Jazz @ Vail Square starts on July 4th with Curtis Stigers & SaRon Crenshaw

SaRon Crenshaw has never seen someone openly cry while listening to him play the guitar, but there have been times when, after a performance someone has approached him, hold his hand in gratitude and walk away, leaving him holding a $100 bill.

“They would tell me how I’ve touched them,” says the New York City-based blues guitarist, who will be playing the first set in Lionshead on Thursday, July 4 for the 19th annual Vail Jazz Festival’s first Jazz@ Vail Square performance of the season.

Touched as audiences may be, the heartfelt donations his fans have made aren’t that surprising if you consider that Crenshaw’s a guy who’s been caught wandering through the crowd in the middle of a song playing his guitar with his tongue.

And he’s only part of the show on July 4. Internationally touted vocalist and saxophonist Curtis Stigers will fill the other half of the two-hour performance and both artists will pay tribute to “The Red, White and The Blues.”

Needless, to say, the latter color represents Crenshaw’s specialty. When asked about details of what the audience should expect from his performance, he simply says, “something they’ve never seen or heard.”

As far as “jazz” goes, neither Crenshaw nor Stigers are traditional representatives of the genre. Stigers, who melted the vast audience at Ford Amphitheater last year with his epic performance, has made a name for himself as not only a jazz vocalist but also as a saxophonist, guitarist and songwriter. The eclectic gamut of big names with whom he’s performed and recorded also speaks to his versatility: Prince, Eric Clapton, The Allman Brothers, Bonnie Raitt and Rod Stewart to name just a few.

You also may recognize his music from the theme song and soundtrack of the hit TV series “Sons of Anarchy,” and also from his 10th studio album – “Let’s Go Out Tonight” featuring songs by Bob Dylan, Steve Earle, David Poe and Richard Thompson.

“I’ve keep poking my foot through the side of the box,” Stigers says of his genrestraddling talent.

For Crenshaw, whose career has just begun to blossom, the “blues” moniker has been the one he’s heard the most, and to prove it, his guitar is adorned with a signature from the king of blues himself … B.B. King, that is.

“It was in Lynchburg, Virginia at B.B.’s show,” Crenshaw recalls of procuring the signature. “Yes I was nervous and I wanted to play something for him.” Then, a couple of years ago, Crenshaw actually shared a stage with King, opening the show, but his idol has yet to personally hear Crenshaw play. “B.B. didn’t hear me because he was still on the bus,” Crenshaw says. “But his staff and Tony Mason loved it and wanted my info.”

With his soulful vocals and thumping command of every song paired with his fiery guitar, Crenshaw’s sound has been compared to the likes of King as well as Albert Collins and Buddy Guy. Known to meander from heartfelt blues into strains classified by some as “jazz,” Crenshaw discerns the two genres by pointing out that “with the Blues, you can be telling someone a life story and don’t know it.”

When it comes to writing his own songs, the process is more cathartic than it is calculated. “There have been times I just might feel a groove when I’m playing and make it up,” he says. “Other times it would be something I went through.”

Of all the large stages and jazz festivals Crenshaw has played in recent years, his most memorable shows to date are those played at one of his regular venues – Terra Blues in New York’s Greenwich Village. “When I stop or end the song, people went clapping, whistling so loud that my ears went ringing,” he says.

Stigers, who has performed in Vail several times over the last 20 years, is excited to return with his band, long-time collaborators, Matthew Fries (piano), Keith Hall (drums), Cliff Schmitt (bass), and John “Scrapper” Sneider (trumpet). For the Independence Day show, Stigers will focus on the influence Blues Music has had on his recordings and his sound. “I always look forward to returning to Vail to play music and to visit the many friends I’ve made here over the years,” Stigers says. “I love this town!” The Jazz Tent at Vail Square heats up at 6 p.m. with SaRon Crenshaw, followed by Curtis Stigers after the 6:45 intermission.

Jazz Tickets on Sale, line up for Jazz @ Vail Square announced

The 2013 Thursday night lineup brings stars from every corner of the jazz genre and beyond! The Vail Jazz Festival has planted itself firmly on the map for jazz connoisseurs all over the world, but in recent years with its mix of Cuban, Latin, rock, blues, swing and soul, it has seriously pushed the limits of the genre and has thus attracted a slew of enthusiastic new fans.

Celebrating its 19th year, this summer is sure to recruit a whole lot more. The Festival brings local jazz heroes to the Vail Farmers Market and Kelly Liken restaurant every weekend, it partners with Bravo! Vail for intimate, one-of-a-kind jam sessions with orchestra artists at Jazz After events and culminates in an extravaganza of A-list musicians from around the globe at the Labor Day Weekend Jazz party. But the festival stops in Lionshead from 6 to 8 p.m. every Thursday with Jazz @ Vail Square in an open-air tent.

July 4: Curtis Stigers and SaRon Crenshaw pay tribute to The Red, White & The Blues. Kicking off the summer’s star-studded lineup with a star-spangled onslaught of talent with renowned saxophonist/vocalist Curtis Stigers and New York-based guitarist SaRon Crenshaw paying tribute to all that’s red hot and bluesy. Have you heard the theme song to Sons of Anarchy? That’s Stigers. He headlines the Pops with Bravo! Vail last year with 3,000 people listening in rapt wonder.

July 11: Wil Campa y Su Gran Union. Get your dancing shoes on for a veritable circus of steel-drum infused energy. Great indeed, the Cuban ensemble is comprised of 12 musicians who typically break out in collaborative stepping and instrument swinging. Making their Vail debut last year, they are back by popular demand.

July 18: Ann Hampton Callaway. Having performed on Broadway, sung with Wynton Marsalis and the Boston Pops and wowed the valley with her passionate, spontaneous delivery last winter when she landed at the Vilar Center paying tribute to Ella Fitzgerald Callaway returns to highlight the nation’s most revered stage and screen classics in her Great American Songbook-focused performance.

