Vail Jazz honored for paving educational path

Founder Howard Stone receives prestigious Downbeat Jazz Education Achievement Award.

Howard Stone has served as more than just a springboard for many young musicians’ career paths. But you’d be pressed to get him to admit it.

Try asking him about all the years he hosted the crew of Vail Jazz Workshop students in his very own home or about the time he personally bought shoes for a particularly necessitous young student and he consistently plays down his role.

So it’s no surprise when asking him about the extremely prestigious award he won this spring – the Jazz Education Achievement Award from Downbeat Magazine – that he immediately deflects all credit.

“I’m not an educator,” he says. “There is no question I started the program, but I want the individuals who actually educate to be recognized. It’s one thing to sit in a room and dream up an idea. Sometimes you want to slap idea people.”

Nobody wants to slap Stone. They just want to give him the award.

The education program he “dreamed up” is the Vail Jazz Workshop, launched 22 years ago when Stone realized after one year of organizing the Vail Jazz Festival that he should also establish a tideway for the future of the art form, enlisting famed bassist John Clayton as head mentor.

Each year, the Workshop hosts 12 of North America’s top teenage musical prodigies for 10 intensive days of focused training, all without the help of written music. Since the inaugural workshop, the team of educators has included John Clayton and his brother, saxophonist Jeff Clayton (whose role was temporarily filled by Dick Oates for two seasons), as well as pianist Bill Cunliffe. Trumpeter Terell Stafford and drummer Lewis Nash joined the mentor team 21 and 17 years ago, respectively, followed by trombonist Wycliffe Gordon six years ago.

“There is a healthy understanding of the importance of “giving back, moving things forward and investing in the future,” John Clayton says of the Workshop.

“Some of it gets to be pretty emotional because you see the students at the beginning of the week and share so much,” Stafford adds. “You get to watch incredible relationships blossom.”

Attending the Vail Jazz Workshop has become such a benchmark achievement that organizers receive more than 140 applications from up-and-coming musicians for the 12 spots each year. All arrive with resumés reading like those of accomplished pros and leave with the distinctive, incomparable ability to play by ear.

The Vail Jazz Workshop has cultivated 250 students over the past two-plus decades and many have gone on to illustrious musical careers, including Grammy Award winner Robert Glasper, Beyoncé band member Tia Fuller and award-winning documentary Keep On Keepin’ On star Justin Kauflin.

“The Jazz Workshop allowed me to learn from some of the greatest jazz musicians around and gave me the chance to learn alongside peers that challenged and inspired me to strive to always improve,” Kauflin said during a return visit to Vail in 2014 with various other Vail Jazz Workshop Alumni.  “I’ve been able to keep in contact with faculty and students after the workshop and am so fortunate to be a part of such an elite network of musicians.”

Workshop days are intense. Step into any one of them and you are likely to find students glued to their instrument in heavy concentration of each note or clustered around the mentors, hanging on their every word. After the week of training, Workshops students graduate to the status of Vail Jazz All-Stars and get to take their freshly cultivated skills to the stage, opening the annual Vail Jazz Party over Labor Day weekend, followed by a set from Vail Jazz Workshop Alumni and the mentors themselves, dubbed the Vail Jazz Party House Band.

 

But the education efforts of Vail Jazz continue all year. Following the advent of the Vail Jazz Workshop, Stone teamed up with local piano paragon Tony Gulizia to launch Vail Jazz Goes to School, a four-part educational series delivered to every elementary school in the valley. Here, fourth and fifth graders learn the art of syncopation, the 12-bar blues and improvisation as well as lessons in the history and evolution of jazz music. Since its inception in 1998, Vail Jazz Goes to School has educated more than 18,000 young students. Gulizia’s team is comprised of his brother, Joey Gulizia on drums, Andy Hall (bass), Roger Neumann (woodwinds), Mike Gurciullo (trumpet) and Michael Pujado (congas and percussion).

In 2013, also with Gulizia in the instructional seat, Stone’s next brainchild came into fruition. Vail Jazz introduced Jammin’ Jazz Kids, a free, hands-on class offered to 4 to 12-year-old children every Sunday in July preceding the weekly Vail Jazz@ The Market performance. Gulizia and fellow musician/mentor Brian Loftus equip the crowd of youngsters with xylophones, congas, tambourines, bongos and maracas, and within a few magical moments, the kids are thundering out amazing rhythms. For several children, the experience is pivotal in encouraging instrumental hobbies.

True that Stone is not the teacher conducting the hand-to-hand and ear-to-ear exchanges in these educational sessions, but they wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for him.

“There’s something to be said for creators and something more to be said for doers,” he says.

But doers cannot do until the creation is in place. The musical community, young and old, novice and pro, have Stone to thank for this.

