Cartwheeling into its 21st year, the Vail Jazz Festival is admittedly a full-grown adult, but as evidenced by its lineup for this summer’s Thursday evening Vail Jazz @ Vail Square series, not to mention the brand new Vail Jazz Club Series and Vail Jazz at Sweet Basil events, the festival is unquestionably keeping things young and fresh.
VAIL JAZZ AT VAIL SQUARE
The lineup of national and internationally acclaimed artists has just been confirmed. Beginning July 2 and ending Sept. 3, there will be 10 total performances, all taking place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays — rain or shine — under the jazz tent at Vail Square in Lionshead Village. Tickets are $15 general admission, $30 VIP or $199 for the 10-show VIP pass. Each event includes beverage tastings featuring 10th Mountain Whiskey, Bonfire Brewing and Ironstone Winery. Tickets and information available at vailjazz.org or 888-VAIL-JAM. Here’s the lineup:
July 2: Django Festival All-Stars
In the lightning fingers style of legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt, the five members of Django Festival All-Stars are bonafide Frenchmen and include a pair of six-finger sensations, a romping accordion and bass, sweet strains on the violin and a touch of high-speed vocal instrumentation. The quintet are regulars at Birdland in New York City and are bound to make a swingin’ debut in Vail.
July 9: Nicole Henry
Referred to as America’s current First Lady of Jazz, vocalist Nicole Henry has spent the last decade hypnotizing audiences with her sultry, versatile take on traditional jazz with a touch of soul, blues and gospel. She makes her Vail debut with her regular, uber-talented quartet.
July 16: Cyrille Aimee and Michael Valeanu Duo
Though she’s barely 30 years old, Cyrille Aimee has won awards all over the world for her hypnotizing vocal abilities. Hailing from a small village in France where she was lulled into the magic sounds of gypsy jazz, she returns to Vail for an intimate performance with fellow French New York City transplant and guitar master Michael Valeanu.
July 23: Tony DeSare
Based in New York, young singer and jazz pianist Tony DeSare returns to the Vail Square stage with a sound lying somewhere between Harry Connick Jr. and Billy Joel. He’s one of the hottest up-and-comers in jazz and in addition to his award-winning original music is known to tackle anything from the American Songbook to mash-ups fusing old pop hits with current top 40 favorites.
July 30: DIVA
It’s not every day that you come across a 15-piece big band comprised expressly of women. Based in New York, DIVA is an unstoppable ensemble led by drummer Sherrie Maricle. Their classic big band thunder is punctuated by spontaneity and improvisation.
Aug. 6: Hiromi: The Trio Project
Hailing from Japan, pianist Hiromi lights up the keys in a virtuosic style that defies even the broad confines of jazz with hints of rock and classical. When she’s not dazzling audiences with original melodies, she’s creating jingles for Nissan.
Aug. 13: Tommy Igoe Sextet
Splitting his time between San Francisco and New York City, Tommy Igoe leads his sextet from behind the powerful, pounding harmony of his drum kit. You might recognize his sound from Broadway’s original “The Lion King.” His range of beats fall somewhere between Count Basie and The Beatles.
Aug. 20: Bria Skonberg Quartet
Again defying stereotypes, this Canadian-born vocalist resides in New York City, and her main act is the trumpet. One of modern jazz’s most rapidly ascending stars, Bria Skonberg can heat up the brass like Louis Armstrong but has been known to infuse some humor into her hot jazz, holding notes while hula hooping on stage. The 31-year-old is soon to be gobbled up by every huge jazz festival in the world.
Aug. 27: Gregory Porter
California-born, Brooklyn-based baritone Gregory Porter got a full-ride scholarship for football in college but traded his shoulder pads in for a show-stopping jazz career. He won a Grammy last year for Best Jazz Vocal Album and delivers a soaring, sincere performance with a booming voice that will be recognizable for decades to come.
Sept. 3: Vail Jazz All-Stars, Alumni Quintet and House Band
It’s a triple bill for the grand finale of Vail Jazz @ Vail Square and the opening blowout for the multi-day Vail Jazz Party. The All-Stars are 12 of the nation’s most up-and-coming jazz prodigies fresh off of their intense workshop week. Their show is followed by the spontaneous grooves of five former Vail students who are now sizzling professional musicians. John Clayton leads the star-studded Vail Jazz Party House Band — Terell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe, Wycliffe Gordon, Lewis Nash and Dick Oatts — in an energetic, unforgettable set featuring the best of contemporary jazz.
ALL NEW THIS SUMMER
Vail Jazz Club Series
Replacing the popular Jazz After series of the last two summers, this summer, Vail Jazz heats up Wednesday nights in July with an even more enticing, one-of-a-kind performance. The Lodge at Vail’s Cucina Rustica restaurant transforms into an intimate, New York City-style dinner lounge as select artists from the Vail Jazz @ Vail Square series take the stage for an indoor evening performance over cocktails and authentic Italian fare. Nicole Henry performs July 8, Cyrille Aimee on July 15, Tony DeSare July 22 and Five Play (two soloists and three rhythm members from DIVA) on July 29. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and music kicks off at 9 p.m. Tickets are limited and run $30 plus a $20 food and beverage minimum.
Vail Jazz at Sweet Basil
Most people were familiar with the famous Sunday evening Vail Jazz performances at Kelly Liken Restaurant starring local piano king Tony Gulizia. While Kelly Liken is gone, Gulizia’s gig is only going to be better as he brings in a rotating cast of jazz stars to accompany him at a delicious new venue: Sweet Basil. What better place to enjoy the sweet sounds of jazz over dinner, a cocktail or dessert than in Vail Village’s most beloved restaurant? Music begins at 9 p.m. every Sunday from June 28 to Aug. 30. Entry is free.
Frank Sinatra 100th birthday bash
In celebration of the late, great Frank Sinatra and what would be his 100th birthday, famed vocalist Curtis Stigers returns to Vail with the H2 Big Band for A Swingin’ Affair, a tribute performance covering Sinatra’s classic songbook’s original Nelson Riddle arrangements. This one-time event kicks off July 13 at 6 p.m. at the Lodge at Vail with cocktails, appetizers and silent auction, followed by dinner and what is sure to be an exceptionally moving performance. Prices start at $200 and all proceeds benefit Vail Jazz educational programs.