Tony G celebration of life set for Thursday in Vail

Vail Jazz Foundation image of "Tony G" Gulizia.
Jack Affleck/Courtesy image

A celebration of life for Tony Gulizia will kick off an early start to the Labor Day weekend — a weekend which the jazz musician always had a hand in making special in Eagle County.

The celebration of life will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail.

Tony’s brother Joey Gulizia said the decision to have the celebration of life take place at the start of Labor Day weekend will allow some of Tony’s international friends from Beaver Creek’s sister city in Lech, Austria to attend.

The jazz musician, known locally as “Tony G,” helped foster the sister-city relationship with his music starting in the early 2000s, becoming well known in Lech for bringing authentic jazz music to town.

“We offered our sister resort that we would bring in an American three-piece jazz band over,” said Brian Nolan, who helped organize the sister city relationship with Lech. “The minute we brought him over, he was a gigantic hit.”

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It wasn’t surprising to see, Nolan said. The same thing had happened to Tony G after arriving in Vail in 1992. Before that, Tony G was a well-known jazz musician in Omaha, where he had played nightclubs for 30 years, since the age of 9 with his father and Joey in a family band.

The Gulizia Three with Joe Senior and his sons, Joey and Tony.

Tony and Joey remained close throughout Tony’s life, and those trips to Lech were some of the many world travels they enjoyed together.

“I believe it was nearly 20 years in a row that Tony went to Lech and represented Beaver Creek and became such great friends with people in Austria and Switzerland and the Czech Republic and all of those neighboring areas around there,” Joey said. “How lucky I was, that Tony would like to take his little brother along on those trips.”

Back in Vail, the relationship with Lech helped add authenticity to Beaver Creek’s Oktoberfest celebration, as Beaver Creek would bring an authentic Austrian oompah band to town each year for the celebration, which takes place annually on Labor Day weekend. The band would also visit for World Cups and in 2015, the FIS World Alpine Ski Championships.

Nolan said Tony G was a focal point of the Austrian relationship not just in Lech, but in Beaver Creek as well. Tony G had respect among the European ski town musicians not just for his jazz skills in playing the bass and melody simultaneously while singing, but for his ability to play the accordion.

“He had both worlds covered, he was a jazz guy but he was also a maniac on the accordion,” Nolan said.

Tony Gulizia, sings the national anthem at the opening of the Birds of Prey World Cup Race at Beaver Creek on Dec. 2 while Parker Woods proudly waves the flag.

In 2015, the community of Lech and the Beaver Creek Resort company took over the Beaver Creek Chophouse and converted it into an Austrian-style apres ski haus where Tony G played every day.

“We had the time of our lives,” Nolan said.

The Austrians are expected to play at Thursday’s celebration of life along with members of Jazz Goes to School, Tony G’s education program with the Vail Jazz Foundation.

Alec Mauro, who grew up in Vail and played with Tony G as a student, said he plans to come back to Vail for the event. Mauro attended Tony G’s band camps and took saxophone lessons with him as a child.

Now 23, Mauro now lives in New York and works in the music industry, a life trajectory which was inspired by Tony G, he said.

Alec Mauro met Tony G through his father, local radio personality Tony Mauro, who got to know Tony through his popular radio show “Jazz at its Peak.”

The Mauros will host a follow-up celebration Thursday starting at 5 p.m. at the Edwards Backyard in the Riverwalk in Edwards, where there will be music and even a few sausages served using Tony G’s recipe. Guests are asked to bring food and drink.

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