Kick off 2017 with hot jazz

The Sonnenalp sets the stage for a spicy jazz club scene on cold winter nights!

Go to a jazz club in any of the world’s major cities and it’s abuzz with an unmistakable sizzling magic on show nights. There is not one, but two performances – one for the earlier crowd and one for the later crowd. The acoustics envelope the intimate audience and the artist delivers something special to each crowd.

This scene is coming to Vail, Colo. this winter with the all-new 2017 Vail Jazz Winter Series. The Series features four artists, each filling a diverse corner of the vast jazz umbrella. For the first time in Vail Jazz’s 22-year life span, the Winter Series will take place at Ludwig’s Terrace in the Sonnenalp Hotel.

Surrounded by glass on three sides and the roof with the stars shining through, the space checks every characteristic off the list as far as an elegant and classic jazz lounge setting with the added benefit of its distinctly alpine appeal perched in the woods at the base of Vail Mountain. Seating will be club style, around small tables offering a special menu featuring a full bar and scrumptious small and large plates available for both performances – the 6 p.m. set and the 8:30 p.m. set. Doors open 30 minutes before set time, enabling guests to pick seats and place orders.

Here’s what’s on the musical menu:

Jan. 12 – Professor Cunningham and his Old School

Interestingly, the Professor – Adrian Cunningham – is not old at all but is certainly well-schooled when it comes to playing instruments. Growing up in Sydney, Australia, Cunningham started out on the piano before taking on the clarinet, flute and saxophone. After establishing himself as a standout talent in his mother country, the Aussi relocated to New York City where he began performing with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Wycliffe Gordon, Chris Potter, Renée Marie, George Coleman Jr. and Bucky Pizzarelli, becoming a regular at the Blue Note, Birdland and Apollo Theatre. In 2012, Cunningham donned the Professor hat and took up with Old School, a rotating ensemble of high-energy, NYC-based musicians specializing in the New Orleans tradition but also known to steam up the room with R&B, hot jazz and swing. This performance marks the return of the Professor after he established a strong following at the 2016 Vail Jazz Party. The Vail sets will hone in on swing music from the 1920s, so be sure to bring your dancing shoes.

Feb. 2 – Diego Figueiredo with Chiara Izzi

No stranger to Vail, guitarist Diego Figueiredo has been a favorite among Rocky Mountain jazz fans for years. His lightning fingered virtuoso style flirts with classical, bossa nova and traditional jazz as he puts his own stamp on standards from the American Songbook as well as classics from his native Brazil. Teaming up with the upbeat, zinging deliveries of Italian vocalist/songwriter Chiara Izzi, the duo is a surefire recipe for star power. Winner of the Montreux Jazz Festival’s Vocal Competition in 2011, Izzi has since relocated to New York City and has begun raising eyebrows for her uncanny ability to interpret – in her own distinctive way – jazz traditions from all over the world. The energy emanating from this international pair is not to be missed.

March 2 – Nicki Parrott’s Tribute to Peggy Lee

Capturing the vibrant spirit of legendary vocalist Peggy Lee is no simple feat, but Nicki Parrott has been refining her versatile musical skills since the age of 4. Hailing from New Castle, Australia, Parrott moved from the piano to the flute to the double bass by age 15 and by the age of 16, was winning song composition contests. After moving to New York City, Parrott’s vocal talents were recognized by the one and only Les Paul and she became a mainstay at his Iridium Jazz Club Monday night session. Even when not channeling Peggy Lee, Parrott’s voice swings hypnotically and powerfully, even more so when she’s plugging away on the bass.

April 13 – Chuchito Valdés Quartet

Hailing from a bloodline of piano kings three generations deep, Jesus “Chuchito Valdés can make the keys smoke like no other but can also draw out deep sentiment in the rich veins of classical mixed with his native Afro-Cuban jazz. Possessing enormous talent for creating original compositions, Valdés’ tunes often drift into the swirling waters of Bebop, Cha-Cha-Cha and Danzon. He has been enrapturing audiences around the world and recording music for the last 15 years, doing his father and grandfather proud.

Tickets are on sale now for the 2017 Vail Jazz Winter Series, which also includes two invitation-only performances at private residences – in February with Eric Alexander playing the Great Songs of the Tenor Sax and in March with husky vocalist and guitarist Bob Margolin, former member of Muddy Waters’ band.

The Winter Series performances at Ludwig’s Terrace at the Sonnenalp take place at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Tickets are sold separately for $35. Prices increase at 5 p.m. day of show. For tickets or more information, please visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

2016 Vail Jazz All-Stars CD available for preorder

The pre-order of the 2016 Vail Jazz All-Stars double CD is now available for purchase! CDs will be shipped no later than December 1, 2016.After 10 days of intensive study, the 12 students that are selected every year to participate in the Vail Jazz Workshop are proudly billed as the “Vail Jazz All-Stars.” This double cd features the 2016 Vail Jazz All-Stars, and their performances from Thursday, September 1 – Sunday, September 5 at the 22nd Annual Vail Jazz Party.