July 25: Frank Vignola & Vinny Raniolo. Although Frank Vignola may be a jazz guitarist, he has been influenced by rock icons such as Eddie Van Halen and Frank Zappa, and has played sidekick to the likes of Madonna and Ringo Starr. Five years ago, he teamed up with fellow New York guitarist Vinny Raniolo and the duo make their strings smoke as they match melodies on stage.

Aug. 1: John Pizzarelli Quartet. You could say that John Pizzarelli comes from a musical family. His father Bucky performed for two presidents (Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton) and was in the band for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. John has played guitar with James Taylor and Paul McCartney. Along with his brother Martin on stand-up bass, John will be joined by his wife, fellow guitarist Jessica Molaskey, with whom he has a radio show in New York City. Pianist Larry Fuller and drummer Tony Tedesco round out the ensemble. Expect surprising, unique twists on jazz classics.

Aug. 8: Tommy Igoe Sextet. The spotlight turns onto the drum kit for this show, in which Tommy Igoe (son of legend Sonny Igoe) hammers out numbers that are guaranteed not to be your grandpa’s jazz. Having written the drumline for Broadway’s The Lion King, Igoe takes after everyone from his father to The Beatles. He started The Birdland Big Band, which is famous for regularly selling out Manhattan’s Birdland Jazz Club. He is joined by five more virtuoso musicians.

Aug. 15: Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band. Also a percussionist, Poncho Sanchez specializes in the congo and can also belt out his fair share of salsa. He and his band have won Grammys for best Latin Jazz. Bringing an onslaught of horns, piano, percussion and a lot of Latin soul, Sanchez should ignite a dance party if not an actual flame or two.

Aug. 22 Lavay Smith and her Red Hot Skillet Lickers. Some people view jazz as a chilled out brand of music best suited for closed eye listening and calm finger snapping, but Lavay Smith takes that stereotype and launches it right out of its armchair. Oh, and did someone say dance party? With vocal stylings reminiscent of Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith, Lavay brings not just her Skillet Lickers to Vail but also some serious swing dancing.

Aug. 29: Clayton Brothers Sextet and The Vail Jazz All-Stars. Mainstays and resident heroes of the Vail Jazz Festival, saxophonist Jeff Clayton and bassist John Clayton compose the most dynamic delivery of original jazz this side of the Rocky Mountains with fellow famed jazz stars Terrell Stafford on trumpet, Bill Cunliffe on piano, Wycliffe Gordon on Trombone and Lewis Nash on drums. The energy leaps yet an extra octave with the Vail Jazz All Stars – a selection of the most talented young jazz musicians in North America whom the Sextet has mentored through the intensive Vail Jazz Workshop.

It all leads up to this, the climax. The Festival climax comes to a head Labor Day weekend with a whole separate line up of superstars at the Vail Jazz Party. For more information on the party, visit www.vailjazz.org.

Jazz Goes to School Sextet to Fill Vilar With Sounds of Jazz – Public is invited!

April 24, 2013 – Vail, Colorado – When Jazz Goes to School wraps up its fifteenth year in Eagle County with three special jazz performances at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek on May 6 & 7 featuring the Jazz Goes to School Sextet, members of the public are invited to attend. “This is such a rich and exciting performance that we want to open it up to the whole community,” said Robin Litt, executive director of the Vail Jazz Foundation. Tickets are available to the public for the three performances at $15/adults and $5/children. Proceeds from ticket sales will go to the Vilar Center Community Performance Fund. Performances take place at 9:30 am and 1:00pm on Monday, May 6th and at 9:30 am on Tuesday, May 7th . Ticket can be purchased at www.vilarpac.org or by calling 970-845- TIXS (8497).

The fourth and final session of the Jazz Goes to School educational program, entitled “A Tribute to the Giants of Jazz”, features a selection of tunes that have shaped the history of jazz in America. Local jazz musician and professional jazz educator, Tony Gulizia (keyboard and vocals), directs the Jazz Goes to School program. “The concert includes legendary jazz tunes by Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and others”, said Gulizia. “We also perform a medley of blues compositions authored by the fifth graders as part of the concert – their lyrics are priceless!” said Gulizia.

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

Jazz Goes to School is presented by the Vail Jazz Foundation (VJF), a 501 c3 charitable foundation dedicated to the perpetuation of jazz through performances and education, with a focus on young musicians and young audiences. The program educates over 1,100 fourth and fifth graders annually in the Eagle County School District RE-50J, plus the Eagle County Charter Academy, Vail Mountain School, The Vail Academy, Stone Creek Charter School, St. Clare of Assisi, and Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy. Jazz Goes to School has exposed over 15,000 school students to jazz music since inception.

New in 2013, elements of Jazz Goes to School will be offered to local and visiting youngsters in three free interactive sessions called “Jammin’ Jazz Kids” on July 7, July 28 and August 18th in conjunction with Jazz @ The Market on the Solaris green. “We can’t wait to bring parts of Jazz Goes to School’s successful and engaging programming to the community in a new environment,” said Litt, “Kids will have hands-on educational and entertaining opportunities to learn the fundamentals of jazz.” Youngsters, ages 6-12, will play a variety of percussion instruments – maracas, bongos, congas, tambourines, xylophones and Orff instruments in the programs, which will take place at 11am on each of the respective Sundays. Participating children will also listen to and join with jazz musicians in playing music and learning the art of improvisation.

Jazz Goes to School is sponsored in part by Alpine Bank, Vilar PAC Community Use Fund, Colorado Mountain Express (Official Transportation Provider), Eagle County RE-50J School District elementary school PTOs, PTOs of the private and charter schools, Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, United Way Eagle River Valley, Vail Resorts Echo, Vilar Performing Arts Center, AmericInn, Antlers at Vail, Local Joe’s Pizza, and numerous private donors.

Ticket to Jazz Goes to School Sextet on May 6 and 7 can be purchased at www.vilarpac.org or by calling 970-845-TIXS (8497).

Line up for 19th Annual Vail Jazz Festival Announced

March 20, 2013 – Vail, Colorado – The Vail Jazz Foundation announces the line-up of world class jazz performers for Thursday night Jazz @ Vail Square concert series and the Labor Day Weekend Jazz Party, both part of the 19th Annual Vail Jazz Festival.

