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JAZZING IT UP AT THE MOUNTAIN PARADISE NAMED TELLURIDE
Soon after relocating to the Mile High City of Denver from Miami in May of 2004 I began hearing about the wonderful festivals and jazz events held throughout the summer in various Rocky Mountain resorts like Aspen, Vail, Estes Park, Evergreen, Westcliffe and most of all Telluride. In August of 2006 I finally made it to Telluride’s yearly jazz fest and I am became instantly addicted and made a commitment to attend every year. For the 31st Annual Telluride Jazz Celebration I had an extra thrill of anticipation and participation because for the very first time jazz89KUVO would have a booth present and we would be broadcasting and web streaming portions of the festival back to Denver and around the world as we teamed up with our friends at New Orleans’ legendary WWOZ which transmitted the festival to the Crescent City as well as driving their studio on wheels truck to the breathtaking beauty of the San Juan Mountains where Telluride is located at 9,100ft altitude.
Telluride has a long storied history dating back to the 1890s when a silver mine discovery caused an explosion in growth and wealth lasting until the Great Depression that began on that ill-fated Black Friday in 1929. By the late 1960s Telluride was on the verge of becoming a ghost town, a reminder of boom and bust, then a few concerned remaining citizens decided to begin hosting a series of festivals throughout the year to bring back tourism and much needed revenue and it proved to be the perfect remedy to resurrect a dying area and begin another boom that continues to this day. Telluride is a perfect location for a festival, especially a jazz festival. Telluride is situated at the end of a box canyon that has a cascade of water overlooking the town; Telluride is a small, quaint town that is a mixture of the Old West and modern Colorado. The residents of Telluride are very friendly and obviously very trustworthy as be it the west side, east side or all around the town one can see a fleet of bicycles, classic oldies and pricey recent models parked without locks or chains. Walking around the village one is always greeted by a smile and a greeting from the residents and your fellow visitors too. Telluride has a lot to be proud of, the 100 plus year old Sheridan Hotel and Opera House, the free gondola ride to Mountain Village-the Beverly Hills of the Rockies, it’s picturesque mountains surrounding the village on three sides, its hiking and biking trails, its waterfalls, lakes, creeks, fishing-just minutes from the village and its wide array of shops, taverns, spas, clubs and restaurants.
For many including this reporter, part of the charm that makes Telluride Jazz Celebration so unique is that it’s held in early August during the wet season assuring that some rain will fall each day throughout the festival. Veteran attendees come prepared for a few showers or a heavy downpour, they bring with them rain gear and many also erect tents so that despite a light rain fall or a sudden deluge no one leaves the grounds and the music plays on to enthusiastic crowds who listen intently to the music much to the delight of the performing artists. Musicians enjoy being part of the annual gathering because of the intimacy they share with their fans and the picture postcard setting. After each day’s shows are concluded on the fair grounds, one can see many of the same artists and groups playing in the small clubs around town into the late night hours, many of the performances turn into jam sessions with guest musicians sitting in taking the music to higher levels of artistry and just good ole out n out fun!
Now that you are aware of how Telluride is set up permit me to tell you about some of the highlights of the 31st Annual Telluride Jazz Celebration, this year’s guest of honor was the gifted guitarist John Scofield who played in various line-ups, most notably in the Trio Beyond. Others acts included Roy Hargrove Quintet, Soulive, Steve Turre Quintet, Roberta Gambarini with Denver’s own Eric Gunnison Trio which also accompanied Giacomo Gates. For me one of the highlights was the funk and RnB retro-group, Sharon Jones and the Dap King whose energetic music had everyone present dancing the evening away. Then there was the Albuquerque, New Mexico group Tradiciones, which plays the classic 1950s Cuban music songbook so well that it had me imagining I was seeing palm trees instead of aspens, that I was on a sandy beach instead of almost 2 miles high in the mountains. A group of us KUVO-ers pooled our resources and acquired a large condo instead of renting individual rooms, plus with a fully stocked kitchen it afforded us the luxury of preparing dinner every night and entertaining our colleagues, friends and musicians.
I don’t know who will be next year’s guest of honor, I don’t know who will be playing next year either. There is a possibility that the festival may be moved to early June in 2008 to avoid the rainy season and increasing attendance. Regardless of dates and or performing artists to be announced late this year, one thing is for certain…I will return to the paradise in the mountains named Telluride to get another heaping dose of nature and music, a most splendid elixir.
Music Director, jazz89KUVO
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