KUVO JAZZ-FM presented its 18th annual “Live at the Vineyards” fundraising event last Saturday at Balistreri Vineyards to much success. “I’ve attended all these events, and it’s come a long way, with only 50 people attending the first one,” noted the station’s Music Director and on-air host, Arturo Gómez, in his opening stage announcements.

The Saturday, August 12 sold-out event featured everything a true jazz fan could ever want – a selection of fine food from world-renowned Colorado restaurants, award-winning wines from the Balistreri Vineyards, a silent auction, and foot-stompin’ music from the Count Basie Orchestra. Approximately 1,300 music fans turned out for the five-hour fundraiser.

As folks entered the winery, they were presented with an engraved KUVO-FM wine glass which they could use to sample Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Merlots, and Syrahs at the Balistreri wine bar. Several folks were so pleased with the wine that they purchased cases to take home. Balistreri has been producing various wines since 2006, and winemakers Julie and John Balistreri welcomed the crowd as part of the opening ceremony.

With over twenty food booths to choose from, it was difficult to pick a favorite. Post Oak Barbeque offered what they call “the most down-to-earth Texas barbecue you’ll find anywhere in Colorado.” There were also international flavors, like Azafran Indian Cuisine, Fritay Haitian, and Walter’s 303 Pizzeria with some of the best handmade pizzas I had ever tasted. For something more traditional, Snarfburger was a good pick. For those with a sweet tooth, Little Man Ice Cream and M2 Confections were there to satisfy it.

Before the Count Basie Orchestra took the stage, Paul and Chris Romaine of the Colorado Conservatory of the Jazz Arts were this year’s recipients of the prestigious Carlos Lando Colorado Music Educator Award. This award is dedicated to advocates for the musicians of tomorrow who are carrying the legacies of jazz greats into new generations.

The Count Basie Orchestra (18 members) and conductor Scotty Barnhart entered the stage next. Legendary jazz pianist and composer William James “Count” Basie formed his world-famous orchestra in 1936. Basie led the band for over 50 years until he died in 1984, but the band has continued to perform and record under the leadership of various directors in the years since. Its current Musical Director is trumpeter Scotty Barnhart.

“Count Basie was the greatest bandleader of all time. I mean, think about it – he passed away in 1984, 39 years ago, and this orchestra is still on the road, still at the top of its game, still identifiable in one or two beats, or one or two notes, and still selling out concert halls,” Barnhart proudly stated in a pre-show interview.

CBO opened with “Come Fly With Me,” a tune Basie and Frank Sinatra made famous in 1966 with the live album Sinatra at the Sands. The large dance floor quickly filled with couples ready to swing to that signature big band sound. Some danced closely, while the pros needed extra space to twirl, dip, and mambo.

About halfway through CBO’s first set, Barnhart brought up guest vocalist Carmen Bradford. “I told Mr. Basie he’d make a million dollars if he’d hire me, and I ended up singing with them for nine years,” said Bradford in a pre-show interview. “He blew up my career and still continues to bless me.”

Bradford’s first set featured “Sometimes I’m Happy” and “Just For A Thrill.” She returned in the second set and sang the classics “Deed I Do” and “But Not For Me.”

CBO ended the festive evening with “One O’clock Jump,” and the crowd stood and cheered. It will be hard to top this event, but I’m sure KUVO is already working on something even more special for next year.

Count Basie Orchestra Setlist

Set I

Come Fly With Me | Blues For Stephanie | Mambo Inn | What Kind of Fool | Blues For Hoss’ Flat | Sometimes I’m Happy | Just For A Thrill | Way Out Basie | Moten Swing | I Wish You Love | We’ll Love Again |

Set II

April In Paris | Tequila | Shiny Stockings | Pensive Miss | Blues For Eileen | Dindi | Deed I Do | But Not For Me | Take the A Train | Ain’t Misbehavin’ | 9:20 Special | Easy Living | Sunday at the Savoy  | I Left My Heart In San Francisco | One O’clock Jump |

Steven Roby is a respected music journalist, best-selling author, and member of the American Society of Media Photographers.

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