Off the Hill with Tricia Swenson: Vail Jazz Party wraps up 22nd season Labor Day weekend |

Off the Hill with Tricia Swenson: Vail Jazz Party wraps up 22nd season Labor Day weekend

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The sounds of jazz have been percolating throughout the valley since early summer. From First Fridays at The Riverwalk at Edwards and Jazz at the Market on Sundays to the party carrying on into the late night hours at the local bars, the music just won’t stop. Jazz fever has struck, and it’s here to stay.

The Vail Jazz Festival has grown over the past two decades from being a Labor Day weekend event in Vail to a celebration of jazz music all throughout Eagle County. But it will return to its roots this weekend with the signature event, the Vail Jazz Party, offering up five days of honoring this American musical tradition.

After 22 years, this event is more like a family reunion than a music festival, with the likes of John and Jeff Clayton, Bill Cunliff, Wycliffe Gordon and Terrell Stafford returning year after year. The fans have built up a convivial atmosphere as well, getting to know these Grammy Award winning and Grammy-nominated artists on more of a personal level after all these years.

Education meets entertainment with multimedia tributes sprinkled throughout the festival, enabling jazz enthusiasts to learn more about legends of the past.

The future of this musical genre is also on stage with the Vail Jazz All Stars. Over 150 applicants tryout to be a part of a 10-day workshop led by six instructors. Only 12 of the nation’s top high school jazz enthusiasts are selected to come to Vail and comprise the Vail Jazz All Stars each summer. After 21 years, there are 238 alumni and many have gone on to pursue successful careers in jazz and even return to the Vail stage.

If you are anywhere near Arrabelle Square at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning, then you will hear the uplifting sounds of Niki Harris and the Mile Hi Gospel Ensemble along with various artists for the annual Gospel Prayer Meetin’. This not-to-miss event pairs gospel and jazz together to leave you feeling exhilarated throughout your day.

With all of this great jazz music and the Rocky Mountains as your backdrop, there’s no better way to delight the senses this Labor Day weekend in Vail.

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