Altogether, Vail Jazz delivers more than 50 educational programs every year, imparting musical knowledge to more than 1,400 students annually.

2017 Vail Jazz Gala July 10

Vail Jazz’s educational programs would also not exist if it weren’t for the generosity of donors and supporters. The annual Vail Jazz Gala serves as the organization’s No. 1 fundraiser for its educational programming.

The July 10 event, From Bridge Street to Bourbon Street is bound to do exactly that –  transport audiences to the heart of New Orleans. Starring iconic, New Orleans-based vocalist John Boutté and a colossal combination of Vail Jazz Workshop Alumni, the evening delivers a soulful performance as well as an exquisite dinner, cocktail and appetizer reception. For more information or tickets, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

Vail Jazz @Riverwalk welcomes The Otone Brass Band

Dancing while playing an instrument is no simple feat, but it appears to come naturally to all eight members of The Otone Brass Band. Whether it’s swinging the sousaphone from side to side or spinning and bobbing while keeping a lightning fast drumbeat, it’s clear that every one in the band views each song as an opportunity to party. The vibe is contagious and it’s usually a matter of seconds before everyone within earshot is moving to the beat.

The Otone Brass Band brings its lively grooves to the Riverwalk Backyard Amphitheater this Friday for Vail Jazz@ Riverwalk presented by Alpine Bank and Kaiser Permanente.

The all-new Vail Jazz@ Riverwalk series kicked off June 9 with The Burroughs, drawing in a sea of picnicking families, passers by and dancers of all ages. The series delivers free live music every other Friday along with local food and drink vendors, including paella from Revolution, paninis and salads from Eat! Drink! and cocktails from 10th Mountain Whiskey.

“Our first Riverwalk show was a fantastic blueprint of what we hope to see the rest of the summer,” says Vail Jazz Operations Director James Kenly. “We had all kinds of people on the lawn – families and couples with picnic spreads watching the show while enjoying their dinner. We had little kids twirling to the tunes. At one point it was like the band sent a wave over everyone. One after another, people started coming to the front of the stage to dance. It was so much fun.”

The Otone Brass Band just might take its stage performance into marching mode through the lawn. It wouldn’t be the first time. Infusing its New Orleans street sound with strains of Latin, soul and funk, whether on stage or off, the Denver-based ensemble is famous for infecting crowds of all ages with positive energy.

If spontaneous dance opportunities aren’t enough for the younger members of the audience, Alpine Arts Center will be on hand offering unique arts and crafts projects for children.

Vendors open at 5 p.m. and music begins at 6 p.m. Picnics are welcome but no pets are allowed. The event is non-smoking.

Vail Jazz launches a summer of lawn parties every other Friday in Edwards

There’s nothing like unwinding from a busy week with free live music and a sunny afternoon picnic.

Vail Jazz observed that such a scene was too good to reserve for only the first Friday of the month, which is why the all-new Vail Jazz@ Riverwalk was born, infusing The Riverwalk in Edwards with an outdoor party every other Friday all summer long.

Vail Jazz @Riverwalk kicks off the summer weekends on a high note beginning at 5 p.m. June 9 with the romping, high-energy tunes of The Burroughs. The homegrown, northern Colorado-based nine-piece calls its sound “sweaty soul,” and fuses its self-proclaimed “powerhouse” rhythm section with a vibrant, four-piece horn section and unquestionably charismatic vocals delivered by front man Johnny Burroughs. The Burroughs return to the Riverwalk Backyard Amphitheater in Edwards, where they had the packed, picnic-toting crowd on its feet dancing for nearly their entire set last summer during Riverwalk First Fridays.

Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk replaces Riverwalk First Fridays, bringing a sizzling variety of regional artists to Edwards every other Friday along with local food and drink vendors, including rotisserie barbecue from Revolution, paninis and salads from Eat! Drink! and cocktails from 10th Mountain Whiskey.

“It became clear last summer that people were hungry for live music on the lawn Friday afternoons, so we doubled our offerings,” says Vail Jazz Operations Director James Kenly. “The Riverwalk Backyard Amphitheater is an ideal setting to showcase this super talented lineup of bands. The scene turns into a massive lawn party with neighbors, friends and visitors – a perfect place to make new friends. We expect it to become everybody’s go-to Friday plan twice a month.”

Following its June 9 summer launch, Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk continues June 23 with New Orleans flavored Otone Brass Brand, rhythm and blues group Phil Wiggins and George Kilby Jr. on July 7, contemporary jazz saxophonist Nelson Rangell on July 21, the U.S. Air Force Academy Falconaires Big Band Aug. 4 and sizzling salsa 12-piece Quemando on Aug. 18.

