Vail’s new boss horn |

Vail’s new boss horn

Cassie Pence

WEST VAIL – Sitting across from Carlos Washington at Bagali’s Italian Kitchen, I watch in awe as the musician bubbles over with ideas like a hot pot of spicy gumbo. At times popping out of his chair to animate an anecdote or hammer in a message, wide-eyed Washington speaks passionately, and most importantly, seriously about the dreams he wants to fulfill while living in Vail. The trumpeter has recently settled in the valley – for now, at least – playing weekly residencies at Bagali’s in West Vail and Samana in Vail Village. He’s got a radio show on tap at 97.7 – The Zephyr starting Feb. 28, and he has plans of teaching trumpet. Bagali’s co-owner Stu Bucy helped facilitate the move. A big fan and personal friend, Bucy offered Washington the weekly gig and a place to stay. With the opportunity staring him in the face, it was clear to Washington that Colorado was his next move.”All my friends are here,” the 30-year-old musician said of why he chose to build a life in Vail. “The bulk of the Giant People fans and family are here.”BeginningsFormer US Marine Corps Band trumpeter, Washington formed the Amazing Giant People band in 2000, combining jazz, funk, hip-hop and world groove, to create – as Washington calls it – “new-century soul.” But it was Washington’s experience touring with Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe two years prior that inspired the ensemble.”It was 1999 at a Halloween show in New Orleans when I first got the bug for Giant People,” Washington said. “I was on stage, and my hearing went out, and all I could see was this Giant People band. That’s when I realized I had to do what Karl was doing, compose, write and be a band leader.”Washington met Denson while playing in San Diego. Impressed with Denson’s sax skills, he wanted to play in his band. Washington got an audition and learned the songs, but learned them in the wrong key.”I went to audition, and Karl was like, ‘Yo, man, you’re playing in the wrong key. You didn’t practice. Go home and practice.'”Denson took Washington under his wing anyway, and Denson taught him a lot about the touring world – from when to show up, how to treat people, the music itself as well as who the agents were.”Karl and I have that bond, that blood, that magic between us, the thing that made the world change,” Washington said. “He let me drive. He was preparing me for something.”Music meets business It was about this time Washington met Richard McCaskill, and entrepreneur and music lover. McCaskill heard Washington and it blew him away.”Richard said, ‘You have a big sound. If you practice, you could be one of the best ever,'” Washington said.The two joined forces and together gave birth to Giant People, and with it, the label New Century Soul Records. McCaskill disciplined Washington. For the first six months of the relationship, Washington didn’t gig or tour, but read about the business side of music, publishing and composition rights. McCaskill also influenced Washington to sit down and write actual material, relieving his head of side-man aspirations and pumping Washington full of leadership.”Richard said, ‘Listen to your own voice, because you have one,'” Washington said.Giant People blossomed. The band toured over 100 shows with revolving musicians and produced two albums, building a devoted fan base around the country with a strong constituent, Washington said, in Colorado. But marriages and babies ensued, and Washington’s relationship with McCaskill grew tumultuous. Giant People eventually disbanded, playing its last gig as a group at the New Orleans Jazz Fest in 2003.Colorado dreamin’The Vail Valley to Washington is more than just a comfortable and familiar place to hang his hat for the moment. In his mind, it’s a potential gold mine of a music scene that has yet to be fully tapped into.”I think there could be an influx of displaced New Orleans musicians coming here,” Washington said. “I want to make Bagali’s the No. 1 jazz venue in Colorado. I want to build up the whole music scene in Vail.”Washington will host a musical social club Wednesday nights at Bagali’s. Called “Fin de Samana” – which translates, Washington said, to mean “your mind is on the weekend” – the evening of music will take on a different format each week. Sometimes, Washington will play in front of a deejay setting up beats, and other nights he might jam with Tony Gulizia, the local jazz guru.”It’s about opening the music gateway and preserving my culture through music,” Washington said.Thursday nights he will play at Samana in Vail Village for the lounge’s Absolut Jazz. Feb. 28 will mark the debut of his radio show, “Saturday Night Fish Fry,” on 97.7 – The Zephyr. Usually airing on Saturday nights, the first program will be a two-hour special in honor of Fat Tuesday. Washington is also in the preliminary stages of recording an CD in Boulder, an electronica album due out next winter. “I also want to start my own label, Preservation Collective,” Washington said. “I want to raise awareness about the world’s last natural resource – intellectual property, compositions. And I’m looking for entrepreneurs to help me do it. I want to take regional icons and turn their music into global mass music sensations.”After the four-hour interview, it was clear why Washington plays the trumpet. There’s no other vehicle that could better communicate Washington’s intensity for life and music.Look out, Vail, because he’s ready to blow the roof off.Cassie Pence can be reached at 970-949-0555, ext. 14640 or via e-mail at, Colorado

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