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Turnin’ up the heat

Cassie Pence
Special to the Daily/Ned RadinskyTerell Stafford plays in Bill Cunliffe's Latin jazz band, Imaginacion, which performs Saturday and Sunday during the Vail Jazz Festival's Labor Day Weekend Party.
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VAIL ” Back in the old days, jazz musicians were disappointed if they had to play for dancing. It meant they weren’t stretching musical boundaries, and jazz is all about exploration.

But the dance in Latin jazz is exactly what attracted jazz pianist, composer and arranger Bill Cunliffe to the style. His Grammy-winning Latin band Imaginacion will play the Vail Jazz Festival’s Labor Day Weekend Party, which happens Friday through Monday.

“Jazz has not been dance music for a long time, and it used to be,” Cunliffe said. “Latin music is dance music. I think when people are dancing to us it’s an indication that what we’re doing is feeling good, which is really important.”

Cunliffe is also an instructor with the Vail Jazz Foundation’s workshop, an intense summer camp for young jazz musicians. He said that blending jazz with Latin is nothing new, largely due to a general wider awareness of world music cultures within jazz musicians.

It’s fairly new for the festival, however, and local jazz guru Tony Gulizia is excited about jazz foundation founder Howard Stone’s effort in expanding the sound of the festival.

“It’s going to be a big hit,” Gulizia said. “It’s an infectious thing for audiences. That hot and heavy Latin rhythm just moves people.”

Festival attendees will hear several different types of Latin jazz, Gulizia said. He describes Imaginacion having a Puerto Rican salsa sound, while Trio Da Paz, featuring Romero Lubambo, Nilson Matta and Duduka Da Fonseca, has a more Brazilian flare with an emphasis on bassanova and samba. Trio Da Paz, along with Bob Sheppard on tenor sax, will pay tribute to Stan Getz, a Latin artist, Saturday at the festival.

Vail Cascade Resort and Spa hosts the 12th annual Vail Jazz Festival Labor Day Weekend Party concerts in its ballroom. The event features more than 24 hours of music. This year’s lineup features The Clayton Brothers Quintet, Winard Harper Sextet, Gerald Clayton Trio, Bill Cunliffe Imaginacion, Trio Da Paz, the Mile High Chapter Choir along with Henry Butler, Dave Corbus, Russell Malone, Tony Monaco and Annie Sellick.

For the last seven years, Ed Ball of Cincinnati plans his annual Vail Valley trip to visit his son, Mark, around the festival. He said the quality of music paired with the festival’s intimacy can’t be beat.

“Whoever selects the instrumentalists does a fantastic job,” Ball said. “He knows the best musicians in the country and in the world. Like the Clayton brothers, that group is just the best.”

Unlike concerts in big cities, festival attendees can mingle with the musicians if they want and ask questions or complement the players on their chops.

“Most of them are sitting in the room up near the front listening to other people perform,” Ball said.

The festival ends Monday and will again host its Jazz Jam and Eggs on the Cascade terrace in the morning. Ticket holders receive 10 percent off breakfast. Local jazz group the Tony Gulizia Trio will perform, and last year the event attracted festival musicians with their instruments, and a true jazz jam erupted. Gulizia said he hopes the same goes for this year.

To purchase tickets for the Vail Jazz Festival’s Labor Day Weekend Party, visit http://www.vailjazz.org or call 1-888-824-5526.

Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 748-2938, or cpence@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado


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