Not sure whether to leave the kids at home? Bring them along. Alpine Arts Center offers free arts and crafts for children and the general ambiance delivers entertainment for all ages. Vendors open at 5 p.m. and music begins at 6 p.m. Picnics are welcome but no pets are allowed and the event is non-smoking.

The Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk series is presented by

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Mountains to the Masses: Vail Jazz Partners with KUVO

From the mountains to the masses – Vail Jazz and KUVO launch “Live from the Vail Jazz Festival” rebroadcast series

Since 1932 when large-scale broadcasts became popular in the United States, the relationship between jazz and the radio has been a natural one, keeping millions of listeners tuned in to jazz stations around the world for special interviews, new releases and cherished recordings.

Throughout the summer of 2017, Vail Jazz will hit the airwaves with an expanded series of rebroadcasted performances in partnership with KUVO, Denver’s internationally-recognized jazz radio station. Six one-hour programs will be released between July 23rd and August 27th in a series called, “Live from the Vail Jazz Festival.”

Ranked 50th in Downbeat Magazine’s “Coolest Things in Jazz,” KUVO is known as a foremost presenter of jazz in the radio format, reaching more than 106,000 listeners every week through its 17 locally produced programs. The station also transmits high into the Rockies through its local frequency, KVJZ 88.5FM.

“So many fans and patrons of Vail Jazz reminisce about their favorite performances and memories from the Vail Jazz Festival. We felt like it was time to start capturing and sharing these special musical moments on a larger scale,” said Vail Jazz Development Director Owen Hutchinson. “This is a perfect next step in our decades-long partnership with KUVO.”

Scheduled rebroadcasts will take place on Sunday afternoons, on the following dates:

July 23rd – John Boutte with Vail Jazz Workshop Alumni

July 30th – Butler, Bernstein and the Hot 9

August 6th – The Hot Club of France Tribute Band

August 13th – Ella and Louis, Together Again – Featuring Byron Stripling and Carmen McRae

August 20th – Rene Marie and Experiment in Truth

August 27th – ¡Cubanismo!

 

“Live from the Vail Jazz Festival” rebroadcasts are made possible by:

 

Vail Jazz Festival delivering biggest summer lineup in history

Tickets are officially on sale for the 23rd annual Vail Jazz Festival’s summer of sizzling live performances, which includes a broad lineup of international, national and regional acts spanning the gamut from blues and soul to swing, bebop, gypsy jazz, Latin and more.

 

Vail Jazz Club Series
The Vail Jazz Club Series, takes place every Wednesday evening from July 12 to Aug. 9, at its new home, Ludwig’s Terrace at The Sonnenalp Hotel, which hosted the sold-out Vail Jazz Winter Series last winter. The 2017 Vail Jazz Club Series features intimate, lounge-style performances with Vail Square artists, including Henry Butler on July 12, Frank Vignola July 19, Carmen Bradford and Byron Stripling’s tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong on July 26, Rene Marie on Aug. 2 and Dr. Michael Davison on Aug. 9 for a special lecture-performance on the history of Afro-Cuban jazz. The series will feature two performances on each of these nights, an early seating at 6:30 p.m. and a second seating at 9 p.m. view more…

July 10 Vail Jazz Gala: From Bridge Street to Bourbon Street
The Vail Jazz Gala is the annual fundraiser for Vail Jazz’s educational programs, which include Vail Jazz Goes to School, the Vail Jazz Workshop and Jammin’ Jazz Kids, cultivating more than 1,400 young minds in the art and beauty of jazz music every year. The 2017 Gala is set to blow the doors off with “The Voice of New Orleans,” jazz legend John Boutté, teaming up with Vail Jazz Workshop alumni. Bringing Bridge Street to Bourbon Street, the event begins at 6 p.m. on July 10 at The Sebastian and includes cocktails, hors d’houevres, dinner and a spectacular performance. view more…

Vail Jazz @ Vail Square
The 2017 Vail Jazz @ Vail Square series totals a whopping nine performances this summer – every Thursday evening at 6 p.m. beginning July 6 in the all-weather Vail Square tent in Lionshead. For the first time this summer, there will be assigned seating (selected online), and all-new Premium seating featuring cushioned chairs and more elbow room. Preferred and Premium tickets are available in a discounted four-pack subscription on sale through July 6. General admission seating is first come, first seated, available online as well. view more…

July 6 Marcia Ball
From rollicking roadhouse to bouncing blues to tear-inducing ballads, Marcia Ball hits the keys of her piano with a heartfelt, harmonious slam on every note. The award-winning storyteller from Texas returns to Vail with her alternately steppy and soulful, Louisiana-inspired tunes.

