VAIL — Anyone who thinks jazz is a fading breed of music embraced only by the older generations has obviously not witnessed the bouncing mass of revelers at a Red Baraat concert. The eight-piece “party band” from Brooklyn makes its local debut July 31 at Jazz @ Vail Square.
Pumping out an eclectic combination of brass funk, North Indian bhangra rhythms and go-go, in spite of forming just six years ago, Red Baraat has already landed gigs at the White House, the New Orleans and Montreal jazz festivals as well as big rock festivals such as Bonnaroo. Band leader and dhol player Sunny Jain believes his band’s quick success and presence at such a variety of large-scale performances is due to the phenomenon that the very definition of “jazz” is its inherent knack for transformation.
“The idea of what jazz is has constantly developed and changed,” Jain said. “It’s really a main element of the band. Several of us come from a jazz background, bringing the idea of improvisation, in-the-moment spontaneity, the conversation and dialogue within the music. In terms of what we do relating to the audience, it’s to make sure we’re passionate about what we’re doing onstage, producing joyous music that includes everyone. It’s a party regardless of how old, young or mixed the audience. It doesn’t matter if there’s 10 people or a thousand people out there. Our prime goal is to deliver the music and bring our passion.”
Passion is the overarching characteristic of the otherwise eclectic lineup of artists in this summer’s 20th anniversary season of the Vail Jazz Festival, which kicks off July 3 with the six-string talent of guitar duet Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo, who also pride themselves on departing from the jazz tradition, intermixing their set of classic jazz tunes with, say, a comical but amazingly precise rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Flight of the Bumblebee.”
New York-based pianist Tony Desare, who performs at Jazz @ Vail Square on July 17, recently performed his personally stylized versions of American Songbook tunes for Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday show at Carnegie Hall, but he also plays award-winning originals and regularly posts his unique jazzed up renditions of current pop tunes (Bastille’s “Pompeii,” a clever fusion of Pharrell’s “Happy” and Bobby Ferrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy”) on his YouTube channel.
“I come from the school of thought that the process of music should be entertaining and moving. It should be fun,” Desare said.
The Vail Jazz Festival’s 20th anniversary begins June 22 with free live music every Sunday at the Vail Farmers’ Market and beginning July 3, live ticketed performances by internationally touted artists every Thursday, culminating in the Vail Jazz Party during Labor Day weekend. For more information, visit vailjazz.org.