“Last year’s line-up set the bar very high for Vail Jazz, but this summer’s schedule surpasses anything we have done in our 19 year history. While ‘Jazz’ is only a four letter word, it covers a lot of musical territory, including blues, Latin, swing, Brazilian, Gospel, straight ahead, bebop and beyond, and we will offer it all and much more over a spectacular 12 week summer Jazz Festival,” said Howard Stone, the chairman and artistic director of the Vail Jazz Foundation.



Vail Jazz will once again collaborate with Bravo! Vail by jointly presenting four performances, the first of which will be on June 28th at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. “The Golden Age of Jazz” will be Bravo! Vail’s season opener and will feature jazz artists Byron Stripling, Jeff Clayton and Wycliffe Gordon along with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jeff Tyzik. In addition, Vail Jazz and Bravo! Vail will once again present the very popular “Jazz After” series of jam sessions on June 29, July 10 and July 24, with performances by members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and New York Philharmonic. Tickets for Jazz After will go on sale soon.



In addition, the very popular Jazz @ The Market returns to the Vail Farmers’ Market each Sunday, June 23- August 25th, with free shows in the jazz tent on the green at Solaris. For the first time Vail Jazz will introduce Jammin’ Jazz Kids, which includes elements of the popular Jazz Goes to School program as complimentary programming with the Jazz @ The Market series. On three Sundays, July 7, 28 and August 18, prior to the performance in the jazz tent, children ages 6 to 12 are invited to join jazz musicians for an interactive, educational jazz experience that allows each participant a hands-on opportunity to learn the fundamentals of jazz. Participating youth will play a variety of percussion instruments – maracas, bongos, congas, tambourines, xylophones and Orff instruments. In addition, they will listen to and join with jazz musicians in playing music and learning the art of improvisation.



The 9-show series of Jazz @ Vail Square returns beginning on July 4 th and running through August 29th . The series opens on July 4 th as Vail Jazz pays tribute to “The Red, White & The Blues” featuring a double billed line-up of Vail favorite Curtist Stigers and New York blues man, SaRon Crenshaw and continues with Cuban sensation Wil Campa y su Gran Union, jazz guitar duo Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo, John Pizzarelli Quartet, Tommy Igoe Sextet, Lavay Smith and her Red Hot Skillet Lickers and the Clayton Brothers Sextet and their students, the Vail Jazz All-Stars. The All-Stars, twelve of the best high school-aged jazz musicians, will have spent 10 days leading up to Labor Day Weekend under the tutelage of the Clayton Brothers Sextet. The Vail Jazz Workshop is widely known as the pre-eminent jazz education program in the country for young jazz musicians and serves as a launching pad for future jazz professionals.

Preferred seating will be available for $20 in advance; $25 day of show or for $99 for the nine-series Jazz Pass. “Preferred seating give guests the ability to get their choice of seats,” says Executive Director Robin Litt. “These tickets and the Jazz Pass allow you to arrive at your leisure and know that you will have a premium spot to enjoy the performance.” The remainder of the tent will remain free on a first-come, first-serve basis. Recommended donation of $5 is encouraged to support the 501(c)(3) Vail Jazz Foundation, which produces the Vail Jazz Festival and its unique educational programming that are at the core of its mission.



Labor Day Weekend marks the 19 th Annual Vail Jazz Party, a unique party format designed so every musician is featured every day of the holiday weekend, in many cases in a jam session format. Audience members have the opportunity to interact with performers in an intimate and special setting. This year’s Party features new and returning groups, accomplished soloists and a variety of special shows designed to both educate and entertain. 2013 will bring together a list of who’s who in jazz today. Favorites from 2012, Cyrille Aimée and Diego Figuerido, return after wowing Vail guests and residents in their debut appearance. Festival favorites, the Clayton Brothers Sextet (John Clayton, Jeff Clayton, Terell Stafford, Wycliffe Gordon, Lewis Nash and Bill Cunliffe) will perform throughout the weekend, together and in multiple configurations, serving as anchor and a major force at the Vail Jazz Party. Drummer Jeff Hamilton will be joined by his trio mates Tamir Hendelman on piano and Christoph Luty on bass. The Vail Jazz Alumni Quartet, all past members of the Vail Jazz Workshop and current touring musicians, will be composed of Sullivan Fortner, piano, David Wong, bass, Jimmy Macbride, drums and Tia Fuller, saxophone.

The Vail Jazz Party is known for its creative and entertaining educational programming through the presentation of muti-media presentations. Special shows in 2013 will include Shelly Berg’s MultiMedia History of Stride and Boogie Woogie Piano, Jeff Clayton’s Alto Show, Ken Peplowski & Diego Figueiredo’s Tribute to Charlie Byrd and the Bossa Nova Years, and Byron Stripling’s MultiMedia Salute to Miles Davis. The Vail Jazz All-Stars will also be featured in free performances on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

The extremely popular Sunday morning Gospel show will once again be presented, but with some very special added features: joining Niki Haris’ Gospel Prayer Meetin’ will be the Mile Hi Gospel Ensemble; and the audience will be invited to sing along with Niki and the choir as songe lyrics will be provided to the audience.

Solosist include familiar faces to the Vail Jazz Party, including Ernie Adams ,drums, Karen Hammack, piano, Byron Stripling, trumpet and vocals. Newcomers to Vail will be Bruce Forman, guitar, Ken Peplowski, tenor sax, and Akiko Tsuruga, Hammond B-3 organ.

The Vail Jazz Party offers over 30 hours of jazz over a five day period, with jazz shows taking place at the Jazz Tent at Vail Square on Thursday night and during the days on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and at the event’s host hotel, the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort in the Ballroom on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Late night sets that go into the early morning hours take place at “Wing’s Place” at the Marriott and create a real jam session atmosphere for artists to stretch out and have a “musical conversation” with their peers. Jazz music floods Vail with over eight separate shows featuring multiple sets in each show.