July 13 Butler, Bernstein & The Hot 9
If this doesn’t sound like a big deck party, we don’t know what does. The New Orleans theme blows up 10-fold (11-fold, actually) with this electric, brass-heavy collaboration. Pianist and vocalist Henry Butler and trumpeter Steven Bernstein lead an explosive ensemble through sounds of pop, R&B, Caribbean, classical and traditional, fiery, impromptu jazz.

July 20 Frank Vignola’s Hot Club of France Tribute
Six-string phenom Frank Vignola is no stranger to Vail, but this summer he channels the hypnotic mystique of gypsy jazz legend Django Reinhardt. Tapping into the era of Reinhardt’s Hot Club of France, Vignola leads his own international quintet in a smoking hot tribute.

July 27 Ella and Louis Together Again featuring Carmen Bradford and Byron Stripling
Step out of a time machine to take in one of jazz history’s most show-stopping duos. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong are brought back to life via the magic trumpet and vocals of Byron Stripling and Count Basie Big Band singer Carmen Bradford.

Aug. 3 René Marie and Experiment in Truth
The songwriter and swanky singer brings her seductive, larger-than-life vocals to Vail Square, tapping into flavors of folk, swing, classical and R&B. Whatever the selection of original numbers, the two-time Grammy nominee’s 10-year anniversary rendition of her sixth album, Experiment in Truth, will hypnotize.

Aug. 10 ¡Cubanismo!
The pulse created by this 11-piece ensemble reaches earthquake proportions as you glide through the deep river of Cuban rhythms. With plenty of horns, percussion beats and two vocalists, the lively tour takes you through dance tunes and wild polyrhythms of traditional rumba, cha-cha and classic Cuban “Son.”

Aug. 17 Eliane Elias: Samba Brazil
Combining sultry vocals with enchanting piano, Grammy winner Eliane Elias schools audiences in the art of Samba. Digging into her Brazilian roots, the celebrated composer makes her highly anticipated return to Vail, as is considered one of the top highlights of the 23rd Annual Festival.

Aug. 24 Joey DeFrancesco & The People
If ever there were a way to describe the B-3 organ as “light and infectious,” it would be due to the unique talent of showman Joey DeFrancesco. The prolific, Grammy-nominated musician also belts out some big vocals, toe-tapping trumpet and knows every in and out of bebop.

Aug. 31 Vail Jazz All-Stars, Alumni Quintet and House Band
Kicking off the 23rd Annual Vail Jazz Party and five days of wall-to-wall live music featuring the world’s top names in jazz, this triple bill brings a freshly tuned lineup of 12 teenage rising stars, star alumni and shining jazz stars – deeply established mentor musicians John and Jeff Clayton, Wycliffe Gordon, Terell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe and Lewis Nash.

Vail Jazz Party Aug. 31 – Sept. 4
The Vail Jazz Festival culminates with its marquee event, the 23rd Annual Vail Jazz Labor Day Weekend Party. More than 35 nationally and internationally acclaimed headlining artists descend on Vail for nonstop indoor and outdoor performances. Highlights for 2017 include Jeff Clayton’s Tribute to Cannonball Adderly, Jeff Hamilton’ and Butch Miles’ multimedia Tribute to Buddy Rich, Byron Stripling’s multimedia presentation of Cole Porter & The Jazz Connection, Niki Haris’ Gospel Prayer Meetin’ and Adrian Cunningham’s CD Release Party. Tickets are available for individual sessions as well as for the entire multi-day event in the form of Performance and Patron Passes.

FREE SHOWS

Vail Jazz @Riverwalk
Back by popular demand, Alpine Bank and Kaiser Permanente present Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk, expanding this summer to six events. The series brings free live music to the Riverwalk Backyard Amphitheater in Edwards twice monthly on Friday afternoons beginning June 9 with energetic nine-piece soul rockers, The Burroughs. Vendors include Eat! Drink! of Edwards, serving delectable paninis and salads and rotisserie-themed Revolution, bringing barbeque with international flair. The family-friendly, picnic-style atmosphere continues June 23 with New Orleans flavored Otone Brass Brand, rhythm and blues group Phil Wiggins and George Kilby Jr. on July 7, contemporary jazz saxophonist Nelson Rangell on July 21, the U.S. Air Force Academy Falconaires Big Band Aug. 4 and sizzling salsa 12-piece Quemando on Aug. 18. With arts and crafts activities provided by Alpine Arts Center, entertainment options abound for every age group.

