Howard Stone, and all that jazz
As a testament to the high quality music it has presented as well as to its founder, Howard Stone, the annual Vail Jazz festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.Stone and his wife, Cathy, have been enamored with Vail since 1968, when they first visited the valley, and have continued the love affair long after becoming homeowners here in the late 1970s. Their attraction to the mountains and a predilection for jazz lead the Stones to meld the two forces into a local celebration of this uniquely American musical genre.Stone’s founding of the Vail Jazz Foundation has provided the valley with both the summer festival and an innovative jazz education program for Eagle County fourth- and fifth-graders.
Cathy Stone, a former interior designer and Yoga instructor, added a Yoga studio to the home they built in 1992. Around the same time, Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival needed rehearsal space for its chamber music groups, and the Stones graciously offered their home studio, which is still being used for ensemble practice sessions today.”What began as a party weekend has quickly evolved into something else, a full time commitment to support the music we love,” Stone said, referring to the early development stages of the Jazz Festival. “We certainly have had a great deal of fun along the way. We’ve made a major contribution to preserving jazz, while nurturing future generations of players and listeners.” This summers festival includes nine free Sunday performances at the Vail Farmer’s Market, featuring programs of blues, Latin rhythms, Dixieland, gospel and mainstream jazz.In addition to the freebies at the market, there will be seven free concerts held at the Vail Arts and Wine Fair from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Culminating with the Labor Day Weekend Party, held at the Vail Cascade Resort and Spa and featuring over 24 hours of concerts, this year’s event will once again present an extraordinary schedule of great musicians. To mark this very special anniversary, the Labor Day party will include a Saturday evening dinner on Sept. 4, with dancing and a show, and a Sunday evening program saluting the music and life of the great jazz pianist Billy Strayhorn. Included will be rare film clips of Strayhorn and Duke Ellington and his orchestra shown between sets.Stone is quick to add that the festival could not be done without the help of dozens of people, including workshop clinicians, the foundation’s board of directors, volunteers and sponsors.
With all that jazz bouncing off the mountains, neophytes are sure to become enthusiasts, and aficionados will pay homage to Stone, the man who helped it all happen. Stew Mosberg is a freelance writer living in Blue River, CO. He is a regular contributor to the Vail Daily and writes a weekly column about the art scene in the Valley.