The Judge of Time

The Judge, as he was known, never went to law school, and he never took the bar exam. In fact, he never practiced law. What he practiced was music.

Milton John “Milt” Hinton was born on June 23, 1910 in Vicksburg, Miss. to African American parents who separated when he was an infant. His maternal grandmother had been a slave and when he was 8 he came upon a lynching. The vivid images of a black man “on fire, like a piece of bacon with a wire rope around his neck” would remain with him for the rest of his life.

At 9, Milt moved to Chicago and at 13 he began playing violin, but he switched to the tuba so he could be part of his high school’s marching band because it gave a boy with a name like Milton who was really skinny and carried a violin around all day a better chance with the girls. He switched once again to the acoustic bass and though largely self-taught, became a professional bassist upon graduation.

In 1929 the bass was beginning to replace the tuba as the “time keeper” in jazz and it was rarely featured in a solo. Milt would change all of that during the next seven decades as he became the undeniable dean of jazz bassists and one of the most beloved figures in the history jazz.

 

In 1936 he began a 15-year long association with Cab Calloway, becoming a featured soloist with the band and by 1951-52 Milt had embarked upon a new phase of his career playing with the who’s who of jazz giants such as: Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman and Billie Holiday and many more. In the world of popular music he played with Bing Crosby, Bobby Darin, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler and Paul McCartney. Also playing on early rock ‘n’ roll hits by The Coasters and The Drifters. In all, Milt was one of the most prolific musicians of the 20th century, playing on over 1,100 recordings.

His easygoing nature, graciousness, humility, willingness to musically complement other players, professionalism, flexibility and most importantly his “chops” on the bass – impeccable time and splendid intonation – propelled him in a career unmatched by any jazz musician in the history of the music.

 

He broke down racial barriers as he was one of the first African American musicians to be employed as a studio musician in New York City through the help of his friend comedian Jackie Gleason, who was then recording orchestral music. As luck would have it, Milt bumped into Jackie on a street in NY in 1953 and Jackie hired Milt on the spot for a recording session the next day. When told that a white bassist had already been hired for the session, Jackie said: “Well, now we have two.”

 

That was the beginning of a long and illustrious career as a studio musician and in radio and TV work. In the 1960s he began to play the “jazz party” circuit and was a regular performer in Colorado at the Dick Gibson Jazz Party for several decades where he always sang his theme song “Old Man Time.”

 

Milt had a generosity of spirit that matched his prodigious musical talent and it was demonstrated by selfless commitment to others, both as a mentor and a teacher. In the 1970s and 1980s he taught jazz at several colleges and established a scholarship fund for young bassists. His commitment to jazz and others was recognized with the bestowing of numerous awards, including the Jazz Master’s Award from the NEA and the receipt of 8 honorary doctorate degrees from major universities.

 

They say that behind every great man there is a great woman and Milt was no exception. Mona Clayton Hinton was Milt’s partner for 57 years. They were inseparable and Mona traveled extensively with Milt and successfully oversaw and managed his career.

 

Milt’s accomplishments as a musician, educator and mentor cannot be adequately chronicled here because of space limitations, but there is another facet to Milt’s talent that needs to be acknowledged and that is his parallel career as a photographer. Beginning as a hobby at 25, Milt became infatuated with photographing the “jazz life” – the everyday experience of jazz musicians – and for the next 60 years he captured in 60,000 images a monumental photographic record of jazz history and a changing America from the time when black musicians ate at “colored only” restaurants in the South to a time when jazz musicians led the way to an integrated society. Two books of his photographs and stories have been published and multiple exhibits of his photographs have been presented worldwide. After Milt’s passing in 2000 at the age of 90, a wonderful documentary film, “Keeping Time: The Life, Music & Photographs of Milt Hinton,” was made and has played at film festivals in the US and Europe to great acclaim.

 

So how did Milt become The Judge? Some say his colleagues pinned the name on him because of his requirement that they be on time to performances and recording dates, while others say it was instead his punctuality, since he was always the first to arrive and the other musicians would greet him with an old joke’s punch line, “Well, good morning, Judge!” The most likely explanation is because he was the ultimate time keeper.

 

As part of the 22nd Annual Vail Jazz Festival, we will celebrate the life of Milt Hinton by: presenting a digital exhibit of his photos at the Lionshead Welcome Center through Sept. 5 at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. daily and screening the documentary film “Keeping Time” on Sept. 2 at 2 p.m. followed by John Clayton’s Multi-Media Tribute to Milt at 8:10 p.m.