Vail Jazz @ The Market
Follow your ears to more free live music every Sunday beginning June 25 at the Vail Farmers Market with a rotating lineup of acclaimed regional acts at Vail Jazz @ The Market from 12 to 3 p.m. in the Solaris tent. Showcasing home-grown, Colorado talent, the series features longtime favorites like the Max Wagner Quartet (June 25), the Chuck Lamb Quartet (July 30), while also introducing new acts like Los Chicos Malos (July 2) and Joe Smith & the Spicy Pickles (Aug. 20).

Vail Jazz @ The Remedy
The swanky club-scene of The Remedy and Vail valley jazz legends, Tony Gulizia and Brian Loftus (“BLT”) come together every Sunday night at 8 p.m. for Vail Jazz @ The Remedy. Held at the Four Seasons Resort, guest artists join BLT each week for memorable jam sessions beginning on June 25.

Tickets on sale:

All Vail Jazz Festival tickets are on sale now at vailjazz.org. For more information, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

The 23rd Annual Vail Jazz Festival is generously supported by the Town of Vail, Alpine Bank, The Lion Vail, The Jazz Cruise & Blue Note at Sea, Colorado Mountain Express, Kaiser Permanente, Anheuser-Busch, The Vail Daily, and a variety of Community Sponsors. For a complete list of events sponsors, visit vailjazz.org.

 

Vail Today: Vail Jazz Goes to School connects kids with the history of jazz

Jazz and the history of this American gift to the world of music was alive and well at the Vilar Performing Arts Center this week. The Jazz Goes to School program concluded their school series with a concert led by local Jazz Goes to School educator, Tony Gulizia.

Gulizia was joined by the Vail Jazz Goes to School Sextet, which consists of musicians from all over the nation. They get together for four sessions at local elementary schools each school year. Many of them have been doing this gig since it began 19 years ago.

“I really wanted to reach out to 4th and 5th graders to help spark the interest at that age, especially since they can join band in the 5th grade,” said Gulizia, who has been a music instructor at Eagle County Charter Academy for the past 24 years and is a fixture on the Vail music scene.

As part of their education during the previous sessions, students were taught the 12 Bar Blues. The kids had to come up with innovative lyrics and show their ability to follow the rhythm and rhyming pattern they were taught.

This is often the highlight of each performance as Tony Gulizia sings the lyrics in a bluesy fashion, crooning about things like having to move on from elementary to middle school, or an ice cream scoop falling to the floor and mom making you clean it up.

The lyrics are priceless and so is the experience. “I have so many former participants come up to me even 10 or 15 years later and say how much they remember what they learned in our program or how they went on to play an instrument,” said Gulizia. “It’s great to hear that we’ve made an impact and are keeping jazz alive for the next generation.”

To learn more visit http://www.vailjazz.org.
12-Bar Blues

The fifth-graders who participated in Vail Jazz Goes to School were challenged to write their own lyrics in sync with the jazz chord progression they had learned known as the 12-bar blues. Compositions were judged on innovative lyrics and the ability to follow the rhythm and rhyming pattern they were taught. Here are the winning lyrics:

1. Eagle County Charter Academy

One day I looked outside, it was a pretty day
One day I looked outside, it was a pretty day
I said, I want to go swimmin’ in the bay

Yesterday, I woke up in the middle of the night
Yesterday, I woke up in the middle of the night
I had a real bad dream, that gave me quite a fright

I woke up in the hospital, realized I cracked my head
I woke up in the hospital, realized I cracked my head
Even through it was a bummer, I was happy, I wasn’t dead

2. Stone Creek Charter

One fine day, I met a tabby cat
One fine day, I met a tabby cat
He stole my watch, my wallet, and my hat

I know a bearded man, his name is Baúl
I know a bearded man, his name is Baúl
He’s my Spanish teacher, he’s very cool

There was an alien, his name was Bob
There was an alien, his name was Bob
I grabbed 2 swords, now he’s a shish kebab

3. Brush Creek Elementary

This is, the Bobcat Blues
This is, the Bobcat Blues
If you don’t understand, you lose

This song, must be sung loud & proud
This song, must be sung loud & proud
Cause it was written by Ava, Caleigh and Rylee, who are so proud

Vail Jazz Goes to School puts musical stamp on 19th year

Wrapping up its 19th year in Eagle County, Vail Jazz Goes to School rolls out its grand finale on the big stage with three performances at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek.   

The fourth and final session of the Vail Jazz Goes to School educational program, entitled “A Tribute to the Giants of Jazz”, features the Vail Jazz Goes to School Sextet performing a selection of tunes that have shaped the history of jazz in America. Vail Jazz Goes to School educator Tony Gulizia (keyboard and vocals) will lead the Sextet through legendary jazz tunes from Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn, Benny Goodman, Sonny Rollins, George Gershwin, Dave Brubeck & Paul Desmond, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk and Dizzy Gillespie.