Listen to a preview of the tracks here!

Pre-order your CD today:

ALTO COMBO

Austin Zhang (alto sax), Joe Giordano (trombone), Zaq Davis (trumpet), Jake Sasfai (piano), Philip Morris (bass), Nick Kepron (drums)

TENOR COMBO

Alex Yuwen (tenor sax), Jasim Perales (trombone), David Sneider (trumpet), Carter Brodkorb (piano), Gabe Rupe (bass), Brian Richburg Jr. (drums)

TRACK LIST INCLUDES:

Shaw ‘Nuff (Dizzy Gillespie)
I Mean You (Thelonious Monk)
How Deep is the Ocean (Irving Berlin)
Stone Age Shuffle (John Clayton)
Driftin’ (Herbie Hancock)
12’s It (Ellis Marsalis)
Hymn to Freedom (Oscar Peterson)
Flee, as a Bird, to Your Mountain/When the Saints Go Marching In (Mary Dana Schindler/traditional)
You Do Something to Me (Cole Porter)
Body and Soul, in the style of John Coltrane (Johnny Green)

It’s time to throw down with the Vail Jazz Party!

Five day music extravaganza features both refined and improvised sets by more than 50 of the world’s greatest jazz artists

Herbie Hancock once famously said that “jazz translates the moment into a sense of inspiration for not only the musicians but for the listeners.” During the five days of live music throughout the Vail Jazz Party, all of the moments become a throbbing cloud of inspiration, palpable to all within earshot.

Spontaneity and improvisation are key ingredients to great jazz, a big part of why the world places jazz artists on the tippy top of the music’s overall talent pool.

In its 22nd year, the Vail Jazz Party exemplifies the skills of its musicians not only through its feature performances but also in grouping them together for a fusion experience that is truly one-of-a-kind, building ensembles that have never before come together and a live set that will never again be repeated.

While these primordial lineups and their consequent off-the-cuff musical masterpieces might look and sound natural to the artists, even the most established and experienced stars at the Vail Jazz Party will attest to the fact that improvising exquisitely is no simple task.

“That’s where I’m really clear that I’m the baby in the bunch,” says singer Niki Haris, leader of the Vail Jazz Party’s Gospel Prayer Meetin’, arguably the most popular performance of the entire weekend. Although the Gospel Prayer Meetin’ doesn’t necessarily fall under the “improvised” umbrella, Haris, like every other star with a feature performance during the weekend party, is once again slated to appear with a changing lineup of artists in a handful of breakout sessions. A long-time back-up vocalist for the likes of Madonna and Anita Baker, Haris is more accustomed to super-produced stadium shows with well-timed lighting and pyrotechnics than on-the-spot improv.

“Because of my history, I know how to put shows together. I know big productions. I know rehearsal. The closest I got to improv was in a church session,” Haris says. “You let the spirit move you – yours and the audiences – on what song you would choose. I’m not a pro at that. That’s where I tip my hat to those amazing musicians.”

Haris has managed to make a convincing case of improvising over the years at the Vail Jazz Party, largely because her expression, as she herself describes it, is “honest.” Like other artists at the jazz party, Haris is not only a jazz singer, but also wanders into the realms of gospel, soul, rock, pop, R&B, funk and just about every other genre you can put a label on. Regardless of the category, when she performs in Vail, particularly at the Gospel Prayer Meetin,’ her mission is to convey one thing  … “good news.”

“When I sing, I’m as honest as I can be, so it doesn’t come just from a place to sing a bunch of songs but to delve into where I want to be in the world,” she says. “For those 90 minutes, I want to create a more loving, compassionate and peaceful world, bringing the good news –  the gospel – to many different faiths. That’s the fun part of Vail. I know I have Christians there and people who probably don’t go to church. But it’s palpable, the energetic change that happens. People are reaching out hugging each other. I see tears, people hand-holding. Then to play in the square, with all of these mountains around, that’s the most beautiful thing.”

Audience members at Vail Jazz Party performances have referred to performances as gifts.

“I’m so glad I’m the one who gets to deliver the gift,” Haris says.

Step into a session

The Vail Jazz Party is designed to impart an armful of gifts all in one long block of back-to-back deliverables. When you buy a ticket to the party, it lands you three to five hours of music during a particular time slot Friday throughMonday.