 

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.

H2 Big Band leaders sum up the unique, danceable magic of Count Basie

The 17-piece ensemble channels generations of hits by the swing king on Thursday in Vail

From tapping your foot to bobbing your head to launching yourself into an all-out Lindy Hop, swing music simply makes you want to move. When it involves 17 musicians and originates with Count Basie, the dance formula is pretty much guaranteed.

“One thing is that there is a heavy swing feel that only the Basie band was able to create. All jazz players agree that the Basie band swung more than any big band ever. The thrill of the big band sound is unlike any other musical experience,” says Dave Hanson, pianist, composer and co-founder of H2 Big Band. “As a composer, I get a rush to hear what each musician offers. Nothing is more fun than playing the Basie arrangements.”

Hailing from Denver, H2 Big Band’s two albums have reached top 15 status on Jazz Week’s national play list and the band’s original target was set on the studio. Then they realized how exhilarating it was to perform, which they will do in Vail on Aug. 25, paying tribute to Count Basie. In addition to Hanson and co-leader/trumpet player Al Hood, the band features a rotating line-up of 15 acclaimed artists, including a massive brass section, which it turns out is pivotal to the Basie sound.

“The arrangers had a certain style characterized in a way that each section was complete within itself,” Hanson explains. “If you heard the Basie saxophone section, it would sound complete within itself, the trombone section, too. The unified way they work together is the formula for the sound. Every Basie chart has a shout chorus unique to the Basie big band.”

The explosive performance will cover Count Basie tunes from the 1940s through the 1970s as well as a handful of H2’s original compositions.

“The H2 Big Band is extremely well versed in the Basie tradition, particularly our well-oiled rhythm section of Dave on piano, playing the Count himself, Todd Reid on drums and Ken Walker gliding the band via streamlined swing on the bass,” Hood says. “The icing, of course, will be the Freddie Green stylings of rhythm guitarist Mike Abbott.”

Without seeing the Count in the flesh, die hard Basie fans with their eyes closed will be hard-pressed to distinguish H2 Big Band from the swing king’s original band, the sound is that authentic … not to mention infectious.

“The legacy of the Basie band, in my opinion, is steeped in feel good swing, uncompromising time feel, ‘in the pocket’ groove and exuberant solo episodes,” Hood says. “This is certainly the essence that we will bring to that night of tremendous music. Swing will most assuredly be king.”

Each member of the big band is faced with a complex task of timing, harmony and connecting with the audience, but for Hanson, who plays the role of Basie, nailing the formula is especially involved.

“As the piano chair, you have to know the very unique style of Count Basie,” he says. “If there were one word to describe the playing of Count Basie it is sparse. He would only play the notes that were necessary. He would only play if the wind instruments weren’t playing. The Basie ending is a piano fill – a ‘plink-plink-plink’ – on most of his charts. It’s so identified as his that any piano playing the ‘plink-plink-plink’ is acknowledging Count Basie. We think of him as playing simply because he played very few notes, but he could be a great stride pianist. He could go into amazing stride piano solos, based on ballroom stride piano players from the ‘20s.”

The broad gamut of Basie’s sound including many of the Count’s classic arrangers will be summoned by H2 big band during the Vail performance. Even for audiences not familiar with Basie’s legacy, the urge to dance will be undeniable. Hanson says that every live H2 Big Band performance is characterized by one fixed reality above all others and that’s to expect the unexpected … especially when Count Basie is the theme.

“It’s a chance for the band to really show off the musicians in a great way. Hearing us all firing up together is a great thrill,” Hanson says. “There’s an element of chance involved. Every concert is different. Every acoustic is different. There’s a chance for something to happen that’s never happened before.”

Catch the H2 Big Band Tribute to Count Basie at Vail Jazz @ Vail Square from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 25 inside the all-weather jazz tent in Lionshead. General admission tickets are $20 in advance and premium seating is $40 in advance. For tickets or more information, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

H2 Big Band Tribute to Count Basie

 

There’s no jazz pioneer like the incredible William James “Count” Basie who graced the jazz scene in the 1930’s with his memorable and exhilarating performances and compositions. This summer the H2 Big Band will pay tribute to the monumental music of this jazz big band leader in an uplifting, and inspirational performance.

 

Back for a second year in a row, the H2 big band will perform with an outstanding 17 piece band led by trumpeter Al Hood and pianist Dave Hanson. They will tackle the greatest hits of Count Basie that the whole family can hum and dance along to! After all, there’s no big band sound like Count Basie’s arrangements. With Count Basie’s distinctive sounds and melodies, it’s hard not to fall in love with this sophisticated yet playful music.