“We also perform a medley of blues compositions authored by the fifth graders as part of the concert. Their lyrics are priceless,” Gulizia says.

Drummer Joey Gulizia joins brother Tony on stage, as do Andy Hall (bass), Roger Neumann (woodwinds), Mike Gurciullo (trumpet) and Michael Pujado (congas and percussion).  The Sextet presents a dynamic, foot stompin’ show that pulls together all of the concepts taught in the first three classroom sessions, in which Tony and his educating team visited every elementary school in the valley imparting hands-on musical lessons to fourth and fifth grade classes.

As part of their education during the previous sessions, students were taught the 12 Bar Blues and during the Vilar concerts, a winning student (or group of students) will be announced for their innovative lyrics and ability to follow the rhythm and rhyming pattern they were taught.

Concerts take place at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Tuesday, April 25 and at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 26. The concerts last approximately one hour and will be attended by local fourth and fifth graders. Tickets are not available online but seats are available at the door to the general public.

Vail Jazz Goes to School educates more than 1,100 local fourth and fifth graders annually and new in the last year, began visiting a handful of elementary schools on the Front Range. Since its inception 19 years ago, Vail Jazz Goes to School has introduced jazz music to nearly 20,000 school children.

To learn more about Vail Jazz’s educational programs, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

 

Vail Jazz Goes to School is presented by Alpine Bank and Slifer Smith & Frampton Foundation, with support from Stevens, Littman, Biddison, Tharp & Weinberg, L.L.C., Vail Resorts Epic Promise, United Way of Eagle County, the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, Eagle County Schools, East West Resorts and Antlers at Vail.

Piano talent, unbridled

Continuing a vibrant Cuban dynasty, Chuchito Valdés closes the 2017 Vail Jazz Winter Series

If any artist were to enter the world with music already in their blood, it would be Chuchito Valdés. Born and raised in Havana, Cuba, Chuchito, like his father, the great Chucho Valdés and grandfather, Bebo Valdés, possessed an uncanny knack for playing the piano. Nearly 50 years later, he remains inseparable from the instrument. When not touring or performing, not a day goes by in which Chuchito isn’t thirsty for some time on the keys.

Bebo Valdés was one of the most prominent musicians in Cuba during the 1940s and ‘50s before relocating (for political reasons) to Sweden in the 1960s and teaching his son, Chucho Valdés, a few secrets on the piano from the age of 3 onward. Chucho, who is about to celebrate his 75 th birthday, is considered one of the most influential figures in Afro-Cuban jazz and has won six Grammy awards and three Latin Grammies.

After early coaching from his father, Chuchito’s foray into the profession began after attending the musical school of Cuban legend Ignacio Cervantes, whom Chuchito names along with his father and grandfather as an inspiration. He began performing at age 16 with Cuban vocalists Pello el Afrokan, Anibel Lopez and Jamaican-born trumpeter/vocalist Bobby Carcasses. After his father left Irakere, the iconic Cuban jazz ensemble he’d founded, Chuchito replaced him as leader and arranger.

Eventually, Chuchito launched his own band, composing spicy Afro-Cuban jazz numbers and earning one Latin Grammy nomination after another, beginning in 2002. He continues touring the world, performing fast-paced, feel-good numbers, most recently from his 2015 release, Horizontes.

Freshly landed in the U.S. for a round of gigs across the Midwest, Chuchito’s first comment during a phone interview is a warning that his English is not so good. But his passion is crystal clear.

“My inspiration is the music,” he says. “For me, the music is everything.”

Chuchito’s style is distinctly Afro-Cuban in nature, capturing the spirits of several unique genres cultivated throughout the history of his native country, including Son, Cuban Timba, Danzon and Guaguanco. His sizzling harmonies also take on flavors of Caribbean, bebop and cha-cha- cha. The foundation of his musical artillery, however, is classical.

“My teacher, he told me I need play first classical music and later jazz,” Chuchito says. “For the jazz, the piano is muy importante to everything.”

What’s it like to witness Chuchito Valdés on stage? Picture this: He’s so enraptured in the sound emanating from the keys he’s furiously slapping that his hands become a blur. Without a microphone, he’ll call out and sing throughout his set. His fingers not skipping a beat, he’ll sporadically launch onto his feet and sit back down as if his own rhythms have him attached to marionette strings. His head bobs and rolls with every note. If anything is obvious – besides the ecstatic nature of his performance – it’s that Chuchito takes his role in the Valdés musical dynasty seriously.

“My grandfather prepared the future for my father and my father for me. The sound is different but it’s still the style, the Cuban music,” he says. “The future because of me is one direction on the piano – different sounds but with my [father and grandfather’s] education.”