When Howard Stone was asked to explain why the Jazz Party is so special, the usually loquacious Stone said, “Unfortunately, words cannot adequately describe the magic that takes place over the Labor Day Weekend. Suffice it to say that when you get 30 of the best jazz musician together with a crowd of passionate jazz fans in a beautiful place like Vail, great jazz happens.”

The line-up of artists for Jazz @ The Market and the Sunday night series, Jazz @ Kelly Liken, will be announced in early May.



Patron Passes for the Vail Jazz Party are now on sale at www.vailjazz.org and by calling 888-VAIL JAM or 970-479-6146. The $385 Patron Pass includes priority access to all eight performances, exclusive opening night party on Thursday and dinner with the artists on Saturday. Gift certificates are also available. Tickets to Jazz @ Vail Square, Jazz After jazz jams and individual session tickets for Vail Jazz Party will go on sale soon. Lodging and travel discounts are provided to Jazz Party attendees. Information is available at www.vailjazz.org .

2nd Annual Vail Jazz Winter Series presents Tony Monaco Quartet

March 5, 2013– Vail, CO – The Vail Jazz Foundation will continue the 2nd Annual Vail Jazz Winter Series with the Tony Monaco Quartet on Thursday, March 14th .

Tony is noted as one of today’s finest Hammond B-3 organ players on the jazz scene today. Named the top B-3 player for three consecutive years in Downbeat Magazines and Jazz Times Magazine, he will fill the Fitz Lounge at Manor Vail Lodge with a mix of high energy soul and funk jazz along with the blues. “Tony Monaco…crafts a collection of cuts that reveal the depth and versatility of the B-3…Here, Monaco…proves that he…is the sort of high-caliber player who can coax a response, showing off his…incredible range.” – Downbeat Magazine.

Tony started playing keyboard and the age of eight on the accordion. When he was twelve, he first heard legendary B-3 organ player Jimmy Smith and immediately, he knew that the Hammond B-3 was his calling. He played the accordion in nightclubs in Columbus, Ohio as a teenager. However, at the age of fifteen, Monaco contracted a rare disease, neuralgic amyotrophy, similar to polio. Nerves in his right arm, shoulder and triceps were affected first. Six months after his first bout with the disease, it returned to attack his left side. The only treatment available was with large doses of steroids that reduced the inflammation, but did not reduce the immense pain attributed with the disease. Because it was too painful to have the accordion straps over his shoulders, his father bought him his B3 organ. Less than a year after his run in with the disease, on his sixteenth birthday, Jimmy Smith called him and soon became his mentor / teacher, sharing jazz organ secrets with him and instruction over the phone.

A few years later, Jimmy invited Tony to perform at his California jazz club. For many years, Tony ran the family business, Monaco’s Palace Italian Restaurant, while performing in the lounge weekly. He then went into management with Sysco Foods and later with an ad agency. After finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in 1989, Tony returned to the family business, this time as a manager for Monaco Concrete. At the age of 35, Tony was hit with another round with the debilitating disease. This time, it affected his vocal cord and his ankles and forearms. He had throat surgery so he could talk, and to his ankles, so he could walk while assisted by a cane. Despite the limitations he was left with after the disease hit, he continues to perform. While his challenges could have sidelined him from his music career, Tony taught himself to play again, retraining weakened and destroyed muscles through repetition. As a result, Monaco has become the master of the B-3 organ player and masterful performer.

In 2000, he met B-3 organ player, Joey DeFrancesco, who offered to produce a debut CD for Monaco. The international success of the recording became the catalyst for a national tour. He continued to release CD’s and was awarded major endorsements from Suzuki and Hammond, the maker of the B-3. He is an accomplished teacher and has produced a series of instructional DVD’s that have become indispensable for serious organ students. In 2005, he began international tours that have taken him to Australia, New Caldondia, Canada as well as Jakarta Indonesia. He continues to be featured at all of the big jazz festivals in the US.

Monaco, who is affectionately referred to as Master Chops T, says, “I do some traditional organ, guitar, drums, sax-combo blues and shuffles,” Monaco says, “to an acid funk, to a ’60s-ish sidewinder à la funky Austin Powers, to a big band feel vocal of ‘Luck Be a Lady,’ to a smooth journey à la Pat Metheny, to an accordion blues using the organ in back, to a Woody Herman ‘Rhythm’ changes, to typewriter-organ style, bending notes—a secret—to a nostalgic ‘Me & Mrs. Jones’ sung with a horn arrangement similar to the original, to a Caribbean trip on ‘St. Thomas Calypso.”

Tony will be joined by Bob Rebholz on tenor saxophone, Bill Kopper on guitar and Vail’s own Allan Finney on drums. The Fitz Lounge at Manor Vail Lodge will be the “club” setting and the Quartet will perform two sets of music – 7:30 pm and 9:00 pm. Tickets are available for each seating at $20 in advance; $25 at the door. The Fitz will provide a menu for guests who want appetizers, a full dinner or dessert; and have a $10 food and beverage minimum for these performances. Tickets are available at www.vailjazz.org or 970-479-6146.

Now in its 19th year, The Vail Jazz Foundation produces innovative and prestigious educational programs including the pre-eminent Vail Jazz Workshop and Jazz Goes to School, along with the Vail Jazz Festival, one of the nation’s foremost jazz festivals featuring over 150 artists throughout the summer. Vail Jazz focuses on perpetuating jazz music through live performances that showcase the 3 artistry and talent of great jazz musicians, and through jazz education, with a focus on young musicians and young audiences. For more information, visit www.vailjazz.org.

Vail Jazz Wraps up Most Successful Festival and Announces Grant from Colorado Creative Industries

October 22, 2012 – Vail, Colorado – The Vail Jazz Foundation recently wrapped up its most successful summer festival in its 18 year history. The Vail Jazz Festival, produced by the Vail Jazz Foundation, boasted record attendance and ticket sales at its 40 performances, contributing positively to Vail’s summer economy for a full 12 weeks of the summer. The 2012 season included 9 weekly free concerts at Vail Square, 10 free weekly concerts at the Vail Farmers’ Market, and 7 shows, including two free, as part of the Labor Day Weekend Jazz Party and a number of new performances. Debuting this year were Jazz @ Kelly Liken, featuring jazz each of 10 Sunday nights at Restaurant Kelly Liken, the three-part Jazz After series in conjunction with Bravo! and Larkspur Restaurant, and a joint performance at the Ford Amphitheater featuring Curtis Stigers and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The Vail Jazz Festival is now the longest summer festival in Vail – spanning from late June to early September. Attendance grew at all of the Vail Jazz Festival’s performances, with a 15% increase in year over year attendance at the Labor Day Weekend Jazz Party.