 

Count Basie was indeed a founding father of the big band musical era, thriving through the decades of vaudeville, the swing era, the bebop era and the Soul/Blues era. In an era when African-Americans did not lead bands, Count Basie took the initiative to start his own orchestra, including the hottest jazz musicians of the day. With his remarkable leadership and jazz composition skills, it was no surprise his songs would instantly become household hits.

 

Over the span of his career, earning nine Grammy awards and a spot in the Grammy Hall of Fame, some of Basie’s most loved songs would include “One O’clock Jump”, “April in Paris”, “Alright, Okay You Win”, and “Everyday I Have the Blues”. Collaborating with different instrumentalists and notable jazz singers including Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra, Count Basie performed for fans all over the world, and recorded over 480 albums.

 

Count Basie not only made an impact in jazz music, but also served as a humanitarian and philanthropist and received a Kennedy Center Honor. 2015 marked over 80 years of Count Basie’s music, and thanks to tribute bands such as the H2 Big Band, Basie’s music is still swinging today! While it is truly hard to replicate the exact sound of Basie’s music, the H2 Big Band creates an engaging and authentic representation that makes you feel like Basie is musically present.

 

Join us at the Vail Jazz Festival on August 25th at 6pm in Vail Jazz Square for an exciting evening with the H2 Big Band playing the music of Count Basie. Tickets range from $20-$40 and are available at https://www.vailjazz.org/events/h2-big-band-tribute-count-basie/

 

Check out this video of Count Basie’s “One O’clock Jump ” to get you in the mood, and we’ll see you at the show!

 

LOVE AND JEALOUSY: MORE DEADLY THAN HEROIN

Edward Lee Morgan was born in Philadelphia, PA on July 10, 1938. Lee as he was known, received a trumpet on his 13th birthday and for the rest of his life his identity would be bound up in the three valves and 4 feet 10 inches of tubing comprising his horn. Lee would become one of the greatest players in the history of jazz, combining a technical virtuosity that allowed him to play scorching and powerful passages, with each note precisely articulated, even in the highest register of his horn, with a sensibility that allowed him to play some of the most tender ballad solos in jazz. He would also go on to compose may great tunes and would transition from hard bop (bebop with influences from r&b, gospel and blues) to an avant-garde/modal style.

Lee began playing professionally at 15 and by 18 he was playing with the jazz giant Dizzy Gillespie and his big band and was signed to Blue Note Records, one of the top jazz labels of the day. Over the next 15 years he would record 25 albums as a leader for the label, many becoming jazz treasures that amply demonstrate his musical genius.

In 1958 Dizzy’s band broke-up and Lee made a faithful decision to join Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Musically the decision was brilliant as the band was led by the legendary drummer Art Blakey who had an extraordinary track record of choosing raising stars as his sidemen and Lee was no exception. Being one of the most popular bands in all of jazz, Lee was able to play often as the Messengers toured the US and Europe, playing all of the great festivals and club dates everywhere. Lee rapidly developed into one of the most talented trumpet soloists in jazz and recorded numerous albums with the Messengers, several of which, “Moanin’” and “The Freedom Rider,” are in the jazz pantheon of greatest recordings.

However, the decision was to change the course of Lee’s life as Blakely was a heroin addict and he introduced many of his sidemen to heroin. Whether you call it horse, smack, dope, junk or the myriad other names it has been called, the opioid drug is highly addictive and Lee became an addict before he was 21. His addiction became so severe that in 1961 he had to leave the Messengers and return to his parents’ home in Philadelphia to try to kick the habit. He spent the next two years removed from the jazz scene in NY and in late 1963 he “took the cure” and was back in NY before yearend.

For the remainder of the decade he would perform and record, both as a leader and as a sideman, including with the Messengers. Many of the recordings were extremely well received and his biggest hit was his “comeback” album released in 1964. “The Sidewinder” crossed over into great commercial success and things were looking up for Lee, but the very sad reality was Lee wasn’t cured of anything, he just learned to manage his addiction and began substituting methadone and ultimately cocaine for the dope he had been addicted to.