When he’s not touring the world, Chuchito resides in Cancún, Mexico, with his family. There is no such thing as a day off for him when it comes to the piano, because that would be like a day without food. He says that playing to him is like breathing.

“Every day, every day, I play every day,” he says. “If I no play … I no happy.”

Catch Cuban pianist Chuchito Valdes in the final performance of the 2017 Vail Jazz Winter Series at Ludwig’s Terrace in The Sonnenalp on April 13. The evening features two 60-minute performances; the first seating takes place at 6 p.m. (doors at 5:15 p.m.) and the second seating at 8:30 p.m. (doors at 8 p.m.) Tickets to each performance are $35 in advance. Seating is jazz club style around small tables. Dinner service and a full bar will be available at an additional cost. For tickets or more information, click here or call 888-VAIL- JAM.

Reserve your summer Thursdays for bumpin’ live jazz

The umbrella of jazz spans several genres and nowhere is its vast reach more spectacularly exemplified than in the varied lineup of artists on tap for this summer’s Vail Jazz @ Vail Square series.

One of six performance series that make up the summer-long Vail Jazz Festival, the Vail Square lineup for 2017 is confirmed, including established favorites as well as internationally acclaimed talent taking the Vail stage for the first time. Other highlights of the Festival include the Vail Jazz Club Series, which lands at The Sonnenalp every Wednesday evening from July 12 to Aug. 2, featuring more intimate performances with Vail Square artists. Plus, back by popular demand, Vail Jazz’s First Fridays shows in Edwards will be upgraded this summer to an expanded series, Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk, bringing free live music to the Riverwalk Backyard Amphitheater on alternating Fridays beginning June 9.

The 2017 Vail Jazz @ Vail Square series, totaling nine performances, kicks off July 6, and will ignite Lionshead with head-bobbing energy every Thursday evening leading up to the 22nd Annual Vail Jazz Party on Aug. 31.

July 6 Marcia Ball

From rollicking roadhouse to bouncing blues to tear-inducing ballads, Marcia Ball hits the keys of her piano with a heartfelt, harmonious slam on every note. The award-winning storyteller from Texas returns to Vail with her alternately steppy and soulful, Louisiana-inspired tunes.

July 13 Butler, Bernstein & The Hot 9

If this doesn’t sound like a big deck party, we don’t know what does. The New Orleans theme blows up 10-fold (11-fold, actually) with this electric, brass-heavy collaboration. Pianist and vocalist Henry Butler and trumpeter Steven Bernstein lead an explosive ensemble through sounds of pop, R&B, Caribbean, classical and traditional, fiery, impromptu jazz.

July 20 Frank Vignola’s Hot Club of France Tribute Band

Six-string phenom Frank Vignola is no stranger to Vail, but this summer he channels the hypnotic mystique of gypsy jazz legend Django Reinhardt. Tapping into the era of Reinhardt’s Hot Club of France, Vignola leads his own international quintet in a smoking hot tribute.

July 27 Ella and Louis Together Again feat. Carmen Bradford and Byron Stripling

Step out of a time machine to take in one of jazz history’s most show-stopping duos. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong are brought back to life via the magic trumpet and vocals of Byron Stripling and Count Basie Big Band singer Carmen Bradford.

Aug. 3 René Marie and Experiment in Truth

The songwriter and swanky singer brings her seductive, bigger-than-life vocals to Vail Square, tapping into flavors of folk, swing, classical and R&B. Whatever the selection of original numbers, the two-time Grammy nominee’s 10-year anniversary rendition of her sixth album, Experiment in Truth, will hypnotize.

Aug. 10 ¡Cubanismo!

The pulse created by this 11-piece ensemble reaches earthquake proportions as you glide through the deep river of Cuban rhythms. With plenty of horns, percussion beats and two vocalists, the lively tour takes you through dance tunes and wild polyrhythms of traditional rumba, cha-cha and classic Cuban “son.”

Aug. 17 Eliane Elias: Samba Brazil

Combining sultry vocals with enchanting piano, Grammy winner Eliane Elias schools audiences in the art of Samba. Digging into her Brazilian roots, the celebrated composer makes her hotly anticipated return to Vail.

Aug. 24 Joey DeFrancesco & The People

If ever there were a way to describe the B-3 organ as “light and infectious,” it would be due to the unique talent of showman Joey DeFrancesco. The prolific, Grammy-nominated musician also belts out some big vocals, toe-tapping trumpet and knows every in and out of bebop.

Aug. 31 Vail Jazz All-Stars, Alumni Quintet and House Band

Kicking off the 22nd Annual Vail Jazz Party and five days of wall-to-wall live music featuring the world’s top names in jazz, this triple bill brings a freshly tuned lineup of 12 teenage rising stars, star alumni and shining jazz stars – deeply established mentor musicians John and Jeff Clayton, Wycliffe Gordon, Terell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe and Lewis Nash.

