For 25 years the Vail Jazz Foundation (VJF) led by founder Howard Stone and his wife, Cathy, has brought those “sudden smiles” and a stream of of exceptional music to our valley. And this summer is no exception — with more than 85 concerts in the course of 65 days, almost every jazz genre will be performed by ingenious musicians!
“We’re going to make it the best party we can — all summer long,” says James Kenly, newly appointed executive director of the VJF. And he’s got a fresh plan to grow and develop the now-iconic festival. With the help of director of development Amanda Blevins, marketing manager Chris LeBoeuf and the rest of the team, their new ideas will make for a unique and transformative time in the history of Vail Jazz. And, with the countless relationships Stone has nurtured over the course of his career Kenly certainly has a large platform from which to begin the next chapter of the foundation.
To honor the Stones’ quarter-of-a-century contribution to culture in the valley and jazz music as an industry, Kenley has carefully curated this season’s lineup to be distinct from years past, while keeping in line with Howard Stone’s vision. This will include free as well as ticketed performances, featuring world- class performers and artists from numerous countries and “spanning the jazz world from swing to salsa and from the American Songbook to straight ahead.” In fact, some of the biggest names in jazz today, hailing from across the globe, will be featured.
And, Vail’s Fourth of July parade is no exception, when some members of the Fernando Pullum Orchestra will be rockin’ out on the Alpine Bank/Vail Jazz float. The 25-student orchestra, which is traveling here on busses provided by the VJF, is from the Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center in Los Angeles, a nonprofit organization. Its mission to provide quality performing arts instruction to at-risk youth, helping to boost their self-esteem, develop civic responsibility and achieve academic success.
After the parade, the orchestra will perform a free, hour-long concert at the tent in Lionshead Village. “The goal is that when everybody funnels into Lionshead after the parade, the students will perform for an hour to 90 minutes,” explains Kenly. “And then, that evening, we’re bringing back Marcia Ball, who will perform a program called The Red, The Whites and The Blues in the tent at Vail Square.”
As usual, this incredible summer of jazz culminates on Labor Day Weekend with the Vail Jazz Party, which has been described as “a five-day musical extravaganza,” complete with “wall-to-wall indoor and outdoor shows, bringing dozens of the world’s jazz stars together.”
And this year it will be so again — with performances from more than 70 jazz artists, including Grammy Award-winning John Clayton, Byron Stripling and Lewis Nash, to name a few. As for the pièce de résistance — the Gospel Prayer Meetin’ that takes place on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend? This year — for the first time — it’s going to be held at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, so plan for a joyous morning. As Kenly says, it’s going to be the “best party yet,” and you can believe that Cathy and Howard Stone will be celebrating the entire summer. Their “baby” is all grown up — and the Stones are very proud parents — as well they should mag be!