By 1967 Lee was a junkie who had fallen so low that he was seen sleeping on the street outside Birdland without shoes and committing petty crimes so he could buy drugs. On one particularly wintery night that year Lee had sunk so low that he had pawned his horn and top coat for some drugs that he desperately craved and once again he came to a crossroads in his life. This time it was “Helen’s Place,” the apartment of Helen More, whose abode was a haven for strung out jazz musicians. Helen was a jazz fan who had a checkered past and had moved about the fringes of the jazz-drug culture for a number of years, working in Harlem for drug dealers, but a non-user. She was 22 years Lee’s senior and on that faithful evening she took Lee in, got his top coat and trumpet out of hock and for the better part of the next 5 years managed him professionally and personally. Eventually she would take the name Morgan and they were seen as husband and wife, although they never married. Part mother, part wife, part manager, Helen was the ever present force in his life, and although he continued to be an addict, she made sure that he showed up to his gigs and performed. Lee’s niece would later say: “It was like Helen was addicted to him.” Whatever the reasons the relationship became extremely toxic and Lee began to pull away from her and by 1971 he began to see another woman, staying away from Helen for prolonged periods of time and she stopped coming to his performances. Helen unsuccessfully attempted suicide and the relationship was clearly over.

In the early hours of February 19, 1972 Lee was performing at the NY club Slug’s, his new lady friend was seated at the table Helen previously had held court at. Helen entered the club and after an altercation with Lee she shot him once in the chest. He was 33 and in a fit of jealousy Helen had done what 15 years of drug addiction didn’t do, killed him, one of the greatest trumpet players in the history of jazz.

On Sunday evening, September 4 at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort as part of the Vail Jazz Party we are pleased to present the great trumpeter Terell Stafford in a performance in which Terell will reprise his critically acclaimed recording of the music of Lee Morgan,“BrotherLee Love.”

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.

Shake it with ‘Maraca’ this Thursday

Maraca Valle to deliver distinctive brand of Cuban jazz

 

The famed flutist and his Latin Jazz All-Stars set to sizzle Vail Square

 

It might be surprising that a flute player stirs up the kind of energy that causes audiences to leap on stage and start dancing. Or to make a blind man claim that he can see. But such is the miracle of Orlando “Maraca” Valle’s music.

 

“Many times before getting on stage, there are so many high spirits and so much burning desire to listen that I think success is guaranteed. And it’s true that when we get on stage a kind of mysterious interaction between the audience and the band is established, and it can get to extreme ways of communicating,” Valle says. “Sometimes the artist gets off the stage, going toward the audience, or sometimes people from the audience get on stage. In any case, we care about sincerity and self-confidence when we perform because these are the ways to engage the audience.”

 

Hailing from a family of musicians in Havana, Cuba, Valle took up the flute at the age of 10 on the suggestion of one of his talented brothers.

 

“I agreed although I preferred the guitar or the alto saxophone,” Valle says. “But then I fell in love with the flute and later it became the tool through which I express myself … my body extension. The flute has been carrying my voice, my thoughts and feelings all over the world.”

 

In his 20s, Valle joined the band Irakere as arranger, flute and keyboard player. Founded by Chucho Valdés and Paquito D’Rivera, the ensemble was famous throughout Cuba and Latin America. Soon Valle was rubbing shoulders and performing with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Chick Corea. It was in 1994 that Valle launched his solo career and has made remarkable traction ever since as a widely respected writer and arranger, collaborating with some of the hottest jazz artists across the globe.

 

“I’m very grateful to all of them because all of them are masters for me,” Valley says. “But I have to say that playing with Tito Puente, Tata Guines, Cesaria Evora, Chucho Valdes, Wynton Marsalis or Al Di Meola provided me with priceless experience. And most of these experiences and collaborations were spontaneous, so natural and fluent that they’re locked in my heart.”

 

Spontaneity is the cornerstone of Valle’s style and live performance energy. It’s also what brings him his greatest joy on stage.

 

“Improvising [has] been coming naturally to me since I was a child. Improvising allows me to express my own vision of the world, of life, my feelings and my dreams,” he says. “It brings me a lot of inner peace. I enjoy it so much.”

 

Then again, Valle can name many sources of musical passion.

 

“I enjoy conducting an orchestra, composing and arranging music, performing other composers’ music, different styles of music from different cultures…I also find it fascinating the communication and feedback between musicians,” he says. “Sometimes without knowing each other before performing together, nor having rehearsed together, they establish a unique musical conversation which can remain in the mind of all who assist this show forever.”

 

When it comes to playing with musicians he does know, for instance, his own Latin Jazz All-Stars, the “musical conversation” reaches sonic proportions.

