Seven questions for Curtis Stigers |

Seven questions for Curtis Stigers

Sarah MausolfVail CO, Colorado

Curtis Stigersanswers 7 ========If you go What: Jazz musician Curtis StigersWhen: Tonight from 6 to 8 p.m.Where: Vail Square in Lionshead, outside The Arrabelle hotel, 675 LionsheadPlace, VailCost: FreeMore information: Visit or call 970-479-6146 Other Jazz at Vail Square concertsAug. 7: Trombone Shorty & Orleans AvenueAug. 14: Jeff Hamilton TrioAug. 21: Chuchito ValdesAug. 28: Clayton Brothers Quintet & VJF All-Stars======= At 16, Curtis Stigers started playing gigs in Idaho clubs. Now 42, he’s a famous singer-saxophonist critics have likened to a bebop Ray Charles.”Stigers kicks off Jazz at Vail Square, a free concert series in Lionshead that begins tonight and continues through the end of August. He plans to sing hits like I Wonder Why,” “Never Saw a Miracle” and “Youre all that Matters to Me,” along with new stuff from his 2007 album “Real Emotional.”Stigers will team up with pianist Matthew Fries, drummer Keith Hall, bassist Cliff Schmitt and trumpeter John “Scrapper” Sneider.Stigers comes to Vail as part of a larger tour. He heads to Denver Friday to play at the Soiled Dove Underground before traveling abroad to play in Ireland. He spoke to the Daily from his home in Boise. 1. Vail Daily: You started out playing clubs in New York. How did thatevolve?Curtis Stigers: When I moved to New York, I was 21. I had been playing music in clubs in Boise since I was about 16. I worked hard and I developed at least some strong skills as a musician. I studied music in school. I went there prepared and able to basically do my thing. It helped to be a saxophone player to break into the scene, because singers are a dime a dozen in this world but, you know, if you can sort of play your way in the door. I’d get hired as a saxophone player with a band and we’d go play a gig, and wed play four sets, play for four hours, and the lead singer would run out of songs or run out of voice, and Id get a chance to step up and sing a fewsongs each night, and from there I got a reputation as a singer 2. VD: The critics have come up with all kinds of labels for you. A “bebopRay Charles,” comes to mind. How do you describe your style?CS: Well, Thats high praise. Im a huge Ray Charles fan and Ive always liked that quote because when I sing jazz, at times I get a little bit into bebop and into scatting. Im a story teller. Thats where Ive gone. When I was a younger jazz musician, I tended to sing a lot more notes and try to prove that I was the best jazz singer in the world, you know? Now that Im getting older Im 42 now Ive been doing this for almost three decades, Im more about finding the story in the song, letting the song do the works. 3. VD: Are you recording anything new?CS: I am writing and arranging stuff for my next record. Im kind of taking my time. Ive made an album every year and a quarter or so for the last, ah, five records and I just decided to sort of take a breath. The summer time is such a busy time too, for touring. The dust clears in the fall and I’ll see sort of what I want to do next. Its always a mystery as to what I want to do next until I get into the studio. 4. VD: Youve toured with a lot of big names: Elton John, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Rait, Prince. What was that like?CS: Those were heady days, you know? Again, I had just come out of being a musician playing clubs in New York City, and all of a sudden, six months later Im on the road with my heroes. And each experience was different. Prince: I never actually met Prince and I didnt really want to, because Im such a big fan but hes kind of an off-putting character. You dont see Prince and think, “Hey, Id love to go have a beer with him” whereas, you know, Bonnie Rait you think. Yeah, she is fun to have a beer with.” She doesnt drink beer anymore, but ah, Ive spent quite a bit of time socially with Bonnie and shes lovely, and she was great. Eric Clapton was wonderful to me, and Elton John the same way … 5. VD: Where do you write songs?CS: Well, that depends. Sometimes I just write songs sitting in my house …Other times, somebody will send me an mp3 … a friend of mine, and Ill listen to it, listen to it, driving around in my car with that melody playing over and over again and all of the sudden, words start coming, phrases start coming and, you know, a song comes out of it that way. Sometimes, on a chairlift. 6. VD: In what ways has fame changed your life?CS: Basically, when I was younger, being famous made me uncomfortable. It seemed strange that people would clamor after me, not knowing me or something, but now Ive learned to really appreciate it. Im grateful to the people that come to my shows. Theyre like me. They have kids and jobs and families. 7. VD: What can we expect from your show in Vail?CS: Were a jazz group but were a jazz group that loves to entertain people. Were not sort of naval gazers and people that stare at their shoes and play really long solos and ignore the audience. I like to engage the audience. I like to tell stories.High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2938 or

Support Local Journalism