Colorado’s soul queen Hazel Miller returns to kick off free concerts for Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk | VailDaily.com

Colorado’s soul queen Hazel Miller returns to kick off free concerts for Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk

Shauna Farnell
Vail Jazz
Soulful Colorado vocalist Hazel Miller cites her vocal influences as Aretha Franklin, Nat King Cole, Sara Vaughan, Stevie Wonder and Bonnie Raitt among others.
Special to the Daily

If you go …

What: Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk with Hazel Miller

When: Friday; doors and vendors open at 5 p.m., and music starts at 6

Where: Riverwalk Backyard Amphitheatre, Edwards

Cost: Free

More information: visit vailjazz.org.

No excuses are necessary to make a celebration out of this evening, especially when, as part of Vail Jazz’s 25th anniversary, there is free live music in Edwards every Friday throughout the summer.

The Vail Jazz @ Riverwalk summer concert series returns to the Riverwalk Backyard Amphitheatre in Edwards on Friday, with free live music and a vendor booth food and drink bonanza. Music kicks off at 6 p.m. with Hazel Miller. A Colorado favorite for three whopping decades, Miller is famous for — as she would say in her booming voice — getting the good times rollin’. Here, Miller shares a bit about her musical influences and how she plans a performance:

Shauna Farnell: As a little girl, how did you know you were born to sing?

Hazel Miller: I think it hit me around 8. I wanted to sing. My family watched Ed Sullivan EVERY Sunday night. Seeing Ella Fitzgerald, Patsy Cline, Lainie Kazan, Sarah Vaughan and so many more gave my imagination all it needed to dream. I know that singing fed my heart. Singing also set me apart from my six brothers and sisters. That’s always a good thing for one in so many. It was a thrill when someone remembered my name.

SF: Who are your vocal inspirations?

HM: I like big voices. I love singers that take risks. I love singers that can reach you with their emotion. Aretha Franklin, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, Bonnie Raitt and many more have helped me find my voice. I admit that I’ve borrowed style, expression and content from several singers, female and male: Nat King Cole, Steve Winwood, Stevie Wonder, Billy Eckstine … these are just a few of the singers that have sent my head spinning with new ideas.

SF: How do you go about selecting the songs you’ll perform?

HM: I will prepare a setlist and proceed to change it on stage to accommodate where the audience is at that time. This habit has become a great inside joke in the band. We will make the changes instantly to fit the mood of the audience. We get very excited when we can keep the energy rising and the audience dancing. We offer excitement … a release for a little while. It’s a real charge for all of us to be able to reach out and touch the audience.

SF: How do you know which selections will light up certain audiences?

HM: No one knows the answer to this question. You can only anticipate so much. You have a game plan of what to play, then you fine-tune it as the performance continues.

SF: You have a unique ability to get people on their feet and hypnotized by your energy. Your voice has been described as a “force of nature.” What do you love most about performing?

HM: The smiling faces, the little kids dancing with their families and friends. Singing is like flying. This is the best band I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. We all support the others’ flight of fancy when we perform. It’s a group effort to find the right groove and right expression for each song.

SF: Of all the memorable feedback you’ve received over the years, has there been a standout comment from a fan or audience member?

HM: Audience members offer the nicest compliments. It’s always appreciated and absorbed into my memory. Once my granddaughter told me I was her Aretha Franklin. I think that one warms me the most. It is humbling and exciting at the same time. When the band compliments me after a show it is special because it means that I went to a special place that I don’t always reach every night.