Senior jazz musicians in Vail
You know your new jazz band is off to a good start when its very formation was an act of improvisation.
Peter Littman, 17, has been enjoying jazz for as long as he can remember. At age 6, he became enthralled with the music after attending the Telluride Jazz Festival. At age 7, a camp counselor asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.
“I told him I wanted to be a tenor saxophonist,” Littman said with a laugh. “I didn’t even know what a tenor saxophone was, I just knew it was cool.”
By age 12, he was visiting clubs in New York City to take in the scene.
“To a little kid, jazz is boring,” he said. “It’s too complex, too hard to understand and none of your friends are listening to it. But the thing that got me interested was the excitement that was around it.”
Vail jazz godfather Tony Gulizia helped Littman understand the music.
“He been my mentor since the beginning,” Littman said. “The jazz scene in the valley is really small, but we do have Tony G. He’s who gave me my chops.”
At 17, an administrator at Vail Mountain School asked Littman if he wanted to play a jazz show at his bar, knowing that Littman was a jazz fan. Littman jumped on the opportunity, but there was only one problem — he needed a couple other musicians to join him.
Littman approached fellow Vail Mountain School students Bora Basyildiz and Carlos Taal to see if they’d be interested.
“Bora is a really good classical pianist, I knew he was teaching lessons to elementary school students and a really committed musician,” Littman said. “But he had never played jazz.”
Taal was playing bass in a rock band, and equally unfamiliar with jazz.
“We were complete novices,” Littman said. “I knew jazz, but I had never done a gig before, didn’t know how to lead a band, didn’t even know how to interact with the bar manager.”
The show went better than expected, and within a few months they had made a name for themselves as the CJM Trio. They started playing four to five shows per month.
They even learned how to ask their hosts for a paycheck when the night was through. Littmam knew he had picked a winning crew when he saw his bandmates investing their earnings back into the music.
“Bora bought a new piano, which just really shows his passion for the music,” Littman said.
FAR FROM THE LAST SHOW
Littman is a junior, but Taal and Basyildiz are seniors and getting ready to enter a new phase of life.
On Wednesday, May 23, they will play a show at the King’s Club in the Sonnenalp in Vail, which the Sonnenalp bills as a “special evening to honor Bora Basyildiz and Carlos Taal with Peter Littman.”
While it feels like a farewell, Littman says it’s anything but.
“It’s just a way to honor these guys,” he said. “But it’s definitely not our last show together. Far from it.”
It’s also a way to honor the fans that have supported them.
“This valley is amazing, the way the community supports everyone,” Littman said. “Coming to gigs, spreading the word, approaching the music and our trio with an open mind, and excitement. Even if they really don’t know that much about what it is we’re doing, community members here will give you their full support.”
The show is free scheduled to take place from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Paul Cuthbertson set out by himself around 3 p.m. Friday from the trailhead that leads up to the Polar Star Inn, according to his father, Mike, but never made it to the popular backcountry hut as a late-spring snowstorm moved in.