“This summer’s festival proved that the Vail Jazz Festival is gaining wide recognition not only in the community, but around the state and the country as the premier jazz festival in the mountains,” says Robin Litt, Executive Director. “We continue to innovate with the types of performances we present to attract a broader audience for jazz, working toward our mission to perpetuate jazz through live performances and education with special focus on young artists and young audiences.”

The Vail Jazz Festival included a variety of different styles of jazz in multiple, unique locations, all in an effort to widen the audience and appreciation for jazz. The outdoor free concerts every Sunday at the Vail Farmers’ Market featured regional and national acts performing in a tented venue at Solaris with 3 shows throughout the afternoon continued to be a popular gathering for visitors and locals alike, seating 75 in the tent and an equal number around the plaza area .-.. Jazz@ Vail Square, the weekly Thursday night concert series in Lionshead continued to grow in popularity this summer, hosting 350 under the tent as well as hundreds of guests who enjoyed the performances from surrounding restaurant patios and as they walked by. The inaugural season of Jazz @ Kelly Liken featured local jazz artist, Tony Gulizia with different guests each week. The combination of Kelly Liken’s Harvest Menu and the swinging sounds of jazz filled the restaurant each Sunday night. Larkspur and Bravo! partnered with the Vail Jazz Foundation to host the first year of Jazz After, a series that featured members of each of Bravo’s resident orchestras (Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and New York Philharmonic) in a jam session style performance in the Great Room at Larkspur. These tremendously successful events experienced overflow crowds at each performance. Changes are in the works to further enhance the experience for Jazz After guests in 2013. The joint performance at the Ford Amphitheater with Bravo! presented Curtis Stigers and the Dallas Symphony proved to be an overwhelming success, while the two organizations are currently working on another joint performance for the 2013 season. And lastly, the five-day Labor Day Weekend Jazz Party, which presented today’s top jazz artists in an intimate and engaging series of round-the-clock performances at the Jazz Tent at Vail Square and the Marriott’s Grand Ballroom, boasted record attendance.

The Vail Jazz Festival fueled the Vail economy and made an especially large impact at times when business is slower. The Thursday night Jazz @ Vail Square series attracted locals, down valley residents as well as part time homeowners and visitors, many of whom dined and shopped in Vail before and after the performances. The Vail Jazz Party over Labor Day Weekend brought hundreds of destination guests to Vail. There was not only record attendance this year but attendees extended the length of their visits considerably, many coming a day before and/or staying a day after the Jazz Party thereby substantially benefiting the local economy. “In addition to the large number of destination guests who attend, we see more and more part time residents extending their summer stay in Vail through Labor Day so they can attend the Jazz Festival,” noted Litt.

On the heels of the tremendously successful summer Jazz Festival, the Vail Jazz Foundation will once again present its annual Winter Jazz Series and the exciting line-up will be announced in November.

The Vail Jazz Foundation is particularly pleased to announce that it was recently awarded a grant from Colorado Creative Industries, a division of the Office for Economic Development. The grant is made possible through an annual appropriation from the State of Colorado and a federal grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. “We are pleased to make this investment in creative organizations and activities that drive economic growth, support jobs, and improve quality of life throughout Colorado,” said Elaine Mariner, Director of Colorado Creative Industries. The Vail Jazz Foundation is one of just three Eagle County organizations to receive funding for 2013.

The festival is truly a collaboration between the Vail Jazz Foundation and its sponsors, including the Town of Vail, Alpine Bank, Alpine Party Rentals, The Arrabelle, Colorado Creative Industries, Colorado Mountain Express, Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, Hertz, The Jazz Cruise, Lionshead Summer, National Endowment for the Arts, New Amsterdam Vodka, Ravenscroft Pianos, United Way Eagle River Valley, Vail Daily, Vail Resorts Echo, William Hill Estate Winery, Woods and Son Piano Company, Yamaha as well as Alpin Aire, FlyVail, Rocky Mountain Reprographics, KZYR The Zephyr, Jazz 89 KUVO, Vail Mountain Marriott Resort & Spa, Mighty Fine Productions, The Luxury Shops and Kelly Liken

Vail Jazz Party Review, Jazz History Online

They call it “mud season”: the annual period at a ski resort when the snow has melted, tourism is down, and the gondolas are used only for scenic trips to the top of the mountain. While some of the shops close until the next snowfall, many resort towns try to attract visitors through their marketplaces, community activities and cool temperatures. Back in 1995, Howard and Cathy Stonehosted their first jazz party in Vail, Colorado. The party has become a Labor Day weekend tradition, and in recent years, it has blossomed into a summer-long jazz festival, with 40 concerts presented this year. The jazz party remains the primary event of the summer, and this year’s edition was one of the finest. With the support of the Arrabelle Hotel and the local merchants, the daytime performances were held in an open tent in the Lionshead town square, where shoppers and passers-by could enjoy the music (The patrons and musicians were under the cover of the tent, which was a blessing in light of Vail’s frequent and sudden thunderstorms). In the evenings, the party moved to the spacious ballroom of the Marriott Hotel.

For the party, the Stones bring in about two dozen jazz musicians from all over the world. Most of the players are accessible mainstream musicians, but the Stones typically include a few progressive musicians to the mix. The audiences for Vail tend to be older, but they are very open-minded, and they cheer on the adventurous musicians as enthusiastically as the traditionalists. There are a few working groups and several soloists, but all of the musicians are hired for their flexibility, as they are scheduled to play in jam sessions and in ad-hoc ensembles (most organized by Howard Stone). This year’s soloists included vocalists Cyrille Aimée and Niki Haris, guitarists Diego Figueiredo and Graham Dechter, saxophonists James Carter and Houston Person, organist Bobby Floyd, trumpeter Byron Stripling, pianist Benny Green, vibraphonist Warren Wolf and drummer Ernie Adams.

