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Hot Jazz for Cool Nights

Colorado Springs Jazz Party “Legend-in-the-Making” trumpeter/vocalist/ composer Bria Skonberg

Colorado Springs Jazz Party “Legend-in-the-Making” trumpeter/vocalist/ composer Bria Skonberg

Straight Ahead jazz favorites like “Summertime,” “Birdland,” and “God Bless the Child” will warm this fall’s chilly nights during the four-session 2014 Colorado Springs Jazz Party, slated for October 31- November 2 at the Antlers Hilton.

A total of 15 Jazz All-Stars - including Colorado Springs’ renowned jazz guitarist Wayne Wilkinson - will roll into town for a three-day, four-session jammin’ event that kicks off with a cocktail reception and concert on Friday, October 31. That will be followed from 1 – 5 pm on Saturday afternoon by a program designed both for loyal ticket holders and for young performers of tomorrow. Saturday evening’s festivities and a Sunday morning New Orleans-style brunch will round out the weekend.

“It’s been a great opportunity to play with the All-Stars for the past five years and with the kids who come on Saturday afternoon,” says jazz guitarist Wilkinson, who teaches at the Colorado Springs Conservatory and at CSU Pueblo. He calls playing alongside young musicians “energizing.”

“There’s nothing better than watching a 12, 13 or 15-year old discover the same magic I found in jazz 40 years ago,” he says. “You get to see their forward steps, to be part of the music they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives.”

This year’s featured musicians include young as well as veteran jazz stars. 

The “Legends Made to Legends in the Making” line-up includes iconic jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, who NPR reports “has played with everyone from Zoot Sims and Benny Goodman to Doc Severinsen on The Tonight Show.” He is one of the country’s great chord soloists and is an extraordinary rhythm player.

Joining him this year will be 20-something Bria Skonberg, who got her start at age 16 as a professional big band singer and jazz trumpeter, and represents a new generation of jazz star. Among her many credits, she was a 2013 Jazz Journalists’ Association nominee for “Up and Coming Jazz Artist of The Year.” Pizarelli and Skonberg will mix it up with musicians like Jeff Barnhart, Kevin Dorn, Chuck Redd, Houston Person, Brady McKay, Bill Allred, Wilkinson and more.

“This is a uniquely American event,” says organizer Maureen Frediani, who along with her husband David spearhead this year’s program. “Our musicians not only entertain – they hope to inspire a new generation of jazz musicians.”

And the All-Stars will no doubt get a warm reception.“We’ve had folks fly in from Michigan, Indiana, the West Coast – all over,” Frediani says, adding that the annual event enjoys an enthusiastic and loyal following. It’s one of 30 U.S. jazz parties that take place each year. Last year’s local event brought $25,000 in new revenue to the hotel and downtown merchants, restaurants and boutiques. “It’s a net plus for the city before holiday activity starts,” she says.

Local recording artist, composer and jazz fan Kathy Loo has witnessed the event’s evolution since the mid-1980s when she first met Jazz Party founder Dick Gibson. He initially invited 20 jazz musicians to appear on stage in Aspen and Denver before establishing a permanent home in Colorado Springs. Greats like clarinetist Kenny Davern and jazz saxophonist Bob Wilbur performed in the early days with Pizzarelli and jazz pianist Dick Hyman. Many of the musicians were invited to stay in private homes.

“There was some spectacular stuff - some great combos and sets – performed early on,” Loo says, adding that she still studies jazz piano under local musician Brad Bietry.