 

“This is the kind of energy our planet needs – solar energy – but this energy doesn’t pollute,” Valle says. “It does heal hearts. On stage we’re all delighted to perform together and we enjoy everyone’s performance. And you can feel this. Our mutual admiration allows the audience to enjoy an exceptional concert.”

 

So exceptional is Maraca’s music that it has literally delivered vision and an uncanny urge to dance, even to the most unassuming of audiences.

 

“The most memorable feedback came from a fan of mine who is blind. When he first met me in person, he got so nervous that he was shaking with excitement and he confessed that my music made him see,” Valle says. “I also remember a great show in Grand Rapids, MI, where the front part of the audience was made of people in wheelchairs and some of them with artificial limbs got on stage and danced with the band. Finally, the most important feedback may come from children, because children don’t lie about what they like or what they don’t. When you see that your music is making them happy it is because something beautiful is going on.”

 

Orlando “Maraca” Valle performs with the Latin Jazz All-Stars at Vail Jazz @ Vail Square from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 17 inside the all-weather jazz tent in Lionshead. General admission tickets are $20 in advance and premium seating is $40 in advance. For tickets or more information, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM

Afro-Cuban Jazz is all sugar, drums and clave

This is the story of how sugar, drums and clave shaped the development of Afro-Cuban jazz … but a little history first. Columbus’ discovery of Cuba in 1492 led to Spain’s colonization of the island. Over the next 150 years, Havana became the way-station for ships carrying the wealth of Mexico back to Spain, while receiving the rich music and dance traditions of Spain. Becoming the first great music capital of the Western Hemisphere, Havana, along with New Orleans and New York City, were the only cities in the Western Hemisphere with opera companies in the 19th century. By 1900, it was the third largest city in the Western Hemisphere.

During the 19th and early 20th century people moved freely between Havana and New Orleans via daily ferryboat service. It was a time of musical cross-pollination as musicians soaked up the rich musical traditions of each culture. Not to be forgotten, the U.S. invaded Cuba to expel the Spanish and between 1898 and 1922 there were three separate extended periods of U.S. military occupations of Cuba with troops mustered in New Orleans at a time when ragtime music was evolving into jazz in the Crescent City.

The story of Afro-Cuban jazz, however, actually begins in Haiti in 1791 when the Haitian slaves revolted against their slave masters. The French colony was then producing 40 percent of the world’s sugar output, but by 1804, with the revolution successful, the sugar industry was in shambles. Cuba and Louisiana (not then part of the U.S.) jumped in to fill the void and dramatically increased the number of slaves brought to each area, with Cuba becoming the largest producer of sugar in the world by 1840. As a footnote, during the period of slavery in the Americas, more than 1 million slaves were brought to the small island of Cuba, twice the number of slaves brought to the U.S.

Both Spanish and U.S. slave masters lived in fear of revolt by their slaves and operated their plantations like prisons. However, they diverged in their approach by allowing slaves to make music. In the U.S., African drumming was prohibited for fear of the drummers communicating plans of an insurrection. An exception was in New Orleans’ “Congo Square,” where the slaves could play African drums on Sundays only. Cuban slaves on the other hand were allowed to play African drums and the clave, a pair of rounded hardwood sticks (dowels used in ship building) used to play polyrhythms that came from Africa. The primary rhythm is also known as clave, a five beat pattern (3-2 or 2-3) which is the foundation of Afro-Cuban jazz.

This is the proverbial “fork in the road.” Cuban slaves, significantly greater in number than U.S. slaves, retained a strong connection to their African drumming and polyrhythmic roots and melded them with a Spanish music tradition. The result wasn’t the same “gumbo” as in New Orleans, where a much broader and diverse European music tradition was fused with the slaves’ emphasis, out of necessity due to the lack of access to drums, to a music shaped by simpler African rhythmic patterns and vocal traditions. Also consider that Cuba didn’t abolish slavery until 1886, 21 years after the US and therefore the rhythms of Africa continued to be renewed in the slave population of Cuba much later in time than in the U.S.

“Jelly Roll” Morton, a New Orleans ragtime and early jazz piano player, was clearly influenced by the music of Cuba and the habanera (literally Havana) rhythm, which was one of the African polyrhythm patterns brought to Cuba by the slaves. He famously referred to it when he said: “You got to have that Spanish tinge” in the music. Without question, the Afro-Cuban musical motifs were influences as jazz began to evolve in New Orleans, but the branches of the jazz tree grew in different directions.

