In what has become a tradition, jazz vocalist Curtis Stigers returns to Vail, this time to perform alongside the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
"Curtis Stigers in as international jazz star," said maestro Jeff Tyzik, who leads the orchestra tonight. "This will mark his debut playing alongside an orchestra in America."
The orchestral performance will include carefully adopted numbers to illustrate the range of Stigers' musical styles and interests.
"All music takes a moment for your ear to turn to, but jazz especially, because there is a bit more to navigate and know about it," Stigers said. "I think a great jazz musician, no matter how complicated the music he's playing, communicates with an audience."
Among the pieces selected will be a variety ranging from "Jealous Guy," by John Lennon, to the "Jelly Roll Morton Suite," by Jelly Roll Morton. You'll also hear Bob Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," "The Way You Look Tonight," by Jerome Kern, and "San Diego Serenade," by Tom Waits.
Coming of age in the mid '70s, Stigers was immersed in the prevailing new music of the day. Bands such as the Sex Pistols and the Clash entered his ears as much as Miles Davis and other jazz icons, influencing much of his work today.
Vail Daily: You've been to Vail many times, both to perform and ski. How long have you been coming here?
Curtis Stigers: Back in 1992, during my early days as a pop-soul recording artist, my record company (then Arista Records and its parent company, BMG) flew me along with my eight-piece band from a tour in Europe to Vail to do a special concert at the Gerald Ford Amphitheater as a showcase during their annual conference that was taking place in the Vail Valley that summer. That seems like a lifetime ago. Since then, I've reinvented myself as a jazz singer and moved to the Concord Jazz label. I first traveled to Vail to perform with my jazz band 10 years ago. Howard Stone, of the Vail Jazz Festival, brought me to Vail after having heard me play at a performance in Long Beach, Calif. Since then, I've been back nearly every year to play, both as part of the Lionshead summer jazz series and for the Labor Day Jazz Festival. Over that time, Howard and his wife, Cathy Stone, have become dear friends of mine. I've also been lucky enough to visit them during the ski season, and Howard has shown me the powdery joys of your amazing ski hill. I grew up skiing in Idaho, but I've never seen anything like that mountain of yours.
VD: What do you like about performing here?
CS: Howard Stone and the Vail Jazz Foundation have been bringing world-class jazz to Vail for many years now, and that has allowed the audience to develop into a passionate and well-informed group of listeners. You don't find that kind of interest and knowledge everywhere. It's a very special, special place to play.
VD: You've become very popular in Europe. Why do you think that is?
CS: I'm not sure what the reason is. I just know that the music business is very regional and I sell more albums in certain countries than in others. My first album sold nearly half a million copies in the U.S. back in the early '90s. I sold twice that many albums in Europe. Therefore, per capita, a lot more people know about me and my music in places like the U.K. and Germany and Scandinavia than in the U.S. Sometimes, you've just got to go where the money is! I make my living on the road in Europe. But there are some pockets of real support for my music in the U.S., including Vail.
VD: Do your audiences vary much here in the U.S. versus, say, the U.K.?
CS: They drink more in the U.K., and there are more of them!
VD: You recently had a bit of a microphone mishap while singing "You're All That Matters To Me" at a top jazz club in London. How did you deal with it? Do unplanned mishaps like that happen often?
CS: A live performance is like a train ride. You leave the station and you can't get off until you get to your destination, so you've got to roll with whatever comes along. On Monday night, out of the blue, the microphone cable just dropped out of the end of my microphone as I was singing during our opening night of a sold-out week at the legendary Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London. Luckily, we were in the middle of the chorus of one of my early hits, "You're All That Matters To Me," and the audience just picked up the melody and sang along until I got the cord back in place. It was a funny moment.