Breaking out of the mold |

Breaking out of the mold

Wren Wertin
Special to the DailyCurtis Stigers considers himself a vocalist who plays sax. He gives a free concert today in Lionshead.

Curtis Stigers hit the big time (read: top ten hit) in pop, but has returned to his first love, jazz. He’s coming to Vail to share it as part of the Jammin’ Jazz Series at Lionshead’s Sun Dial Plaza. The free concert begins under the big white tent at 6 p.m.The vocalist/saxophonist discovered jazz as a kid, listening to the sounds of Chick Corea.”I just went crazy when I heard it,” he said.As a teenager in Boise, Idaho, Stigers apprenticed with the late pianist Gene Harris. He left the mountains for the Big Apple, seeking a career in music. He became a regular performer at Wilson’s on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, which led to a recording contract with Arista Records.His first album, self-titled, sold nearly 2 million copies and spawned several hit singles, including “I Wonder Why.””It was straight-ahead blue-eyed soul,” said Stigers. “And it defined me in the pop world.”Touring in support of the album led to sharing the stage with such artists as Elton John, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt and Rod Stewart. But his improvisational approach to live music didn’t jive well with pop. His label wanted him to continue producing cookie-cutter hits; Stigers wanted to make music – his own music.”I finally got to a point in my life where I realized I could make it as an artist, not just a commercial entity. It all came together. I could play the music I wanted to play and still feed my family.”Instead of cultivating an image, he cultivated his music. Stigers has just released “Secret Heart.” On the album, he offers originals and re-interpreted songs by songwriters such as Steve Earle, Randy Newman, Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer.”He’s somewhat of a poet,” said Howard Stone, Vail Jazz Foundation founder, about Stigers. “He writes a lot of ballads, love songs. He’s a very cool guy with a very interesting voice.”Today’s concert will include Stigers (tenor sax and vocals), Matthew Fries (piano), Greg Ryan (bass) and Keith Hall (drums). His sax sound is nice and fat.”I’m an R&B-based sax player,” said Stigers. “I sort of become a scat singer… I cover songs not normally covered by a jazz musician, like Elvis Costello.”Curtis Stigers will play his variations of jazz at Sun Dial Plaza in Lionshead. For more information on him, visit For more information on the Vail Jazz Foundation’s events, visit Wertin can be reached via e-mail at or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.

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