From Funk to Cajun, Telluride Jazz Festival Brings All-star Cast of New Orleans Icons and New Funk Innovators
by Adam E. Smith
Aug 02, 2012 | 3145 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Roy Hargrove
Roy Hargrove
THE FUNKY METERS (Courtesy photo)
THE FUNKY METERS (Courtesy photo)

Progression is the essence of music and the events that showcase it. With a history spanning over 100 years, jazz has inspired redefining auditory moments like rock ‘n’ roll and swing in the music landscape. This year the folks at the Telluride Society for Jazz have embraced that universal truth by puzzling together a deep lineup of contemporary and prolific jazz-based musicians among a myriad of town-wide events and culinary themed days.

Coming strong out of the gate, Friday will bring the first Colorado Distillery Tasting featuring whisky, vodka, and moonshine from Breckenridge Distillery, Peach Street, Trail Town Still, Leopold Brothers and Gosling’s Rum. With a custom shot glasses in hand, festivalgoers will have over 30 different craft spirits to choose from.

During the classy boozing session, the future of the genre will come to life with Tri-state mavericks Soulive, The Marco Benevento Trio, and Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds. Each refined and innovative in their own right, the soaring guitarmanship of Eric Krasno following Benevento’s gadget-laden indie-jazz may only be outdone by the proceeding set, featuring Arleigh Kincheloe’s vocalic artistry. New Orleans may be the genesis of jazz, but the nu-funk movement spawning from Brooklyn’s underground will be on full display in Town Park Friday night.

Saturday offers some room to relax during the day, and aims at paying homage to sonic pathmakers in classic and experimental jazz. During the early afternoon, headliner Victor Wooten will give a sample of his revered instructional camp during a children’s educational program at the Wilkinson Patio. He will later put on a bass clinic à la  performance for the adults interested in seeing just how many notes per second he can manage to pull off within the framework of his own brand of odd-funk.

In another possible musical highlight of the year for Telluride, quintessential trumpeter Roy Hargrove and italian vocalist Roberta Gambarini will relive their days together in Dizzie Gillespie’s All Star Big Band with back-to-back sets of Grammy-worth tunes.

Don’t worry, the promoters didn’t forget about the wine connoisseurs who prefer their smooth jazz be paired with a liquid buzz. The 3rd Annual Wine Tasting boasts 20 different apéritif varieties, along with artisanal cheese, fresh fruit and gourmet crackers to keep your palate on point. Patrons can get their custom edition wine glasses filled while chopping it up with oenologists, vintners and even an onsite sommelier.

Paying tribute to the birthplace of jazz, Sunday is packed with legendary New Orleans musicians, food, and event revelry. A documentary film about Treme at Wilkinson Library kicks off the day, screening at 10:30 a.m. Next, Main Street is transformed into Bourbon Street at noon, with a parade complete with two brass bands, second line and a Mardi Gras float made by Ah Haa School for the Arts. Bring your beads and prepare to rope in more than a few more.

Inside the park, traditional Cajun cuisine and cocktails will be served up all day as some of New Orleans’ most notorious musicians tear up the stage. The true spirit of Faubourg Treme will channel through Telluride with timeless basslines from George Porter Jr. of The Funky Meters. Po’boys and Hurricanes can be had while English pianist Jon Cleary and the Philthy Phew showcase decades of bayou-infused singing and songwriting. Before that, former Loyola Music School professor and renowned drummer Johnny Vidacovich will push the exploratory boundaries with his quartet Astral Project.

All of that seems like enough, but doubling as the most appealing facet of the event and the closest to true spirit of jazz performance art, Jazz After Dark allows the dedicated few to get an intimate glimpse into some of the festival’s more intriguing acts. “The Jazz After Dark lineup is the most diverse we’ve ever had before. We have Latin music, a brass band, jam bands and classic jazz. Patrons at the Elks Club and Fly Me to the Moon will be dancing, while the Sheridan will be set up in the more traditional manner with seats,” said Event Promoter Todd Alshuler.

Whether it’s the laid back soul of the star-studded Supercollider (with members who  have played with The Motet, Kyle Hollingsworth, Particle and Charlie Hunter, just to name a few), the acid jazz of Mike Dillon and friends, or the very danceable funk of The Soul Rebels, the best things always happen after dark.

Among the abundance of household names, also look for sleeper sets from Boulder’s Jababa, Denver’s Convergence and Caleb Chapman’s Crescent Super Band showcase of highly skilled young musicians.

As Altshuler put it, “Pick your favorite, day and enjoy.”

Of course, if you’re like me, you plan to do it all.  


There are more than 15 established breweries and brewpubs occupy the Western Slope region, and they are attracting some of the best rising music talent as way to entertain patrons. The trend makes sense, combining craft-calibre libations with practiced singer-songwriters and high energy bands alike. Tonight folk goddess Melody Walker will bring her Bay Area-inspired acoustic narratives to Gunnison Brewery for what is sure to be a stunning display of Americali folk-pop. Also kicking off a weekend series of worthwhile acts, Austin’s Sons of Fathers makes a rare appearance at Dolores River Brewing tonight with twangy alt-rock hell bent on making you move your feet and sing along to catchy melodies. These guys are better than good, and this stop comes as part of an extensive nationwide tour to infamous rooms throughout the Southern US. East Coast folk trio The Stray Birds will pull double duty in the San Juans, opening for Rosie Ledet & The Zydeco Playboys in Paonia for Pickin’ In The Park next Thursday, after delivering hip lo-fi Pennsylvania Americana to the Dolores brewery the night previous. Sandwiches between the two coastal bands at the Dolores watering hole are a local duo comprised of prized mountain-folk couple Kim and Chris Lindell.

Saw It


Representing Pennsylvania’s burgeoning folk scene, Langhorne Slim and the Law topped Mountain Village for a lively throwdown of power-folk and post-grunge soaked ballads as part of the Sunset Concert Series. No stranger to the Telluride atmosphere, Slim, aka Sean Scolnick, hung his practiced performance out on the line during the first set. Not in vain, he played like he was back at Bonnaroo with the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, hoping to attract picnicking patrons to the front of the stage. The right amount of upbeat standup bass and slap banjo galvanized true frontman gymnastics from Scolnick, or as much as anyone can pull off in tight jeans and boots, which in turn recruited a respectable showing of the boogie-inclined during set closer, “Someday.” Often looking for a creative approach to the pitfalls of love, Slim subliminally masked ballads like “I Love You, but Goodbye” behind uplifting instrumentals and contagious passion. The formula worked, mainly because Slim sold the poetic lyricism well. Locals ignited even more fire in the band as carousal became socially acceptable, and a few heavy instrumental peaks elicited warming approval of the band’s aim. Reflecting on what could be taken as a lover’s dialogue, or even a nod to the attentive audience, Slim finally cast out the closing lyrics, “Come on now, we’re going to take a ride, I wish you could see yourself, through my eyes,” as the sun dimmed on his topnotch second set.

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