Free jazz concerts at Solaris Plaza allow Colorado musicians to gain exposure

Vail Jazz @ Solaris is a free concert series that features a different Colorado jazz band every Sunday night. Last Sunday, the Coração Brazilian Quartet from Denver performed on the festival stage.
Steven pope

The Vail Jazz Festival is in full swing as it enters its final full month of programming. This summer has been a huge success for the latest addition to the festival, Vail Jazz @ Solaris, a free concert series that takes place at Solaris Plaza every Sunday night at 5:30 p.m. and features jazz performers from all over Colorado.

Colorado, and the Denver area in particular, have become a growing hotbed for jazz, as talented musicians from cities like New York and Los Angeles relocate in search of a more balanced lifestyle. Festival founder Howard Stone noticed this development and created this concert series to encourage the growth of jazz in our state.

“Being a jazz musician is almost a curse, because you’re probably very, very passionate about music, and your opportunities to be financially rewarded are somewhat limited,” Stone said. “There are an awful lot of great jazz musicians in Denver, and we deliberately put this program in place to support these guys. To give them visibility, give them a concert and nurture local talents. “

Not only do the Sunday performances provide exposure to established Colorado jazz musicians, they also give student musicians across the state the opportunity to perform in front of a live audience. Each Sunday the show features an opening act from a different group of students, who perform a set at 5.30 p.m. before the main act begins at 6.30 p.m.

Five high school students opened this Sunday’s performance as CCJA Bebop Police, a group formed from a summer camp taught by the Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts.
Steven pope

Last Sunday, a group of five musicians called CCJA Bebop Police opened the evening. All of the band members were part of a week-long summer camp taught by the Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts (CCJA), where they performed together in workshops and jam sessions every day.

Kieran Osborn played drums for the band and is entering his freshman year of high school.

“We didn’t rehearse that at all, we just got together and played,” Osborn said. “All jazz is improvisation, it’s about how you feel at the moment. You can play the same song multiple times, you can listen to it as many times as you want, and there will be a thousand different versions. Everyone has their own take on it, and I love it, because you can just put your own twist on everything. “

Two of the band members are heading to college to continue studying music, and all are aiming for careers in the music industry.

CCJA Artistic Director Paul Romaine was also there on Sunday evening to support his students and to replace the evening’s star number, the Coração Brazilian Quartet on drums, after lead drummer Raoul Rossiter injured himself on the drums. hand.

The Coração Brazilian Quartet is made up of four established jazz artists from the Denver and Boulder areas, including bassist Bill McCrossen, pianist Eric Gunnison and guitarist Bill Kopper. CCJA artistic director Paul Romaine replaced drummer Raoul Rossiter who injured his hand at the last minute.
Steven pope

“They are high school students, so a lot of them are getting into this environment for the first time,” Romaine said. “We give them the responsibility of finding their own music, calling their own set and organizing themselves as much as they can without getting in the way or micromanaging. “

Romaine said that when learning a style as current as jazz, performing in front of a live audience is the best opportunity for students to develop as artists and learn to adapt to challenges in real time. .

“They got lost on those last two songs, but the saxophonist just rolled with it, and real quick the bassist rolled with it, and then they were just playing in the open, which is exactly what you’re supposed to do,” he said. said Romaine. “You are in the moment, and that’s what jazz is. Yes, it’s all this technical ability and all that is written down that you should be able to play and intellectualize, but if all that fails and you’re standing on stage what do you do? I think they learned that it won’t be the end of the world if your plans explode. Most of the people listening probably didn’t even know what ‘they were lost.

Pianist Eric Gunnison has been a mainstay of the Denver jazz scene since the 1980s and one of many talented musicians who have settled in the city and reinvigorated the Colorado jazz scene.
Steven pope

After the CCJA Bebop Police finished their set, the Coracao Brazilian Quartet took to the stage for the main performance of the evening. The quartet is made up of four established jazz artists from the Denver and Boulder areas, including bassist Bill McCrossen, pianist Eric Gunnison and guitarist Bill Kopper.

“A lot of places where the music scene was great, like New York or LA, aren’t such great places to live, so we get these big hitters from the outside, and every year it gets better,” he said. said Kopper. “It’s crazy, really, how good it is. Two of the best trumpeters in the country live in Denver, Eric Gunnison is just an institution. … It’s amazing the quality of the musicians here.

This Sunday, the 11-piece salsa group Quemando Salsa from Boulder will headline the Vail Jazz @ Solaris concert, after a first part of the East High Jazz Combo. No reservation is required. Music starts at 5:30 p.m. and participants can take any place on the lawn to dance or bring their own seat.

Willie J. Johnson

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