Fast forward to the early 1940s, Cuban bands are established in NYC playing popular Cuban dance music (mambo). Mario Bauzá, a Cuban trumpet player living in NYC since the 1930s, composes in 1943 the first true Afro-Cuban jazz tune, “Tangá” (African for marijuana), blending American jazz with clave. By the mid-40s, Afro-Cuban jazz is taking off and Dizzy Gillespie, the great bebop trumpeter, is searching for a new sound for his music. Dizzy is good friends with Bauzá, and in 1947 on Bauza’s recommendation, Dizzy hires Chano Pozo, a Cuban conguero (conga) virtuoso. Chano joins Dizzy’s world famous band as the first “Latin” percussionist and they jointly write the classics “Manteca” and “Tin Tine Deo,” fusing bebop and Afro-Cuban music. Unfortunately, their musical collaboration is short lived as Chano is killed at the age of 33 in a bar fight in 1948.

It is impossible to single out any one musician that should be credited with the development of Afro-Cuban jazz, but Bauzá, Dizzy and Chano, notwithstanding his early death, were seminal figures in the music’s creation.

An article about Afro-Cuban jazz would not be complete without a brief mention of the key percussion instrument used to make the distinctive sounds of Afro-Cuban jazz: congas, timbales, güiros (gourds played with a stick), bongos, and claves. Cuban musicians often joke that they get to play all of the above, but American jazz musicians only get to play the drum kit.

With the lifting of the embargo of Cuba by the U.S., Vail Jazz is pleased to present in concert Maraca and his Latin Jazz All-Stars lead by Cuban flutist Orlando Maraca on Aug. 18 at 6 p.m. in Lionshead as part of the 22nd Annual Vail Jazz Festival.

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.

Celebrating the one and only Milt Hinton

As part of the 22nd Annual Vail Jazz Festival, Vail Jazz is celebrating the life, music and art of the legendary bass player

A famous bass player and prolific photographer, not to mention a man of many nicknames, Milt Hinton chronicled jazz through the ages from the 1920s up until his death in 2000. Revealing a colorful sample of the mark he made, a digital exhibit of Hinton’s work and music will be presented at the Lionshead Welcome Center four times daily, from Aug. 3 to Sept. 5. It will air on the big screen at10 a.m. 12 p.m. 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

 

But that’s just the teaser for Vail Jazz’s ongoing Hinton tribute this summer.

 

In addition to the display at the Lionshead Welcome Center, the digital exhibit will be shown each night of the Vail Jazz Party (Sept. 2-4) in the lower lobby of Vail Mountain Marriott Resort, where the evening sessions take place. The riveting documentary, “Keeping Time: The life, music and photographs of Milt Hinton,” will be shown at the Marriott’s Grand Ballroom on Friday, Sept. 2 at 2 p.m. The documentary chronicles the storied 70-year career of Milt Hinton, embracing the rich life of a remarkable musician who recognized and recorded history as he was playing it. Tickets are $20 or included in the weekend passes.

 

Vail Jazz’s grand finale spotlight on the famed bass player is John Clayton’s Multi-Media Tribute to Milt Hinton, which includes narration by Clayton, who is himself one of today’s leading jazz bassists. He will share anecdotes and stories, video clips and stills along with what are sure to be powerful live renditions of Milt’s favorites with a quartet on stage. This is one of four sets that make up the Friday Evening Session of the Vail Jazz Party. Tickets are $75 in advance.

 

“Milt Hinton embodies the core of our mission at Vail Jazz,” says Vail Jazz Executive Director Robin Litt. “His whole essence, like ours, is a dynamic formula of educating while entertaining as well as broadening the audience for jazz, which stretches among numerous musical genres.”

Keep an eye and ear out for Milt Hinton in Vail this summer.

 

For more information and tickets to the documentary or John Clayton Tribute to Hinton, visitwww.vailjazz.org or by calling 888.VAIL.JAM. The Milt Hinton digital exhibit is made possible through a partnership with the Town of Vail’s Art in Public Places board and with the Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection, directed by David G. Berger and Holly Maxson.

Explore the roots of Cuban music with Maraca and his Latin Jazz All-stars

Join us August 18th, as Vail greets flutist Orlando “Maraca” Valle and his Latin Jazz All-Stars to Vail Jazz @ Vail Square starting at 6 pm. Performing with a seven piece band, you can already hear the exotic Latin beat of the congas and percussion, the warm sounds of salsa on the piano, the bright melodies of the trombone, groovy, fusion inspired bass lines, and the hot jazz sax making their way to Vail.

