Longmont Jazz Festival shines a light on Colorado’s jazz scene

High school students and renowned jazz artists will take to the same stage this weekend to present a sample of Colorado jazz.

This Saturday, the Longmont Jazz Festival will celebrate its 15th anniversary. The festival aims to bring more jazz to Longmont and expose a new audience to music, said Jerry Maddock, board member of the Longmont Jazz Association.

Denver has an active jazz scene with venues dedicated to the genre, from the legendary El Chapultepec to Dazzle, which has been named “one of the top 100 jazz clubs in the world” by DownBeat Magazine. The capital is not the only one to love jazz, however: big jazz festivals take place in Estes Park, Vail, Telluride and in several other towns; jazz programs are thriving at universities across the state; and the independent jazz radio station KUVO broadcasts jazz throughout Colorado. Plus, Longmont and the surrounding area are home to many accomplished jazz musicians, says Max Wagner, saxophonist and vocalist for the Max Wagner Quartet.

“The jazz scene here is very special,” says Wagner. “The level of talent is incredible. There are a ton of people in our area who are nationally and internationally successful jazz artists, and it’s amazing in this part of the world as well.

What sets the Longmont festival apart in Wagner’s eyes is the organizers’ passion for jazz.

“It’s a festival gem, run by people who really have a huge passion for jazz,” says Wagner. “I am very grateful to these people. They really care about the music and the musicians, and they run their festival accordingly. “

Bob Montgomery | Photo by Tim Ellis

The Longmont Jazz Association, a nonprofit organization founded in 1998, hosts the jazz festival every year, using grant money. In previous years, the festival lasted two or three days, but with the recession, the festival received fewer and fewer grants for this year’s event. Even with a fundraising concert held in June, the organization could only afford to host a one-day festival. To make up for lost days, the festival will run longer than in previous years, starting at 11 a.m. instead of noon.

Among the jazz musicians included in the festival, there are 20 that have yet to be discovered. The Longmont All Stars, a collection of auditions only from talented high school jazz musicians, will perform at the festival for the 13th year. The group, which includes high school students from seven different schools, organized by Bill Wilkinson, was formed 13 years ago, just two years after the Longmont Jazz Association. The organizations worked together to bring young musicians into the annual jazz festival. Because many of the group’s 15 performances per year take place out of town, the Longmont Jazz Festival gives students the chance to return home and perform for family and friends.

During the festival, the Longmont All Stars will also participate in an improvisation clinic with Bob Montgomery. The inclusion of the Longmont All Stars in the festival and the group’s participation in the clinic offered by well-known jazz artists represents national growth in jazz education.

“I think for young players it’s always amazing to hear mature and fully developed players,” says Wagner, who fell in love with jazz at 17. “Having the opportunity to see these people up close and acoustically is always different from watching it on YouTube or listening to it on a CD. There is a lot to learn, and most of these people are very generous, very kind and humble people, so it is quite common for young musicians to be greeted warmly by these comrades. They have questions and are curious about things, music, equipment, whatever. This interaction is really cool. It’s great that festivals provide a forum for that.

While the Longmont All Stars perform at jazz venues like Dazzle in Denver, they also frequent venues like Oskar Blues, where their performance can sound a bit more like background music to customers. Because the event draws a more attentive audience, the Longmont Jazz Festival is a refreshing change.

“Usually, the people who come to the Longmont Jazz Festival have more jazz knowledge than the other audiences we play for,” explains Wilkinson. “When we play Oskar Blues it’s pretty much just a nightclub.”

However, the festival audience is not limited to jazz fans. Families with young children also attend the Longmont Jazz Festival, as it is a free outdoor community event.

“It’s a family affair. It’s a day at the park, ”says Maddock. “The children come, go and dance. It’s really not just for hipsters; it’s for families who want to bring friends. It’s a free activity, and we have food and drink for them there.

In addition, this is the first year that members of the Longmont Artists Guild will exhibit and sell their work at the festival. Maddock says he hopes the performers will bring new fans to the jazz festival, while the music will bring new audiences to the performers.

The 15th annual Longmont Jazz Festival takes place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 20 at the Roosevelt Park Pavilion. Free and open to the public. 725 Eighth Avenue, Longmont. Visit http://bit.ly/LongmontJazz for a full schedule.

PROGRAM:
11:00
am – Longmont All Star Jazz Band. A complete big band of 20 musicians composed
some of the best of the best high school musicians in the Longmont region.

12:15 – Bob
Montgomery Jazz Performance Clinic. A free clinic for all lively musicians
by internationally renowned jazz trumpeter and educator Bob
Montgomery.

1:30 p.m. –
Bob Montgomery / Allen Hermann Quintet. Play the same great jazz
that they play on the band’s international touring schedule, including
original music and standards.

2:45
pm – Les Irréguliers de la rivière Poudre. This group is a pillar of jazz
throughout northern Colorado. Since 1995, this group has been pleasing
crowds with his interpretations of classic jazz numbers by artists like Louis
Armstrong, Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton, George Gershwin and Duke
Ellington.

4:00 p.m. – Dexter Payne Sextet will rock the crowd with his energetic Brazilian-influenced jazz.


5.15 p.m. – Max Wagner Quartet will close the festival with his signature
jazz brand, with Max Wagner on saxophone and vocals, Eric
Gunnison on piano, Ken Walker on bass and Alwyn Robinson on drums.

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