Evening sessions

The evening sessions are reminiscent of a traditional indoor stage performance in which the crowd collects in theater-style seats around a large stage with superb acoustics, in this case, in the Grand Ballroom at the Vail Marriott. As with all of the sessions, a selection of artists – the king or queen of his or her given instrument – are teamed up to kick off the session with one musician selected as leader of the set. Niki Haris gets an early crack as head honcho duringFriday’s first evening session. Each evening session also offers one if not two special performances, including a group of contemporary jazz stars paying homage to a musical legend as inspiring footage of the legend takes over the backdrop. The lineup includes supersonic bassist John Clayton paying homage to another master of four strings, Milt Hinton, a tribute to the Texas Tenors starring saxophonist Joel Frahm, Byron Stripling playing his heart out in tribute to the blues and Terell Stafford’s Brotherlee Love, a tribute to iconic trumpeter Lee Morgan. In true jazz club tradition, each evening finishes with a Late Night Jam Session, included with the evening ticket, in which a powerhouse ensemble of seven to eight musicians who have never played together are teamed up improv-style in the intimate setting of First Chair Café in the Vail Marriott. The unplanned music flows like liquid ear candy from around7 p.m. to well after midnight.

Afternoon sessions

With the Rocky Mountains and blue sky as a backdrop, from 11:30 a.m. to early evening Saturday through Monday, the live soundtrack ranges from enchanting instrumental quintets to high-energy piano duos to small orchestra-sized teams of soloists. You name the instrument and one of the world’s leading masters is on the stage playing it – drums, bass, guitar, piano, trombone, clarinet, trumpet, flute, bass … The sets fuse two to 10 musicians at a time, each one bringing his or her own thick stack of accomplishments, many of them GRAMMY and Downbeat Music awards. Highlights include the Vail Jazz All-Stars free performances on Saturday and Sunday, Piano Duos in which six pianists rotate through a dueling set on the keys and an all-in, blowout set on Monday with a ten-piece horn section. The nonstop strains of hypnotizing harmonies originate from the all-weather jazz tent in Lionshead’s Vail Square.

All told, the Vail Jazz Party amounts to a five-day explosion of world-class live music, refined feature performances and unpredictable combinations all in rapid succession. The one predictable factor is that like any good party, it’s bound to bring a bounty of delightful surprises. Bill Cunliffe, multi-GRAMMY award-winning pianist of the Vail Jazz Party House Band sums up the experience like this:

“It merges musicians presenting their own original material but also thrown together in unexpected ways to see what happens,” he says. “You get a whole difference sense of what the musicians can do.”

For tickets and detailed Vail Jazz Party schedule, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

Jazz Improv: Alive and Kickin’

Nothing will sweep you more off your feet like a sultry improvised jazz solo that flows out of the trumpet’s bell seamlessly. You watch the fingers go up and down on the piano keys, re-harmonizing chords on the spot in fact like you’ve never heard like quite before, and you hear a vocalist show off with an impressive use of range, and extensive syllabic vocabulary and intriguing rhythms. In 2016, the digital era may be taking over, where fancy new microphones and recording devices come out often, and programs on the computer that instantly transcribe music. However, there’s one thing that can never be replaced by technology, the art of jazz improvisation. Today jazz improvisation is still alive, well and kickin’!

 

Over 150 years ago, prominent jazz legends such as Louis Armstrong, Al Jolson, Jelly Roll Morton and Bing Crosby would pave the way for the art of jazz improvisation. Going beyond their comfort zones, exploring new articulations, phrasing, colors and chord progressions to create new and interesting sounds to the ear, sounds that you would not expect. Ella Fitzgerald, Bill Evans, and Duke Ellington would continue to experiment with this style throughout the years and would even become mainstream music. Today, jazz improvisation has reached entirely new levels and boundaries thanks to incredible performances and recordings by artists such as Kurt Elling, Keith Jarrett, Michel Camilo, and Gary Burton.

 

Jazz improvisation has now greatly influenced other musical genres with its spontaneity and groove, including pop, rock, and R&B. Jazz improvisation has also spread beyond vocalists, horn and keys players, and can now be heard on instruments such as the ukulele, harmonica, melodica, and the harp! Many artists today have combined elements of pop music with the technique and style of jazz improvisation including Diana Krall, Jamie Cullum, Chris Botti, Bobby McFerrin, and Hiromi. These artists have strived to make jazz improv sound cool and relevant to a younger generation of music listeners and a much wider audience than before.

 

While jazz album sales may be lower compared to the past, there’s now more ways than ever to experience jazz improvisation live. Including jazz cruises, festivals around the world such as (Vail and Montreaux,) music camps that offer weekly instruction specifically on improv such as ( Vail jazz workshop, Bob Stoloff vocal jazz academy and Jamey Aebersold jazz camp), and thousands of videos on youtube that capture real live performances, recordings and tutorials from new jazz breaking artists.