Both of the working groups have long-standing ties with the Vail party. The Jeff Hamilton Trio, with Tamir Hendelman on piano and Christoph Luty on bass, returned after a year’s absence.  Their sets included several tightly arranged pieces from their recent album “Red Sparkle”, including the delightful “Hat’s Dance” which includes a break of indeterminate length, which Hendelman stretched almost to the breaking point. Luty’s rich bass sound was featured on his arrangement of “A Sleepin’ Bee” and Hamilton brilliantly maneuvered through the tricky chart on “Too Marvelous for Words”. Their final set included a tribute to the classic Ahmad Jamal Trio with a beautifully modulated rendition of “Poinciana”. The Clayton Brothers have been part of the jazz party since its first year, and this year, bassist John and saxophonist Jeff expanded their quintet to include another jazz party favorite, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon. The Clayton sextet also included trumpeter Terell Stafford, pianist Bill Cunliffe and drummer Lewis Nash. WhileCunliffe and Nash are not regular members of the Clayton Brothers group, they have been part of the Vail version of the band for many years and they fit into the band’s groove with little effort. The sextet played a burning set to close the Sunday night festivities, featuring selections from their upcoming album “The Gathering”. Jeff Clayton played a beautiful alto solo on Benny Carter’s “Souvenir” and John Clayton filled the ballroom with his glorious arco bass on “Round Midnight”.

The Clayton Brothers Sextet is also the faculty for the Vail Jazz Workshop, an intensive 10-day training program for high-school aged musicians. Twelve finalists are chosen from recorded auditions (a pair each of trumpeters, trombonists, saxophonists, pianists, bassists and drummers) and while at the workshop, they play as a large ensemble and in two smaller groups. All of the music is learned by ear, and the students are encouraged to compose pieces for the group. At the end of the workshop, they play three concerts at the jazz party. Dubbed the Vail Jazz All-Stars, this year’s group included trumpeters Aidan Lombard and Nathan Sparks, trombonists Coleman Hughes and Cameron Kerl, alto saxophonist David Milazzo, tenor saxophonist Daniel Berkey, pianists Jeremy Corren and James Francies, bassists Maximilian Gerl and Andrew Sommer, and drummers Cameron Macintosh and Zachary McKinney. Most of the music they played was from the 1960s repertoire of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and other Blue Note ensembles. These young musicians are still finding their own solo voices, but they have a great enthusiasm for the music and their talents are closer to college upperclassmen than high school students.

The Vail Jazz Workshop has turned out many distinguished alumni, including saxophonistsGrace Kelly and Tia Fuller, and pianists Gerald Clayton and Robert Glasper. This year, the Stones brought back three other Workshop alumni, Justin Kauflin (piano), Joe Sanders (bass) and Corey Fonville (drums), to work together as a trio for Houston Person, and to play in several of the ad hoc ensembles. Although they did not work together as Workshop students, each has worked with the others on professional gigs in New York. Kauflin, who has been blind since age 11, displays a brilliant, flexible technique that fit into a wide variety of musical situations, and he quickly responded to spontaneous changes during the performances. Sanders and Fonville were a great rhythm team, locking into several enticing grooves over the weekend.

This year’s jazz party showed an increased dedication to jazz history, with multi-media tributes to jazz legends Dave Brubeck, Ray Brown and Dizzy Gillespie. These tributes included classic film clips along with live music and a biography of the featured musicians. Each of the presenting musicians offered their own unique spin on the established format. On the Brubeck tribute, Bill Cunliffe’s quartet (with the Claytons and Lewis Nash) played Brubeck’s compositions, but let the film clips offer the story and sound of the classic Brubeck Quartet with Paul Desmond. Byron Stripling’s presentation on Gillespie was much more studious in its narration, but the filmed performances by Gillespie’s various groups and the live music by Stripling’s bebop quintet (with Jeff Clayton, Cunliffe, Sanders and Nash) made the hour-long set go by quickly. For his RayBrown tribute, John Clayton brought in Benny Green and Jeff Hamilton, both of whom played in Brown’s trio. Clayton studied with Brown for many years, and now owns and plays Brown’s bass. All three musicians shared warm and funny anecdotes about Brown, and the videos showed Brown with Gillespie’s big band, the Oscar Peterson trio, and Duke Ellington. Unfortunately, the talk and the videos ate into the time for the live music. The three pieces the trio played were magnificent, including a delicate version of “Li’l Darlin’” with light articulations by Green, a brilliant performance of Brown’s original, “Buhania” with a dazzling hi-hat work by Hamilton, and a grooving arrangement of “Summer Wind” anchored by Clayton’s sturdy bass. Clearly, the audience wanted to hear more of this marvelous group. A Ray Brown tribute CD could be a great addition to the discography of these great musicians. Howard Stone and the musicians need to make it happen—and soon!

Bobby Floyd’s presentation on the Hammond B3 organ was exceptionally well-researched and it used the large video screen to show close ups of Floyd’s hands and feet as he manipulated the instrument. Floyd’s lecture-demonstration was scheduled to start on Saturday night at the ridiculously late hour of 10:55 PM, but despite Howard Stone’s efforts to keep the party running on schedule, Floyd didn’t start until nearly 11:30. By that time, many of the audience members decided to turn in, and they missed one of the most informative sets of the weekend. Wycliffe Gordon’s Sunday afternoon set on the history of jazz trombone was better attended, but not nearly as comprehensive. Gordon’s performances typically encapsulate many jazz styles, from tailgate to multiphonics, but his presentation was not in historical order and didn’t adequately explain the highlights of each style. However, it was easy to hear elements of Tommy Dorsey in “I’m Getting Sentimental over You”, Jack Teagarden in “Basin Street Blues” and Tricky Sam Nanton in “Talking Trombone Blues”. The program was very entertaining, especially in the closing tribute to Fred Wesley, “Pass the Peas”, but it might have been more focused with a few video clips and tighter narration.