 

For over twenty years, Maraca and his Latin Jazz All-Stars have composed and arranged the authentic sounds and feelings from the Cuban culture. In 2003, Maraca received a Grammy nomination for Best Salsa Album with their album Tremenda Rumba, while also, topping the Billboard charts.

 

Having performed Afro-Cuban music in over 41 countries, the road has not been easy for this Cuban band. While politics have played a frustrating part in many Cuban musicians careers, as many Cuban bands have been restricted to travel and performing this rich music for fans abroad. However, Maraca continued to fight for Afro-Cuban music, and despite overwhelming visa and immigration laws, they encouraged listeners to not forget Cuban music and the Cuban people. In this time of turmoil, it was music that played a large part in bridging cultures together. It was musicians such as Maraca that started normalizing relations between countries, fighting for music to bring one another together.

 

Maraca’s music makes the listener feel intrigued and sparks conversation. With important messages and themes expressed in emotional vocals, this band practices what they preach, and have lived through incredible life experiences. Always giving a first class show, this band works extremely hard on stage to put on a spectacular show. Pouring their blood, sweat and tears into every salsa song.

 

Even today, Maraca plays with the traditional Cuban style and introduces contemporary harmonies and rhythms that sound energizing. Brining a little flair of Cuba to the audience, even here in Colorado! Music has truly shaped these musicians lives, and it’s evident as they perform with high enthusiasm night after night.

 

 

Catch this New Jazz Fronteirs Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxqeU6s4sLs

 

See you at the show! General Admission tickets are $20 and Premium tickets are $40, tickets can be purchased at https://www.vailjazz.org/events/maraca-latin-jazz-stars/

Cécile McClorin Salvant strikes fine balance between the silky and surly

The GRAMMY winning vocalist lands on Vail Jazz stage Thursday

Not one to mince words, Cécile McClorin Salvant is grateful for the tidal wave of fanfare she’s received in the last few years, but is also OK with people who don’t like her sound.

“If you know of me and like my music, thank you for your support,” she told La Foresta earlier this year. “If you don’t like it … give it to people you hate.”

With a French mother and Haitian father, Salvant was born and raised in Miami, where she took an avid interest in music at the age of 5. By the time she was 8, Salvant was singing in the Miami Choral Society and was drawn to classical voice. Skip ahead to the vocalist’s later teen years and she moved to France to study both baroque voice and law. In Aix-en-Provence, it was teacher and famed reed player Jean-François Bonnel who introduced her to jazz. She began performing with a band and performed throughout Paris, going on to record her first album – Cécile – with Bonnel’s own Paris quintet. She returned to the states to win the prestigious Thelonius Monk Jazz Competition in Washington, D.C. at the age of 21.

Citing vocal inspiration from the likes of Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Betty Carter and Bessie Smith, Salvant struck up a fascination with American music, likening her own vocal style to not only jazz but also vaudeville, folk and blues. It is often obscure tunes centered around a powerful story, some dating back to the early 1900s, that resonate most with Salvant, who sings in French as well as in Spanish and English.

Salvant’s second album, 2013’s WomanChild, included a handful of original compositions and garnered a landslide of acclaim, including a 2014 GRAMMY nomination for Best Vocal Jazz Album and Downbeat’s Jazz Album of the Year, Female Vocalist, Rising Star–Jazz Artist and Rising Star–Female Vocalist awards.

Salvant’s third studio album, 2015’s For One to Love, won the GRAMMY for Best Vocal Jazz Album. Honed onto a theme of strong, independent women, the record exudes a delightful melancholy and features five original compositions, a handful of jazz standards, and a couple of bright takes on rarities such as Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Stepsisters’ Lament” from Cinderella.

“Other musicians and composers really inspire me, film, books, things like that,” Salvant says. “And of course, people … seeing how people interact with each other in life, how they speak and describe their experiences.”

A conversation with her grandmother, a stroll through a visual art museum or even an observation of a strangers’ discussion from afar are fodder for Salvant’s muse.

“We all have a character depending on certain situations, how people communicate or try to hide emotion. How people lie and sometimes give a little bit of the truth is very fascinating to me,” she says. “Humor and laughter, the importance of humor and how people use that in their lives is important and interesting to me.”

Often sporting colorful, historic hats and/or retro frame eye glasses, Salvant’s vocal range is as unpredictable as her fashion choices, sometimes whispering over one word while wrenching out every syllable of another. She turns 27 this August and while finding herself surrounded by unquestionable popularity and acclaim as one of the world’s most quickly rising jazz stars, she says the limelight has never been something she has deliberately gravitated toward.