 

To some musicians and listeners, jazz improvisation may be a bit intimidating and overwhelming. Often young musicians trying to pick up jazz improv get discouraged, thinking “I’ll never be able to scat or solo”. While there are many credible techniques out there, and no right way to learn jazz improv, here are some tips that may help you understand and perform jazz improvisation.

-Listen to all the great innovators of improvisation (traditional and contemporary). Jazz improv stemmed from classically trained pianists, experimenting on the piano and in their compositions. Listen not only to the great jazz legends, but also artists that improvised in classical music, and even in country and folk songs. Take notes about the vocal timbres, color of the instruments, rhythmic patterns, chord progressions, and melodic lines. In a sense start transcribing what you hear, very slowly, and one step at a time.

 

 

  • Go see live jazz performances, witness this incredible talent firsthand, and wrap yourself in the moment. Because improv is such an “in the moment” experience, there’s no better way to really feel it and grasp it than to soak it all up in a live music setting.

 

  • Try it yourself! Start with the instrument you are most comfortable on, or simply with the voice. Think of it as rapping, or slam poetry, let the words, syllables, and notes come and flow through you. It may not be a perfect solo the first time you try, but the more you practice, you will train your ear to pick up certain rhythms, tensions and melodic lines. There are many jazz instrumental background tracks you can play along with, and even try teaming up with another musician and trade fours to really keep you on your toes!

 

  • Challenge yourself! Now if you are really serious about learning the techniques and mechanics of jazz improv, start by brushing up on your music theory. To feel most comfortable at taking a solo, these players know their chords, scales, modes, solfege and tensions all from memory. Study which notes belong to major and minor scales, chords, know your sharps, flats and accidentals, without having to look at sheet music. This will help provide you with the framework to solo confidentially.

 

 

Remember you can always apply the concepts of jazz improv to your daily life of originality, spontaneity, and quick thinking even if you yourself are not a musician.

Vail Jazz launches Vail Jazz Party with Thursday triple bill at Vail Square

“There is no better audience than the Vail audience. You can hear a pin drop, they are listening so intently.” -Workshop piano instructor Bill Cunliffe

The musical experience in Lionshead on Thursday is as full-circle as it gets. The triple bill serves as the grand finale of the summer’s Vail Jazz @ Vail Square series but is also the mighty kickoff of The 22nd annual Vail Jazz Labor Day Weekend Party. It begins with 12 of the country’s top teenage jazz musicians, freshly minted “Vail Jazz All-Stars” having just graduated from a workshop with six of the world’s most respected and established jazz pros. A selection of Workshop alumni, now professional artists themselves, take the stage after the teenagers. The ultimate culmination of talent wraps up the evening with a performance by the mentors themselves, the Vail Jazz Party House Band.

“There is a healthy understanding of the importance of giving back, moving things forward and investing in the future,” says John Clayton, leader of the Vail Jazz Party House Band and Workshop. “The Vail Jazz Party has committed to simultaneously presenting first-class performances as well as being responsible for a high level of jazz education.”

Besides helping launch the inaugural Vail Jazz Party 22 years ago and the educational workshop a year later, Clayton’s repertoire of positive impact and star-mingling spans decades. Like the 250-plus students he has mentored in Vail (and thousands of others across the globe), Clayton tapped into his musical talent as a small child. By the time he was 16, he was playing bass at UCLA in a class taught by Ray Brown. In the 1970s, he joined the Monty Alexander Trio, then the Count Basie Orchestra before crossing the Atlantic to settle into a decade in Amsterdam as principal bassist for the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and instructor at Holland’s Royal Conservatory. He returned to California to juggle a number of successful touring ensembles, educational workshops and jazz festivals as well as arranging, conducting, performing and recording with a long list of big name artists. It was Clayton who arranged Whitney Houston’s rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the 1990 Super Bowl. He has collaborated with Diana Krall, Natalie Cole and Whitney Houston. He won a GRAMMY for Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist for Queen Latifah’s “I’m Gonna Live Til I Die” and seven additional nominations.

Regardless of which hat he’s wearing – be it composer, arranger, mentor, or performer – Clayton claims that the most rewarding interactions he has are the variety that confirm a powerful connection is made.

“When an audience member lets me know that my music touched them, made them feel great or made them cry, it makes me feel like I was successful in sharing my expression,” he says.
But Clayton’s certainly not the only member of the Vail Jazz Party House band who’s been places. New to the Vail Jazz Party House Band as of last year, saxophonist Dick Oatts has performed and recorded with an amazing array of stars, including Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Mel Tormé. He is a former faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music and a professor alongside trumpeter Terell Stafford at Temple University.

