Jazz Fest honors best of the genre, best of Evergreen

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By Sara Miller

The genre of music we call jazz has been described as “the infinite art of improvisation.” The true beauty of jazz is that this spirit of improvisation extends beyond the page — beyond musical stylings — to the musicians themselves. The jazz community as far back as the 1920s has been known for the camaraderie among its musicians and their ability to combine diverse talents into new musical combinations at the drop of a hat.


The Evergreen Jazz Festival, now in its 10th year, is a celebration of traditional jazz, but, more importantly, it is a celebration of the improvisation and camaraderie that make jazz truly unique.

“We’re really excited about this year’s festival,” says Jeannie Mann, president of the festival’s board of directors. “We have two bands that haven’t been here in several years — the Don Stiernberg Quartet and Raindogs. We also have one band that is brand new to the festival. The Yerba Buena Stompers has some incredible musicians, several of whom have played at the festival in different bands over the years.”

The Stompers are devotees of the rowdy San Francisco style, and the band’s musicians have appeared at Carnegie Hall and on “The Tonight Show” and played with such jazz legends as Satchmo, Kid Ory, the Original Salty Dogs and more. 2011 marks the debut of the Stompers in Evergreen. And in traditional jazz style, they are appearing with a non-traditional lineup of musicians.

“The Stompers’ pianist unfortunately broke his hip. The one musician who really fits in well to that group is Jim Dapogny. We called Jim, and he’s standing in as the Stompers’ pianist. It will be a great collaboration,” Mann says.

Dapogny’s Grammy-nominated Chicago Jazz Band has appeared at past Evergreen Jazz Festivals. Other returnees and fan favorites include the Hot Tomatoes Dance Orchestra, Independence Hall Jazz Band and Denver’s own Queen City Jazz Band with vocalist Wende Harston. The Queen City Jazz Band last appeared in Evergreen in late June in two performances of the “Blue Skies” Jazz Concert with the Evergreen Chorale.

Harston and Hank Troy of the QCJB kick off the Jazz Festival’s packed lineup at 1 p.m. Friday, July 29, with a free educational concert called "Sophisticated Ladies: The Vocal Greats of Jazz." For the rest of the weekend, Evergreen will be filled with dance lessons, original jazz music from 12 renowned jazz ensembles, and tributes to some of jazz’s greats, such as King Oliver, Count Basie and Lionel Hampton.

Another tribute to a “jazz great” will take place at 5 p.m. Saturday, July 30. Festival organizers will honor Evergreen’s Sterling Nelson, who is retiring after 10 years as the festival’s founder and musical director.

“Sterling has such an incredible knowledge of jazz,” Mann says. “He has the ability to create a festival celebrating traditional jazz with such a diverse group of bands. Sterling has shown people that the traditional jazz is comprised of bands that play Dixieland, swing and even some whose sound borders on the cusp of bluegrass.”

Whatever your musical preferences, there is sure to be a group that tantalizes your tastes and sets your toes to tapping. 

“The festival is truly rejuvenating,” says Mann. “It provides a wonderful weekend filled with the best in traditional jazz music. Regardless of your mood when you arrive, you’re going to leave the weekend smiling from ear to ear.”

Evergreen Jazz Festival

July 29, 30, 31

Music by 12 bands at five venues throughout Evergreen with a free shuttle providing transportation between venues

Tickets are on sale at festival locations or, to order by phone, call 303-697-5467. Ticket prices range from $145 for an adult three-day pass to a $15 half-day student pass.

For more details, visit www.evergreenjazz.org.