Tickets on sale for Vail Jazz |

Tickets on sale for Vail Jazz

Shauna Farnell
Special to the Daily
A Club Series performance from winter 2015 at Cucina Rustica.
John-Ryan Lockman | Special to the Weekly |

VAIL — When long-time jazz fan Howard Stone first envisioned the Vail Jazz Festival in Vail 21 years ago, he imagined a one-weekend extravaganza over Labor Day weekend featuring a small but impressive lineup of the genre’s A-list artists. It was designed to be a one-time affair. The vibrant annual event, the dynamic, year-round organization, the product with robust lasting potential, the very concept of a brand … none of these things were on the table at all with Stone’s original vision.

But the force of the music spread. Why not have a multi-day live music blowout every Labor Day weekend? How about weekly concerts throughout the summer? How about bringing in the country’s top teenage musical prodigies to groom, ensuring that jazz never dies?

Before Stone or anyone else knew it, the Vail Jazz Foundation was born and blossoming so quickly it soon became a solid, colorful, magnificent tree with many branches. Today the Foundation is a smooth-running vessel operated by a driven board of directors and a talented team of full-time staff members who bring live jazz and musical lessons of all variety to big and small stages, private homes and classrooms throughout the year.

“It’s real jazz, first and foremost,” Stone said. “Even some of the greatest jazz festivals have become much more pop music festivals with a jazz accent. Maybe it’s my stubbornness, maybe it’s my passion, I just feel like this music is so great it deserves to be heard by as many people as possible. Once we started down this road, we wanted to perpetuate the art form through performance and education. We’ve stayed totally true to that. The thing to emphasize about any one Vail Jazz event is that it’s a really, really good time.”

The reach of jazz

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The 21st Annual Vail Jazz Festival displays the scope of the jazz tree’s broad reach — from swing to reggae, blues to country to soul.

The festival kicks off with the Thursday Vail Jazz @Vail Square series on July 2 with newcomers Django Festival All-Stars featuring Samson Schmitt, Ludovic Beier and Pierre Blanchard, regulars on the New York City jazz circuit and hailed for having some of the “fastest fingers in music.” It’s a five-piece band fueled by a pair of lightning-fast guitars, a fiddle, an accordion and a stand-up bass. The series continues every Thursday through Sept. 3, bringing in time-tested Vail favorites like the groovy, drum-driven tunes of the Tommy Igoe Sextet (whose name you might recognize from “The Lion King” Broadway musical) and young pianist/vocalist Tony DeSare with his award-winning original songs and creative fusions of jazz classics with current pop hits.

Vail Jazz is also famous for introducing up-and-coming artists right before they hit the global radar. This summer features sizzling sensations such as Canadian trumpet player/vocalist Bria Skonberg and the all-women big band DIVA, both of which also speak to this year’s Vail Jazz Festival’s ample representation of female talent.

As always, the summer culminates with the explosive grand finale, the 21st Annual Vail Jazz Party over Labor Day Weekend. Comprised of five nights and four days of wall-to-wall music, the party stars the Vail Jazz House Band (John Clayton, Wycliffe Gordon, Terell Stafford, Lewis Nash, Bill Cunliffe and newcomer Dick Oatts), Roberta Gambarini and Her Trio, George Cables Trio, soloists Niki Haris, Jeff Hamilton, Howard Levy, Russell Malone, Shelley Berg and many, many more. Headliners for the weekend include the Vail Jazz Alumni Quintet, made up of graduates of the Vail Jazz Workshop.

The entire festival aims to honor the best of jazz, introducing and skyrocketing young artists, hosting one-of-a-kind performances by jazz icons and paying tribute to legends. Every Wednesday evening in July, Vail Jazz brings the all-new Club Series to Cucina Rustica in the Lodge at Vail for an intimate, dinner lounge performance with nationally acclaimed artists such as Nicole Henry and Five Play. As far as tributes to legends, one standout event is A Swinging Affair, on July 13, Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday celebration, dinner and tribute concert starring renowned vocalist Curtis Stigers and the H2 Big Band at the Lodge at Vail.

Yes, it’s going to be a jaw-dropping, ear candy-indulging, girl-powered summer of music. Tickets are limited and on sale now. Get tickets, the schedule and more information while checking out the new look of Vail Jazz at

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