“I tend to not look at articles or interviews or videos of myself,” she says. “I feel really grateful for what’s been happening, but I don’t really like to be the center of attention. I don’t like to brag.”

Cécile Mclorin Salvant makes her Vail debut Thursday, Aug. 11 at Vail Jazz @ Vail Square The performance is from 6 to 8 p.m. inside the all-weather jazz tent in Lionshead. General admission tickets are $20 in advance and premium seating is $40 in advance. For tickets or more information visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

Joey Alexander … Jazz Musician

A “child prodigy” is a young person endowed with extraordinary talent. When a well-respected music critic makes the pronouncement that a 6-year-old classical violinist is a child prodigy, he is opining that the young musician possesses the skills to produce a musical output comparable to what a very skilled adult violinist can produce. The critic is not saying that the prodigy is the best player the critic has ever heard (which would be a foolish statement about any musician, but it is regularly made), the critic is saying this kid is so good, he/she can enter the realm of adults who play classical music.

It should not be forgotten that possessing prodigious talent doesn’t necessarily lead to fame and fortune. The pressure placed on a youngster branded as a prodigy is enormous. The world of music (and other disciplines) is littered with kid virtuosos, who for various reasons didn’t make it in their chosen fields, or for that matter, didn’t live productive and balanced lives.

So, what if you are a true musical child prodigy, what does that lead to? It certainly puts you in the game at a very early age and many doors will be opened for you. Assuming you can successfully navigate puberty, stay focused, handle the media circus that swirls around you, deal with the expectations of family, friends, managers and agents, mature and develop as a person and definitively determine over time that you really enjoy making music, you then enter the challenging world of adulthood, where you are no longer a child, prodigy or otherwise. Hopefully the skills that you possessed when you were 6 have been honed and enhanced and you have “raised your game,” because the marketing edge of a being a wunderkind is gone.

Josiah “Joey” Alexander is a 13-year-old jazz piano player from Indonesia. Proclaimed by many to be a child prodigy, his meteoric rise to international fame is a compelling story. Born in Bali, not exactly the hotbed of jazz, he learned about jazz by listening to his father’s records. By the time he was 6, Joey had taught himself how to play piano on an electronic keyboard that his parents had purchased for him because he was hyperactive and they hoped that the keyboard would allow him to focus his outsized energy. Learning by ear the music of the giants of jazz, he also taught himself how to improvise.

He began playing in clubs in Bali while still 6 and shortly thereafter his family moved to the capital city of Jakarta, where he had greater opportunities to jam and begin formal jazz music studies. Home-schooled by his parents, his piano studies and the small world of jazz in Jakarta were the center of his universe. By the time he was 8, Herbie Hancock had heard him play and inspired him to continue. At 9, Joey competed against 43 musicians from 17 countries and won the Grand Prix at the 2013 Master-Jam Fest in the Ukraine. By 10, his fame had spread to the U.S. and in May 2014 he was invited to perform at Jazz at Lincoln Center in NYC. “Down Beat” critic Allen Morrison wrote after his performance: “If the word ‘genius’ still means anything, it applies to this prodigy.” Thereafter, he began touring throughout Asia, Europe and the U.S., performing at some of the most prestigious venues in the world of jazz, including the Newport Jazz Festival, where last summer he was the youngest performer in the history of the event.

In 2015 when Joey was 11, he released, to great critical acclaim, his debut album, My Favorite Things. The album contains jazz standards that are some of the most complicated and nuanced music in the jazz canon, all of which he arranged. Also included was Joey’s own composition “Ma Blues,” establishing his standing as a composer. The album and his performances to follow have demonstrated that Joey is no longer a child prodigy, but that he is evolving into a great jazz musician without regard to age. For you see, to truly be a jazz musician is not about technical virtuosity, but it is the ability to bring to the music a creativity that is beyond, and frankly unrelated to, technique. It requires a creativity that is based upon a form of self-expression that is separate and apart from any endowed gift and requires the musician to have the ability to communicate with the listener. This musicality generally comes from a love and understanding of the music built over years of study and performance and a maturation generally shaped by the vicissitudes of life.

How did Joey go from being a precious child with prodigious talent to an accomplished jazz musician by the time he was 13? I wish I knew and I doubt that anybody does, including Joey. But I do know what Joey wants: “I know many people call me a prodigy; I mean, OK, I thank you, but I still want to be called a jazz musician.”

Vail Jazz will present Joey Alexander in concert on Aug. 4 as part of the 22nd Annual Vail Jazz Festival.

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.