Floyd, Gordon, Stripling and Jeff Clayton joined Niki Haris for the Sunday morning Gospel Prayer Meeting. This has been a highlight of the party for many years, and Haris (daughter of pianistGene Harris) is the perfect leader for this segment. Her soulful readings of classic sacred hymns like “It Is Well in My Soul” and “How I Got Over” uplifted the large congregation, and she shared vocal duties with Gordon on the Leonard Cohen anthem, “Hallelujah”. Gordon provided rousing trombone throughout and Clayton provided an intense prayer midway through the service. The rhythm section of Karen Hammack (piano), Graham Dechter (guitar), Joe Sanders (bass) and Ernie Adams (drums) offered tremendous support and authentic gospel feeling. Haris also performed two straight-ahead sets over the weekend, amply displaying her R&B inspired vocals on songs like “Let The Good Times Roll”, but also featuring beautifully sung ballads like “Where Is Love” (dedicated to her father on his birthday) and “Dream” (sung with the rarely-heard verse).

Cyrille Aimée and Diego Figueiredo played two delightful duo sets during the party. She sang in three different languages and showedformidable prowess in scat singing. Her quick, straight-ahead performance of “Yardbird Suite” (with Charlie Parker’s original lyrics) won over the audience completely, and her loop pedal performances of “Fortunate Son” and “Nuit Blanche” were stunning both in their arrangements and realizations. Figueiredo was superb in both Brazilian and jazz settings, getting a multitude of sounds from his acoustic guitar. He was also fun to watch as he swayed back and forth to the impulses of his music. There was great chemistry between the two musicians and their intimate performances brought freshness to classic Jobim pieces like “Chega de Saudade” and “Agua de Beber”.

Houston Person was part of a B3 organ set with James Carter, Bobby Floyd, Graham Dechter and Corey Fonville. Both Carter and Person have recorded with organ trios, and the juxtaposition of Person’s classic soul tenor with Carter’s outrageous progressivism was mind-boggling. Person also led two afternoon sets on his own, featuring Terell Stafford on Sunday and Byron Stripling on Monday. Stafford is best-known as a fiery trumpeter in the Freddie Hubbard tradition, but I love to hear him play ballads, and on his set with Person, he was featured on warm renditions of “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and “I Remember Clifford”. The set with Stripling was a relaxed affair dedicated to what Person called “music for Saturday night—after midnight”. Stripling sang a spirited version of “Back O’Town Blues” and his bright trumpeting provided a great contrast to Person’s mellow tenor on a 12/8 version of “Since I Fell For You”. On “Back O’Town”, Stripling told the audience that “showers of bacon grease would drip from Houston’s horn”. It was true then, but it actually seemed to happen every time Person played a solo.

There’s a lot of camaraderie between the musicians at Vail, and before Benny Green took the stage for his Saturday afternoon performance, his fellow pianist Tamir Hendelman told him to “have a joyful set”. The music that followed was one of the highlights of the entire weekend. On the opening “I’ve Never Been in Love Before”, Ernie Adams set up a tight groove with Joe Saunders, and Green leaned into the piano to lock in the rhythm. By the second tune, a speedy “It’s You Or No One”,  the groove was so well established that Green could play flurries of notes against the rhythm without losing the basic pulse. Stafford was in prime form with dynamic solos on “Doxy” and “Byrdlike”. On “I’m Beginning to See the Light” (with surprise guest vocalist Cyrille Aimée), Stafford even evoked the sound of Louis Armstrong!

Stafford, Gordon and Carter were all spark plugs for the party, guaranteed to enliven any performance, even if they only appeared for one number. Warren Wolf’s Saturday afternoon set started out rather blandly, but when Gordon came out for a plunger-muted version of“Body and Soul”, the energy level went up across the stage, and stayed that way through Gordon’s Armstrong-inspired vocal during “On the Sunny Side of the Street” and for his rare progressive playing on “A Shade of Jade”. Gordon showed his tender side in an understated trio performance of “Autumn Leaves” with Cyrille Aimée and Diego Figueiredo. A set with Carter, Wolf, Green, Christoph Luty and Lewis Nash provided an avalanche of notes with exuberant performances of “Confirmation”, “Rapid Shave” and “Don’s Idea”. And at one of the after-hours jam sessions, Stafford and Carter nearly blew the roof off the hotel on a grooving version of “Straight No Chaser”.

With major jazz festivals occurring in Chicago and Detroit over the Labor Day weekend, one might think that Howard and Cathy Stone might have difficulty attracting musicians for the Vail Jazz Party. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. The musicians are so dedicated to the vibe and atmosphere at Vail that they ask to come back year after year. The audiences clearly love these musicians, and it’s not unusual for individual solos to receive standing ovations. The Vail Jazz Party is thriving, with greater attendance than ever before and a solid reputation for musical excellence. It’s a great way to spend your Labor Day weekend.

Photographs by Drew Winners for the Vail Jazz Festival. DWinnersPhotography@gmail.com

7 Questions with Miche Braden (August 16, 2012)

1. Do you consider Bessie Smith a major influence on your own musical career? Now I do. After studying her life on & off stage, the things she did with her talent, basically owning herself is exactly how I want to live, in charge of my creativity & moving up in my career.

2. What do you enjoy most about performing live? The interaction with the audience, the different personalities each audience has that fuels my performance, the adrenaline rush of singing, acting, performing that feels better than ANYTHING!

3. How do you choose your song list for each live performance? I have some favorites that tend to make it in most shows. But this concert was based on my Blues personas of Bessie Smith & songs done on James Carter’s last CD. I really try to entertain myself first. If I can do that, it is almost sure to please my audience because I’m enjoying the performance. It might sound a little self centered, but an audience isn’t dumb. They can tell when an artist is living their music or just singing.

4. What is the origin of your name, Miche? My Mother told me when she was young she wanted people to call her “Mickey” but no one did, so when I was born, she made it my nickname. The spelling came from a high school friend when we were writing poetry. She spelled my name M I C H E & I liked it.

