The Evergreen Jazz Festival is an annual, three-day celebration of traditional jazz, America’s unique art form. The Festival features 11 world-class bands from across the country presenting some 75 hours of live Dixieland, blues, boogie-woogie, swing, and ragtime. Dancers welcome! Four intimate venues in a beautiful mountain setting make for a wonderful rapport between musicians and the audience. One national columnist called it “…the best jazz festival anywhere!”

The Morning Set team had a chance to catch up with Jim Reiners – Marketing Director for The Evergreen Jazz Festival.

Special Guest Appearance – James Dapogny’s Chicago Jazz Band
Directed by Jon-Erik Kellso
Back in the very first Festival, this fabulous organization helped establish the quality standard which is so much a part of the event’s reputation.  Over the years they played very few festivals, but they always cleared their calendars when invited to Evergreen. Sadly, in 2019 they lost their leader to cancer, but his memory, personal inspiration, and great arrangements live on. The original plan was for Kim Cusack to direct, but the band and the jazz world lost a premier clarinetist when Kim died in his sleep in early June. The band agreed they still wanted to perform and will be directed by their great trumpet player Jon-Erik Kellso. We are truly thrilled to bring the band back together for their first appearance anywhere in the past four years.

After Midnight – Denver
Now well into their third decade, these wonderful musicians continue to thrill audiences with their spot-on sound of the Benny Goodman Sextet, plus equally authentic renditions of Artie Shaw, Woody Herman, and other greats of the Swing Era. They are easily among the all-time Festival favorites, and after Covid knocked them out of last year’s lineup, we’re sure everyone will be happy to have them return.

Capt. John Royen’s New Orleans RhythmNew Orleans
It’s been far too many years since John Royen’s last Festival appearance (shame on us!), but you’ll likely agree that the wait was worth it. As anyone in the Big Easy will tell you, he is a remarkable talent.  John helps celebrate the 20th Festival surrounded by three other greats, including drummer Hal Smith who was in the very first Festival in 2001.  John’s “captain” title is totally legitimate, and when you plan your next NO visit, you should book a swamp tour with him as well as reservations wherever he’s performing.

Carl Sonny Leyland Trio – Southern California
Talk about popular demand! One of the most requested groups ever to appear in the Festival, these three
mega-talents deliver a range of boogie-woogie, barrelhouse, and blues that is certain to have audiences rocking again this year. Each is a genuine star in today’s jazz galaxy, so it’s no surprise that when they get together, the music is over the top!  If you’ve never heard them, you’re in for an enormous treat. It’s a genuine pleasure to welcome them back to Evergreen.

Espresso! – Boulder, Colorado
Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli popularized gypsy jazz in the clubs of 1940s Paris.  Espresso! takes their lead from those two legends, adds a serious dose of American Swing, and delivers a thoroughly entertaining and danceable sound.  They’re making their Evergreen debut, and we think you’ll be glad they’re here.

The Poudre River Irregulars – Fort Collins, Colorado
Known for their exuberant energy, exciting sound, and unusual name, The Irregulars are first and foremost a collection of some of the very best musicians in the Rockies.  The Cache la Poudre River flows through their hometown, and when the band was formed in 1994, it experienced frequent personnel changes which led to the “Irregulars.”  Although long since stabilized, they keep the name as a link to the free and easy spirit of their music. They’ve made several previous Festival appearances,  and we’re happy to have them in the lineup again.

Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet – Nashville
Formed in late 2017, this talent-heavy group quickly became a major attraction across the country.  Led by piano great Brian Holland and Grammy-winning drummer Danny Coots, the swingin’ sound of these elite pros made them a huge hit with Evergreen audiences in  2018
and 2019, and you can expect more of the same this year.

Queen City Jazz Band with Wende Harston – Denver
For over 60 years, this treasure of the Queen City of the Plains has been thrilling audiences on both sides of the Atlantic with its big, authentic New Orleans sound.  The musicians have changed over the years, of course, but the band’s commitment to quality has been unwavering.  Wende Harston is regarded as one of today’s great jazz vocalists, reminding many of a modern-day Bessie Smith.  If she starts talking about a tune’s history, pay attention! Their Sunday morning gospel service is not to be missed.

The Dalton Ridenhour Trio – New York City

This amazingly talented and versatile trio made its Evergreen debut last year, and patron comment cards made it an easy decision to invite them back.  Their repertoire ranges from the 1920s through the 40s and includes familiar Nat King Cole Trio arrangements and Swing Era standards offset by seldom heard early guitar features in the style of Eddie Lang and Nick Lucas. Add in some Scott Joplin and maybe even some jug band blues, and every set is sure to please.

Something Doin’
The Big Little Ragtime Band – Denver
That wonderfully distinctive, syncopated sound from the early 1900s, Ragtime is generally regarded as a forerunner of jazz.  It pre-dates recorded music, but its immense popularity was evidenced by sheet music sales in the millions.  With dedicated authenticity, Maurie Walker and his friends bring this important genre to the Festival, revisiting the work of such greats as Scott Joplin, Ernest Hogan and even Jelly Roll Morton.

Double 88
In addition to the great bands highlighted above, the Festival will present several sets of dueling pianos featuring Carl Sonny Leyland, Dalton Ridenhour, and Capt. John Royen. Each will play at least once with each of the other two in what will likely be some of the most memorable sets of the whole Festival.  Three fabulous talents and two grand pianos in the acoustically marvelous Church.  This is going to be special!

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