Stafford is Director of Jazz Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia and leads his own quintet, which will perform this weekend in Vail. He’s performed and recorded with many GRAMMY winning artists, including Diana Krall, Bobby Watson and Herbie Mann.

A Vail Jazz Workshop mentor for many years, Stafford views the triple bill Vail Jazz Party kickoff performance as “a big reunion” and says that there is something unquestionably validating about such a “family affair.”

“One particular year, the parents of a student came up to me and let me know their son had a rough year and that the Vail Workshop was the highlight of his year. You always hear growing up that music is powerful and healing, not just from a listening standpoint, but from a mentoring one,” Stafford says.

Wycliffe Gordon, who has won Downbeat Magazine’s Critic’s Choice award for Best Trombone numerous times and has performed with the likes of Wynston Marsalis, Dizzy Gillespie and Tommy Flanagan describes the triple bill experience as “playing it forward.”

“It’s a great opportunity for us to meet the next bandleaders, composers, arrangers and conductors,” he says.

Not only are the students and musicians focused on the energy afoot when the Vail Jazz circle of past, present and future comes together, but the audience is completely enraptured.

“There is no better audience than the Vail audience. You can hear a pin drop, they are listening so intently,” says GRAMMY-winning composer and pianist Bill Cunliffe, who is a Professor of Music at California State University Fullerton and has shared the stage with Frank Sinatra, James Moody and Freddie Hubbard.

Lewis Nash, the most recorded jazz drummer of all time, has performed and recorded with everyone from Clark Terry to George Michael, Hank Jones to Bette Midler. He says he was once approached by a Vail fan who told him, “I never liked drum solos before hearing you play.”

So again, the fire of talent burns in a complete ring, heated up by the 12-piece ensemble of teenage protégés – the Vail Jazz All-Stars, comprised of pianists Carter Brodkorb and Jake Sasfai, trumpeters Zaq Davis and David Sneider, bassists Philip Norris and Gabe Rupe, saxophonists Alex Yuwen and Austin Zhang, trombonists Joseph Giordano and Jasim Perales and drummers Nick Kepron and Brian Richburg. The Vail Jazz Alumni Quintet then ramps up the flames, featuring pianist Adam Bravo, bassist Russell Hall, drummer Lucianna Padmore, trumpeter Benny Benack III and saxophonist Braxton Cook. The fire reaches inferno proportions as Clayton, Stafford, Cunliffe, Oatts, Nash and Gordon take the stage as the Vail Jazz Party House Band.


Catch the triple bill of the past, present and future, featuring the Vail Jazz All-Stars, Alumni Quintet and House Band at Vail Jazz @ Vail Square from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 1 inside the all-weather jazz tent in Lionshead. General admission tickets are sold out but premium seating is $40 in advance. The All-Stars also perform FREE sets at Vail Square at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For tickets or more information, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

Combining Jazz with Gospel

Setting the mood right at the Vail Jazz Party, for a most popular tradition is the Gospel Prayer Meetin’ led by the exhilarating Niki Haris and her gospel ensemble! Join us bright and early at 9 am on September 4th, for a wonderful celebration of worship through music. Featuring artists Niki Haris {v}, Bobby Floyd {p + b3}, Jerohn Garnett {b}, Lucianna Padmore {d}, Nate Radley {g}, Jeff Clayton {as}, Tim Warfield {ts}, Terell Stafford {t}, Byron Stripling {t}, Wycliffe Gordon {tb}, Mile Hi Gospel Ensemble.

 

You may ask what do gospel and jazz have exactly in common together? Why do these two genres have heavily influenced each other? Why gospel at a jazz festival? Well, these two genres have more in common probably than you think! Let’s look into how the blues have certainly served as a bridge between these two genres. Dating back to the 1800’s in America’s south, where call and response would establish itself as a form of expression. African-Americans would find a way to celebrate Christianity through the expression of music in a new, and soulful style that would touch hearts with powerful repetition both lyrically and melodically. Musician Thomas Dorsey would be known for the founding father of Gospel during the 1930’s.

 

We have seen many contemporary artists serve as a crossover artists within these genres such as Mahalia Jackson, Kirk Franklin, and Mary Mary all who have combined their strong faith, while applying jazz techniques, instrumentation and harmonies. Many talented artists who have a strong calling to serve their church and faith, but still wanted to pursue music full time, have found the time and the creative passion for blending the two together such as jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum. Over the years gospel music has influenced a large part of the jazz community, bringing musicians even closer together as trusted friends, and colleagues.

