Vail Jazz Escalates to New Heights in 2015

Tickets are on sale now for a summer of iconic jazz stars, sizzling up-and-coming artists and plenty of female power 

Vail Jazz is sporting a brand new look just in time to show off its star-studded summer lineup, the tickets for which are now on sale via the revamped, user-friendly Website, vailjazz.org.

When long-time jazz fan Howard Stone first envisioned the Vail Jazz Festival in Vail, Colo.,  it came to fruition 21 years ago as a one-weekend extravaganza over Labor Day Weekend featuring a small but impressive lineup of the genre’s A-list artists. It was designed to be a one-time affair. The vibrant annual event, the dynamic, year-round organization, the product with robust lasting potential, the very concept of a brand … none of these things were on the table at all with Stone’s original vision.

But then the people spoke. The force of the music spread. Why not have a multi-day live music blowout every Labor Day weekend? How about weekly concerts throughout the summer? How about bringing in the country’s top teenage musical prodigies to groom, ensuring that jazz never dies?

Before Stone or anyone else knew it, the Vail Jazz Foundation was born and blossoming so quickly it soon became a solid, colorful, magnificent tree. It became a tree that, like the genre of jazz itself, has many, many branches, with new ones growing every year. Today the Foundation is a smooth-running vessel operated by a driven board of directors and a talented team of full-time staff members who bring live jazz and musical lessons of all variety to big and small stages, private homes and classrooms throughout the year. Vail Jazz is a brand. It is a brand that stands for quality … the highest quality of music there is.

“It’s real jazz, first and foremost,” Stone says. “Even some of the greatest jazz festivals have become much more pop music festivals with a jazz accent. Maybe it’s my stubbornness, maybe it’s my passion, I just feel like this music is so great it deserves to be heard by as many people as possible. Once we started down this road, we wanted to perpetuate the art form through performance and education. We’ve stayed totally true to that. The thing to emphasize about any one Vail Jazz event is that it’s a really, really good time.”

The 21st Annual Vail Jazz Festival displays the scope of the jazz tree’s broad reach – from swing to reggae, blues to country to soul – there are more colors to the tree’s every branch and more fresh blooms than ever before.

The festival kicks off with the Thursday Vail Jazz @Vail Square series on July 2 with newcomers Django Festival All-Stars featuring Samson Schmitt, Ludovic Beier and Pierre Blanchard, regulars on the New York City jazz circuit and hailed for having some of the “fastest fingers in music.” It’s a five-piece band fueled by  a pair of lightning-fast guitars, a fiddle, an accordion and a stand-up bass. The series continues every Thursday through Sept. 3, bringing in time-tested Vail favorites like the groovy, drum-driven tunes of the Tommy Igoe Sextet (whose name you might recognize from “The Lion King” Broadway musical) and young pianist/vocalist Tony DeSare with his award-winning original songs and creative fusions of jazz classics with current pop hits.

Vail Jazz is also famous for introducing up-and-coming artists right before they hit the global radar. This summer features sizzling sensations like Canadian trumpet player/vocalist Bria Skonberg and the all-women big band DIVA, both of which also speak to the 2015 Vail Jazz Festival’s ample representation of female talent.

As always, the summer culminates with the explosive grand finale, the 21st Annual Vail Jazz Party over Labor Day Weekend. Comprised of five nights and four days of wall-to-wall music, the Party stars the Vail Jazz House Band (John Clayton, Wycliffe Gordon, TerelLStafford, Lewis Nash, Bill Cunliffe and newcomer Dick Oatts), Roberta Gambarini and Her Trio, George Cables Trio, soloists Niki Haris, Jeff Hamilton, Howard Levy, Russell Malone, Shelley Berg and many, many more. Headliners for the weekend include the Vail Jazz Alumni Quintet, made up of graduates of the Vail Jazz Workshop.

The entire festival aims to honor the best of jazz, introducing and skyrocketing young artists, hosting one-of-a-kind performances by jazz icons and paying tribute to immortal legends. Every Wednesday evening in July, Vail Jazz brings the all-new Club Series to Cucina Rustica in the Lodge at Vail for an intimate, dinner lounge performance with nationally acclaimed artists such as Nicole Henry and Five Play. As far as tributes to legends, one standout event is A Swinging Affair, on July 13, Frank Sinatra’s 100th Birthday celebration, dinner and tribute concert starring renowned vocalist Curtis Stigers and the H2 Big Band at the Lodge at Vail.

Yes, it’s going to be a jaw-dropping, ear candy-indulging, girl-powered summer of music. Tickets are limited and on sale now.

Vail Jazz festival’s winter series continues Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catch live jazz at Solantro’s in Vail

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

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

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

JAZZ LINEUP

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

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

Vail Jazz presents live webcasts in Edwards

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

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

February and March dates have just been added.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eagle County students swing with Jazz Goes to School

VAIL — Jazz Goes to School, Vail Jazz Foundation’s jazz education program for fourth- and fifth-graders, returns to Eagle County schools Tuesday through Friday, Jan. 23. The program features a quintet of professional musician educators who travel to 16 local elementary schools to share their love of jazz and American history, and inspire young people to embrace jazz: America’s original art form.

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

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

Later in the Jazz Goes to School curriculum, the older students try their hand at writing their own jazz music. The final concert in May at the Vilar Performing Arts Center includes blues compositions created by the fifth-graders, performed in an exciting medley format.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Gulizia is not the only one who appreciates how Jazz Goes to School makes a difference for local kids. Vail Resorts Epic Promise, the company’s philanthropy program, has identified Jazz Goes to School as a necessary and valuable way to help bring the arts into our schools.”

Vail Resorts supports Jazz Goes to School as an incredibly important program that teaches the wonders of jazz to the children of Eagle County,” said Nicky DeFord, manager of charitable giving for Vail Resorts.

Additionally, Alpine Bank’s grant to Vail Jazz provides funds to bring the accomplished jazz instructors into all elementary schools in the region.

“We encourage parents of fourth- and fifth-graders to attend their children’s programs to share their enthusiasm for what they’re learning. Their love for the program can be really infectious,” said Robin Litt, executive director of Vail Jazz.

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

ABOUT JAZZ GOES TO SCHOOL

Jazz Goes to School, which is in its 16th year, supports and promotes the jazz art form with a focus on educating young musicians and young audiences. Jazz Goes to School is presented to Eagle County fourth- and fifth-graders, including all public schools plus the Eagle County Charter Academy, Vail Mountain School, Vail Christian Academy, Stone Creek Elementary Schools and St. Clare of Assisi. Jazz Goes to School reaches over 1,100 students each year and has exposed more than 15,000 students to the course about this uniquely American art form. To learn more, visit www.vailjazz.org.