vail Jazz Goes to School Sextet Performs Concert for Local Students!

Vail Jazz Goes to School wraps up its seventeenth year in Eagle County with three special jazz performances at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek on May 4 & 5 featuring the Jazz Goes to School Sextet. “This is such a rich and exciting performance and it’s a fabulous end to the lessons that have taken place throughout the school year to every 4th and 5th grade class,” said Robin Litt, executive director of the Vail Jazz Foundation.

The fourth and final session of the Jazz Goes to School educational program, entitled “Giants of Jzz”, features a selection of tunes that have shaped the history of jazz in America.

Local jazz musician and professional jazz educator, Tony Gulizia (keyboard and vocals), directs the Vail Jazz Goes to School program. “The concert includes legendary jazz tunes by Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and others”, said Gulizia. “We also perform a medley of blues compositions authored by the fifth graders as part of the concert – their lyrics are priceless!” said Gulizia.

Tony Gulizia’s brother Joey, also a professional jazz musician and educator (drummer), joins Tony on stage, as does Andy Hall (bass), Gary Regina (saxophone), Mike Gurciullo (trumpet) and Michael Pujado (congas and percussion). The sextet presents a dynamic, foot stompin’ show that pulls together all of the concepts taught in the first three classroom sessions, as demonstrated in some of Jazz’s finest works.

Vail Jazz Goes to School is presented by The Vail Jazz Foundation, a 501c3 charitable foundation dedicated to perpetuating jazz with a focus on young musicians and young audiences. The program educates over 1,100 fourth and fifth graders annually in the Eagle County School District RE-50J, plus the Eagle County Charter Academy, Vail Mountain School, The Vail Academy, Stone Creek Charter School, and St. Clare of Assisi. Vail Jazz Goes to School has exposed over 17,000 local school children to jazz music since inception.

Building on the success of Vail Jazz Goes to School, Vail Jazz will offer a summer hands-on musical experience, called “Jammin’ Jazz Kids” every Sunday in July. In conjunction with Vail Jazz @ The Market at the Vail Farmers’ Market, youngsters ages 4 to 12 will be able to explore the history of Jazz along with a fun learning experience with children playing a variety of percussion instruments – maracas, bongos, congas, tambourines and Orff instruments. Participating children will also listen to and join with jazz musicians in playing music and learning the art of improvisation. Sunday programs will be 45 minutes in length and offered at no charge.

Vail Jazz Goes to School is sponsored in part by Alpine Bank, Vilar PAC Community Use Fund, Colorado Mountain Express (Official Transportation Provider), all fifteen elementary schools’ PTOs, United Way Eagle River Valley, Vail Resorts Echo, Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, Antlers at Vail, Local Joe’s Pizza, East West Resorts, Lifthouse Lodge and numerous private donors.

Vail Jazz will announce its lineup and tickets will go on sale on May 1st for the 21st Annual Vail Jazz Festival. “The Festival will host nearly 50 free and ticketed concerts in different venues throughout Vail. And will host over 150 artists who will share their passion for this original American art form with locals and visitors to Vail. Our renowned artists are chosen for their broad appeal to all ages and audiences and are highly regarded for their stage presence and entertainment value. They have great appeal even for audiences who don’t necessarily wear the ‘jazz fan’ label!” Litt commented, “We hope youngsters who got a taste of jazz through Vail Jazz Goes to School will join us this summer at the Vail Jazz Festival!”