 

Niki Haris does a brilliant job at combining jazz and gospel together in a performance, through instrumentation, vocal delivery, and lyric commitment, she is able to reach through jazz and gospel audiences alike for a heart felt performance. Watch this recent performance of Niki Haris with full choir from the Mile Hi Gospel Ensemble and renown rhythm section: https://youtu.be/J_e7QhVMlyg

 

If you’ve never heard the way the organ resonates, how the tambourine jingles, or the syncopation of the drums, then you are truly missing out on this soulful experience! Grab your tickets today at https://www.vailjazz.org/events/gospel-prayer-meetin-2/

Texas Tenor … ‘A moan within the tone’

This is not a tale about a great opera singer from the Lone Star State, but the story of Jean-Baptiste “Illinois” Jacquet and how his unique sound on the tenor saxophone influenced jazz, blues, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll saxophonists for generations to come. Born in Louisiana in 1922, his family moved to Houston, Texas when he was an infant. He was given the nickname “Illinois” because his French name was too difficult for Texans to pronounce. There are several accounts of how “Illinois” was selected, but whatever the genesis, thereafter Jean-Baptiste was known as Illinois Jacquet in Texas and eventually throughout the world.

A little history of the saxophone is in order. Invented in the early 1840s by Belgian Antoine-Joseph “Adolphe” Sax, a musician and inventor, it was initially utilized in classical music and military bands. The woodwind instrument was not widely used in jazz until the 1920 with Coleman Hawkins generally credited as the first important jazz tenor saxophonist. The “Hawk” as he was known had a distinctive sound on his tenor and when he came on the scene, jazz was evolving away from strictly an ensemble style of music to instrumentalists being allowed to solo. And the Hawk could definitely solo. Players began to develop their own distinctive sounds on their instruments and regional differences in the styles of jazz began to appear. You could distinguish between the jazz being played in New Orleans and Texas. Yes, Texas, with its large size and population and its affection for saloons and honkey-tonk joints, developed its own distinctive style and sound and Illinois was the one who would take that sound out of Texas and share it with the world.

Illinois began playing the alto sax as a child and by 15 he had become a professional. In 1942 at the age of 19, Illinois switched to the tenor as a condition to joining the world famous Lionel Hampton Orchestra. As fate would have it, his solo on the band’s recording of “Flying Home” would change the trajectory of his career and establish the sound of the “Texas Tenor” in jazz.

The recording became a huge hit due to Illinois’ solo, which captured for one of the first times on record the sound of a Texas Tenor. What is the sound of a Texas Tenor? The great Cannonball Adderley famously defined it as “a moan within the tone.” Others have described it using adjectives such as wailing, wild, honking, howling, raucous, screeching, squealing and guttural. Drenched in the blues, it generally emanates from the use of the upper and lower registers of the saxophone and is delivered with a raw power and rhythmic connection to the beat. Illinois is also credited with perfecting the technique of “growling” on the sax – humming while blowing into the horn.

Image a “tough toned” tenor player walking the bar with an arched back while playing the blues and lifting the audience to a frenzy. That was Illinois. His solo on “Flying Home” became the signature sound for Hampton’s band and long after Illinois had left the band in 1943 (joining Cab Calloway and then Count Basie before leading his own band), subsequent tenor players in the band immortalized the solo by playing it almost note for note, night after night. While Illinois was known for his Texas Tenor sound it shouldn’t be forgotten that he was capable of playing a ballad in a warm and tender manner. Illinois died in 2004 and was playing right up to the time of his death.

There have been legions of jazz players associated with the Texas Tenor sound with Texans Buddy Tate and Arnett Cobb, Illinois’ contemporaries, prominent proponents of the style. While the Texas Tenor sound originated in jazz, by the 1950s it was adopted by players that were pushing jazz and the blues into new directions. Curtis Ousley, known as “King Curtis,” started out playing jazz as a teenager in Hampton’s band, a decade after Illinois had left. A Texas native, he was clearly influenced by Illinois’ sound but he moved to NY and took his Texas Tenor with him, doing studio work (performing, producing and directing bands) with Buddy Holly, the Coasters (playing the very famous solo on “Yakety Yak”) and Aretha Franklin, to name just a few. His career was tragically cut short when he was stabbed to death at the age of 37, but while Illinois introduced the Texas Tenor to jazz, it was King Curtis who popularized the sound in the world of R&B, rock, funk and soul.

Another Texan Tenor player that did much to disseminate the distinctive Texas sound was David “Fathead” Newman, who had a career that spanned over 50 years. He recorded and played with the who’s who of jazz and blues, but is best known for his dozen years as a sideman with Ray Charles during the 1950s and 1960s playing R&B and soul with a raw, earthy sound that communicated a heartfelt cry when he was heard soloing on Ray’s mega-hits.