The where and how:

Vail Jazz @ Vail Square performances take place in the all-weather Vail Square tent in Lionshead, which for the first time this summer, features assigned seating (selected online) for Preferred seating and the all-new Premium seating sectioned comprised of cushioned chairs and more space. Preferred and Premium tickets are also available in a discounted four-pack subscription on sale through July 6. General admission seating is available on a first come basis. All Vail Jazz Festival ticket sales begin May 1. For more information, view the Vail Jazz @ Vail Square page or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

A cool combo of bass and vocals

Award-winning Australian artist pays tribute to Peggy Lee at Vail Jazz Winter Series

Nicki Parrott probably never would have discovered her vocal talent if not for the late, great Les Paul. Parrott had been a Monday night mainstay with Paul at New York City’s Club Iridium when one evening he stopped her suddenly in the middle of a set and suggested she start singing.

“He stopped me in the middle of a bass solo on stage and said, ‘is that all you’re going to do is play the bass?’ I had never sung in public,” Parrott says. “But Les was like that. He liked to put people on the spot and make them think on their feet. He liked having a female vocalist on stage.”

Parrott launched into Ella Fitzgerald’s “Deed I do” that night and her vocal career was born.

“He pressured me to do it, but then I fell in love with it,” Parrott says. “He seemed to have a lot of faith. You never knew what to expect with Les. He was always in the moment. He thought it was funny to catch me in the middle of a bass solo. He loved to be funny. He was all about the show.”

From composing, recording and collaborating on nearly 30 albums to performing in jazz festivals across the world, playing Broadway ensembles to winning numerous awards and sharing the stage with Clark Terry, Patti Labelle, Bucky Pizzarelli and countless other greats, Parrott knows a thing or two about “the show.”

Hailing from New South Wales, Australia, Parrott grew up constantly listening to classical music and started playing piano before she was 5 years old. She added the flute to her repertoire a few years later, “got serious and had some lessons,” then joined concert bands at school. Her older sister started bringing home Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker records when she was a teenager and both girls began cultivating a love for jazz. Playing clarinet and saxophone, her older sister started a band and asked Parrott if she’d be interested in playing bass.

“I wanted to be part of everything, so I got a bass from school. It had only three strings on it, but I didn’t think that as a problem at the time,” Parrott recalls. “I could read music and transcribe. I did fall in love with jazz and the bass pretty quickly.”

By the time she was 16, Parrott had moved to Sydney to study jazz and began touring Australia. One of the compositions for her debut album with her sister landed her first place in Jazz Action Society’s Annual Song Competition. Then The Arts Council of Australia sent her to New York to study with famed bassist Rufus Reid in 1994 when she was 18. By 2000, she had caught Les Paul’s eye and ear and joined the Les Paul Trio.

Of her many career achievements to date, it’s her role in the guitarist’s legacy that she names first as a standout highlight.

“We played the 90th birthday of Carnegie Hall – to be part of that was a real honor. But every Monday night with Les Paul was a new show. It was a very, very interesting gig. Any chance you get to work with jazz legends like Clark Terry and Skitch Henderson, all of these wonderful musicians. Now they’re not here, but that I got some time talking with them was really special.”

As far as honoring legendary artists, Parrott loves putting her personal stamp on Peggy Lee tunes. Lee’s “Fever” has been a bastion of her set list for years, dating back to her first gigs after Paul summoned her vocal talent.

“She was one of the first voices that really struck home for me,” Parrott says. “I started to try to find new ways to do some of her classics. What I found interesting about her is how much of a musician she was. She was a composer – she composed a lot of songs – not many singers compose their own songs. She was a great performer with a very unique, sassy style. I always loved her voice. She had a wonderful delivery, with this cool, understated way of singing.”

As far as what to expect for her upcoming Tribute to Peggy Lee on March 2, Parrott says the classics aren’t the only tunes in the lineup.

“I like to have a varied repertoire. The audience is going to know some songs, but they won’t know every song. I want to enlighten them about facts and songs they might not have heard. Above all, I want people to enjoy themselves.”

Don’t miss Nicki Parrott’s Tribute to Peggy Lee for the 2017 Vail Jazz Winter Series at Ludwig’s Terrace in The Sonnenalp on March 2. The evening features two 60-minute performances; the first seating takes place at 6 p.m. (doors at 5:30 p.m.) and the second seating at 8:30 p.m. (doors at 8 p.m.) Tickets to each performance are $35 in advance. Seating is jazz club style around small tables. Dinner service and a full bar will be available. For tickets or more information, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.