It may be the dead of Winter right now, thankfully, but the Telluride music institutions that claim the Summer season are already positioning their pieces with lineup announcements that should get Western Slope festival patrons hopeful for yet another stellar season of performances.
Yesterday the Telluride Jazz Festival unveiled their initial artists for the 38th installment of the annual town-wide music event set for August 1-3, 2014. A fluid mix of straight ahead jazz with twists fits well with progressive funk stars and staple New Orleans acts.
The strong first round announcement sits high with Brooklyn-funk powerhouse Lettuce in the headlining slot. Loyal Telluride festivarians should remembers guitarist Adam Smirnoff and bassist Jesus Coomes from their part played in the Nigel Hall Band full personnel switch with the Motet at the Fly Me To The Moon hosted Jazz After Dark show last Summer during the event. The late night show format seems to be where Lettuce thrives, having backed up a high profile Wu-Tang Clan Superjam at Bonnaroo in June that had everyone in the music world talking. They also recently threw down a statement show in front of nearly 2,500 people at the Fillmore in Denver that proved Colorado has love for the East borough supergroup that houses the premiere members of the New York nu-funk scene. Adam Deitch (drummer/Breakscience), Eric Krasno (guitarist/Soulive), and Neal Evans (organ/Soulive) just to name a few of the iconic members that contribute to this larger than life crew.
Going back to Nigel Hall, he will be returning in a similar form as last year with his solo band, as well as pulling double duty with his role as master of the keys for Lettuce. The Royal Family Records player has soul with a capital S, and those that know him can confirm that he truly lives for the single purpose of playing music. Who better to go back-to-back on the Telluride Jazz Festival bill?
As a rule, this festival has always strived to be eclectic within the parameters the Jazz historical timeline, and this year the influence of Latin infusions will be represented by Grammy Award winner and Guest of Honor Poncho Sanchez. The world class congeuro will be complemented by the also Grammy Award winning nine piece Grupo Fantasma - the guys you have seen backing Prince at the Super Bowl and the Golden Globes. Need I say more about this tight mix of horns and driving rhythm, whom interestingly enough have also collaborated with members of the legendary hip-hop crew the Wu-Tang Clan? Somebody call RZA for a sit in.
Jamaican-born pianist Monty Alexander dips into another ethnic facet of straight ahead Jazz with his fusion project Harlem-Kingston Express. Over 70 albums deep, Grammy nominations received (I see a pattern here), and collaborations ranging from Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennet to Dizzy Gillespie and top session players in his home country, are all reasons that he has been cited as a top five pianist alive.
The beloved New Orleans Day set to take place on Sunday of the festival weekend will see a totally different yet equally skilled pianist in Jon Cleary. The souled out master of contagious grooves and melodic hooks will only outdo his singing with dexterous tinkles on the ivory. He honed his cops touring with Bonnie Raitt and John Scofield, so it is safe to say he'll be ready to serve as the proper Hurricane drinking soundtrack.
Also on board for the tribute to the Big Easy is super-trio DVS featuring Mike Dillon, Johnny Vidacovich and James Singleton. These three eccentric instrumentalists will be joined by crowd favorite trombonist Carly Meyers for what is sure to be another polarizing Dillon set.
Balancing some repeat offenders with new faces to the Telluride scene also seems vital to the Telluride Jazz Festival strategy. This time Brooklyn funk-meets-Eastern tradition is manifested through Red Baraat's first trek to the Western Slope. This eight piece is a spiritualized North Indian bhangra rhythm machine filtered with go-go, hip-hop and too much fun. They will hit the Main Stage, the parade down Main Street, and a late night venue during their stay in town. Look out for people to be talking about them for the weeks following the festival.
As always, giving back and educating is at the core of the non-profit arm of the Telluride Jazz Festival. This year the internationally acclaimed youth orchestra The Crescent Super Band will descend from Utah to mix it up with the other trailblazing youth act the Telluride Student Jazz All-Star Ensemble on the Main Stage and all around town. Take note of these future prodigies now, because many of them end up coming back to Telluride with their buzzing bands when they grow up.
For more information about the Telluride Jazz Festival visit www.telluridejazz.org. Discounted tickets are currently available until January 31st, 2014.