On Sept. 3 at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort, as part of the Vail Jazz Party, the great tenor player Joel Frahm will pay tribute to Illinois and other great Texas Tenors in a captivating multi-media show combining a live performance with classic video performances of these great musicians in a once in a lifetime show.

 

Howard Stone is the founder and artistic director of The Vail Jazz Foundation, which produces the annual Vail Jazz Festival. Celebrating its 22nd 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.

The enchantment of Brazilian guitar

As an incredible summer of jazz slowly comes to an end with the arrival of the Vail Jazz Party, satisfying your Brazilian jazz craving on Saturday, September 2nd is the young, tender guitarist Diego Figueiredo. With fingers lightly touching just over the nylon strings, his harmony sets in over the frets. Known for leaving audiences all over the world feeling joyous, this young rising musician from Brazil brings the true essence and character of Brazilian music, while also bringing elements that are quite modern and innovative with his virtuoso playing.

With a casual and relaxed demeanor on stage (often playing barefoot!), he instantly transports you to the sounds of Brazil. The acoustic sounds of swing, samba, choro, bossa nova, and maracatu all soak in and make you embody the nature, nightlife, and tranquility of this culture. It’s no wonder with the latest Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, why sports fans and musicians alike can’t seem to get enough of Brazil!

So why is Brazilian jazz so attractive and addicting? Is it the way the singer’s lyrics in Portuguese flow so smoothly? Or the catchy hooks made famous by Antonio Carlos Jobim? Or the groovy syncopated rhythms of Ivan Lins? Jazz listeners across the world today, are still captivated by the unique songs of Brazil, which are completely separate from Latin jazz. While many people may associate Latin and Brazilian jazz as one style of music altogether, there are in fact distinctions among the two. One being that Brazilian jazz was heavily influenced by Portugal and Africa, while Latin jazz blending the Spanish and Caribbean sounds together. Another difference is in instrumentation, Brazil known for its Agogo, Pandeiro, and the Berimbau while the claves, timbales and congas heat up Latin America. Each type of jazz having it’s own specific rhythms and harmonies reflecting of its own culture.

The quiet, yet sophisticated melodies Diego Figueiredo brings out on his guitar are enchanting, and enriching. With an exciting volume of videos on youtube, check out this unique interpretation of Stella by Starlight

 

At only 36 years old, his artist has received multiple awards at Montreaux, and has currently released over 23 CD’s and 3DVD’s. Admirers have included Pat Methany, Al Di Meola and George Benson praising his originality, skills, and presentation

Diego will perform throughout the Vail Jazz Party – Let the sweet, cool sounds of this exotic country and Brazilian guitar take you away this summer!

Best musical teens in the nation roll into town

Meet a couple of Vail Jazz’s latest teenage prodigies

There are some kids that show an early aptitude for athletics and end up the star of their sports team. Then there are kids that can master a trombone or a drum set before they barely outweigh the instrument and go on to be All-Stars.

In its 21st year, Vail Jazz welcomes 12 of the nation’s top teenage musicians, hand-picked from a pool of more than 150 uber-talented nominees. Since its inception, the Vail Jazz Workshop has produced 250 alumni, many of whom have gone on to soaring careers as professional musicians. There’s Tia Fuller, a long-time member of Beyonce’s notoriously talented all-female band. Obed Calvaire drums for the San Francisco Jazz Collective and has performed with Monty Alexander, Wynton Marsalis and many others. Saxophonist Grace Kelly has been featured on CNN, NPR and in Glamour Magazine, and of course there’s multi-GRAMMY award-winning pianist Robert Glasper.

Many of these musicians showed sign of greatness before they could even talk. Take Brian Richburg, for example. The 17-year-old drummer from New Orleans is one of the 12 selected prodigies for the 2016 Vail Jazz Workshop. As a baby, he not only banged on pots and pans in an oddly un-noisy fashion, but did so with obvious rhythm. By the time he was 5 years old, his parents got him his first drum set, and by age 8, he was performing with an adult ensemble at his family church, where his father was the pastor.

“Even before I was born my mom would say I was kicking – she would have to sit down because I was kicking so hard,” Richburg says. “Being part of the New Orleans gospel community, I’ve always been around music. I can’t say I went to school, picked up the sticks and decided this is what I wanted to do. The drums always spoke something to me.”

A junior in high school, Richburg is a scholarship winner to Skidmore Jazz Institute, a YoungArts finalist and member of New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, which has produced, among other stars, Wynton Marsalis.

Practicing at least two hours a day and having added piano composition to his repertoire, Richburg has to think for a moment before narrowing down what he would consider his greatest accomplishment to date. He settles on playing at the famed Snug Harbor with Delfeayo Marsalis and then being asked to play with Papa Ellis Marsalis. During his time in Vail, Richburg looks forward to working with “some of the greatest musicians and teachers in the world,” including his drum hero, Lewis Nash. As far as his outlook for the future, the New Orleans native keeps his goals pretty simple.

