Cool cats convene at the Cascade |

Cool cats convene at the Cascade

Cassie Pence

VAIL – “Kind of Blue” is certainly one jazz album that has made it into everyone’s music collection. Drummer Jimmy Cobb, one of the famous sextet that Miles Davis assembled for that album, will be performing for the 10th annual Vail Jazz Festival, which begins Friday.

“From an artistic standpoint we try and bring in great young players and also feature some of the great legends in jazz. This year we are very fortunate to have Jimmy Cobb,” said Howard Stone, founder and director of the festival. “He’s the last surviving member of that band.”The festival will host 26 hours of music, spanning all styles and eras of jazz, including blues, Latin jazz, straight-ahead, bebop and gospel.

“From a pure music standpoint, I want to feature as many styles of music as possible, because when I think people hear the word jazz, most people form an opinion or have a thought about what that means, and in most cases, it’s very narrow,” Stone said.Stone has set up the ballroom at the Cascade Resort and Spa in Vail like a jazz club you might experience in New York City. There’s no reserve seating. Except at the Cascade when the musician steps off the bandstand, there is no curtain to duck behind. Instead, the musician plunges into the audience.

“You can go up to the musician rap about the music or get his autograph, shmooze and buy him a drink. You can ask Jimmy Cobb what is was like to make the most famous jazz album in history,” Stone said. “These guys are thrilled to talk to people in the audience.”For the first time in the festival’s 10 years, organizers are throwing a Dinner, Dance and Show Saturday at 6 p.m. There will be a buffet dinner, wine and beer, and a band will play afterward. All the musicians will be there, making it a unique opportunity for guests to mingle with jazz legends and stars of the future.

Some of the artists that will perform during the weekend include, Latin jazz group Hilton Ruiz Latin Jazz All-Stars with Dave Valentin; Reuban Wilson, who some credit for the acid jazz movement; vocalist Dena DeRose, who will sing some story-tellers and jazz standards; hard-driving saxophonist Anne Patterson; Wally “Gator” Watson, an old funk drummer; up and coming saxophone star Eric Alexander and guitarist Peter Bernstein. The festival is a true mix of talent, styles and generations.”The uniqueness of our festival is you’ll never see the fourth set on Saturday night ever again because those six musician, whoever they are, will probably never come together again. They just happen to be here in Vail at the same time,” Stone said. “It becomes a love fest.”

Sunday the festival plays tribute to Billy Strayhorn, who joined Duke Ellington’s band in 1939 at age 22. The festival will tell the piano player’s story through his music, a moderator and an extensive collection of vintage video.”Strayhorn was Duke Ellington’s muse,” Stone said. “He helped Duke create the great music of the 20th century, like ‘Satin Doll’ and ‘Take the A Train,'” Stone said.

Four bands will play a couple of Strayhorn tunes, and on top of that, every band is asked to play the exact same song, “Take the A Train.” One band will play it straight Strayhorn style. One will play it as the blues. One will perform it as a Latin jazz number, and one band will play it as a hard bop. This is to teach the audience about improvisation, a major tradition in jazz music.”Jazz is a collective consciousness, where so many people have added as a song is developed,” Stone said. “Jazz is so fascinating because you can take the same tune and have four bands play it, but they don’t try to cover it like a pop band would. You will hear it differently every time.”For more information or to purchase tickets, go one line at or call 1-888-VAILJAM.

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