5. When did you know you wanted to become a professional performer? When I was born. I’ve never wanted to do anything else.

6. What was your first real “break” in the entertainment industry? Break? Hahahaha!! Still waiting for it! I do a lot of things. In some ways it is both a blessing & not. I’ll be gigging at a club, scoring a musical AND playing the lead, or conducting in the pit, teaching high school kids the art of performing, doing a jazz festival withy musical Twin James Carter, reading a script, designing & sewing outfits for me AND my dogs, and that’s all in this past week. I don’t sit still long enough for the “break” to come. Plus it scares folks that I put so many people out of work.

7. What can the Vail audience expect to see at your performance? Me having fun.

8. Explain what it was like portraying Bessie Smith off Broadway? A-MA-ZING!! Ok, so running a year off broadway was a big break. Ringing the NASDAQ bell, opening the Drama Desk awards, 4 major nominations, great reviews, meeting the great stars & plotting my takeover of broadway. Just from singing & acting my ass off. It got too hard to tell when Bessie ended & Ms. Miche began.

9. Where do most of the lyrics come from on your original songs? Dreams. Conversations. Beauty. Anger. Comedy. Tears. In other words, Life.

10. How many weeks each year are you on the road? This past year has been my absolute busiest. I’ve been on the road every week. Honestly, I never have to come off the road. Performing/Creating is life to me. Oh, & my rat terriers Rocky Dog & Xena May.

7 Questions with members of the US Air Force Academy Band

7 Questions with the USAF Falconaires’ Tour Manager, Marcel Marchetti TSgt USAF


1. How much time do you spend practicing together? Practicing together depends on the job coming up and how it works into our busy schedule. Using the Vail Jazz Festival as an example, I see a total of 8 about hours to learn and work up for about 1.5 hours of music performed. That’s if we get all the time allotted in between other performances such as cadet parades at the USAF Academy, plus the admin time to preparing for tour. We don’t have a separate admin staff, so each person in the band is assigned an additional duty and some folks have multiple duties to prepare everything. Let’s not forget last minute performances can come up like a military funeral. That’s something you never can plan ahead, they just come up.

2. How is the program chosen for each show? The program is chosen by what type of audience we THINK will be at the venue. The Vail performance is part of the Vail Jazz Festival, so we will have a strong emphasis on big band jazz versus a performance for USAF recruiting at a high school, for example.

3. Which song seems to connect the most with all audiences? There is no certain song, but instead it’s how we program a performance that ends with patriotic music! This lets people leave feeling proud of our country and helps unit communities.

4. How much luggage does your group pack on tour? There’s a difference between luggage and musical equipment. Luggage is driven by how many days on the road we will travel, if there is a hotel with laundry facilities and whether the climate is hot or cold that we’re visiting. As to equipment, depends on the venues where we’re performing – what they have provided already and what we need to bring. It can be as little as half a 24ft truck or as much as a fullyloaded semi.

5. How are overseas audiences similar or different to American audiences? Overseas audiences are more appreciative to Americans performing jazz, because the origin of jazz American.

6. How long does it take to learn a new song? With the Falconaires having such top musicians, we can pretty much read a tune for the first time, talk over what we need to do, run it once again and then it’s about ready to be performed. This does depend on the difficulty of the tune, but for standard music that’s published, we can get it ready pretty fast.

7. What can we expect to see at the Vail performance? An exciting band that will leave you saying, “WOW!! I had no idea those guys were so good.”

Vail Jazz Festival’s Jazz @ Vail Square Performances Begin this Thursday With The Brubeck Brothers Quartet

Vail, CO – The Vail Jazz Festival presents the first installment in a series of nine Jazz @ Vail Square performances on Thursday, July 5 with the Brubeck Brothers Quartet. The concert begins at 6 p.m. and will be held under the Jazz Tent at The Arrabelle in Vail Square in Lionshead. Preferred seating at the front of the tent is $20 and guarantees a spot whenever you arrive with free general admission seating at the back of tent available on a first-come, first-served basis. A $99 Jazz Pass is offered with preferred seating for all nine performances.

“2012 is the first year we’re offering reserved seating in the Jazz Tent for the Thursday night performances due to the tremendous growth of our audience,” says Festival Artistic Director Howard Stone. “With our new ticketing policy, we are able to assure our dedicated jazz fans the opportunity to experience the music up close to the band without the need to get to the venue an hour before the show.”

The Brubeck Brothers Quartet kicks off the series with their joyful and expressive straight-ahead jazz. While their sound is anchored in the be-bop style, it is seasoned with unconventional time signatures. The Brubeck Brothers Quartet was chosen to usher in the New Year on National Public Radio’s “Toast of the Nation” performance.



About the Vail Jazz Festival:

With 40 performances from June 24 through September 3, the 18th annual Vail Jazz Festival presents headliners such as Marcia Ball, Byron Stripling, the Jeff Hamilton Trio and the Brubeck Brothers Quartet in a variety of ticketed and free events in intimate indoor and unique outdoor venues throughout Vail. Featuring diverse jazz genres from straight-ahead,, to Latin, swing and the Great American Songbook, the Festival culminates with the Labor Day Vail Jazz Party featuring more than 30 hours of music in a five-day celebration of jazz.


Jazz @ Vail Square Lineup 2012:

7/5: Brubeck Brothers Quartet , Straight Ahead and Right Down the Middle

7/12: Wil Campa Y Su Gran Union, Tower of Power meets Afro Cuban Rhythms

7/19: Marcia Ball, Down Home Blues with a Cajun Flavor

7/26: The Falconaires with Special Guest Al Hood, Big Band American Classics

8/2: Hot Tomatoes Swing Band and Dance, Swinging Big Band Hits from the Past

8/9: Tommy Igoe Sextet, Burning Jazz with Contemporary Twist

8/16: Miche Braden & The Kenny Walker Quartet, Blues and Soul like never before

8/23: Junior Mance Trio, Legendary Jazz Pianist

8/30: Clayton Brothers Sextet & Vail Jazz All-Stars – Jazz Masters and the Next Generation