“I want to travel,” he says. “I’d like to play the drums.”

Another one of this year’s Vail Jazz Workshop students, 17-year-old Jasim Perales, hails from Oakland, Calif. Compared to Richburg, zeroing in on an instrument as a small child did not come as instinctually to him, but after starting out on piano, the trombone slowly worked its magic.

“I was in fourth grade and we had to chose an instrument. Trombone looked like an easy instrument to play. It didn’t have any buttons. I thought, this is an easy ‘A’ for me,” Perales recalls. “Then it was much more complicated then I thought. The slide is never exact. You have to memorize where every note is. You’re never going to get the same thing twice. It was a quirky little instrument that didn’t always make sense. But I liked figuring out all of its secrets.”

Perales is ahead of his time in the discovery department, as evidenced by his selection for the GRAMMY Band and Monterey Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, with which he recently toured Japan. His inspirations range from everyone between Duke Ellington and John Coltrane to Tribe Called Quest and Kendrick Lamar. Like Richburg, traveling professionally is Perales’ No. 1 musical goal but in the meantime, he plans to revel in the wave of energy that washes over him every time he performs.

“It’s like when you get endorphins from exercise,” he says. “It’s that emotional catharsis, diving into something so passion-oriented. It’s an art form you have to put a lot of yourself into. It’s an expression. I have a boisterous personality but sometimes I don’t express what I’m truly feeling. Music is a way to get out my anxiety, my worries, or if I’m excited or really happy. It’s a whole different level of conversation. It’s a primal and intellectual conversation at the same time.”

The 10-day-long intensive Vail Jazz Workshop is led by mentors John Clayton, Terell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe, Wycliffe Gordon, Dick Oatts and Lewis Nash, also known as the Vail Jazz Party House Band. After completing the Workshop, the students including Perales and Richburg plus pianists Carter Brodkorb and Jake Sasfai, trumpeters Zaq Davis and David Sneider, bassists Philip Norris and Gabe Rupe, saxophonists Alex Yuwen and Austin Zhang, trombonist Joseph Giordano and drummer Nick Kepron, graduate to the status of Vail Jazz All-Stars, and kick off the 22nd Annual Vail Jazz Labor Day Weekend Jazz Party on Sept. 1, opening the final Vail Jazz @ Vail Square performance, which features a triple bill with the Vail Jazz Alumni Quintet and the Vail Jazz Party House Band. The All-Stars then perform for free at the Jazz Tent at Vail Square at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, please visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

Milt Hilton celebrated at the Vail Jazz Festival

Vail Jazz is pleased to celebrate the remarkable work of legendary jazz bassist and photographer Milt Hinton. A three-part celebration includes a digital photography exhibit, to be displayed August 3rd – September 5th, a Documentary screening and a multi-Media Tribute to Hinton both on September 2nd .

 

One of the most recorded musicians of the 20th century, he also managed to take more than 60,000 photographs to document his career. Since his passing in 2000, Directors David G. Berger, Holly Maxson and Kate Hirson bring Milt Hinton’s music and photographs back to life as curators of the Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection.

 

Born in 1910 in the deep south of Mississippi, Milt faced extreme poverty and racism, but turned to music where he would find his community. Showing incredible talent at a young age, Milt would find his break with Cab Calloway, touring across the country for almost fifteen years. While balancing family and professional life, Milt toured with Louis Armstrong and from the mid 1950s-70s, was among the first African-Americans to be called in for regular studio session work. Known for recording and performing with a diverse roster of artists including Billy Holiday, Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand, Benny Goodman or Bing Crosby, Milt soaked up the jazz scene up until the late 1990s.

 

While many people put session musicians in the background, it was hard for Milt Hinton to stay there. Mastering a profound musicianship and extensive harmonic knowledge, Milt blew other artists out of the water, where his technical diversity and strengths benefitted sessions greatly. It was in 1935 when Milt received his first camera for his 25th birthday and showed a love for photography, (a 35 mm Argus C3 back then) would spend the rest of his life documenting festivals, studio sessions, tour life, and iconic legends in a beautiful and sentimental way. Whether Milt knew at the time or not that his music and photography would one day play such an important part of American jazz history, is truly an answer many jazz heads want to know.

 

Watch Clips from the documentary here:

 

http://milthinton.com/film.html

 

Don’t miss this rare documentary being shown at the Vail Jazz party in the Grand Ballroom at the Vail Marriott, tickets available for $20 https://www.vailjazz.org/tickets/vail-jazz-party-tickets/