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Jazzing it up

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New talent, venue featured at 12th annual Evergreen Jazz Festival

By Sandy Barnes

A jazz pianist from Connecticut will be among talented performers getting the 12th annual Evergreen Jazz Festival into full swing this weekend.

Jeff Barnhart will play piano accompanied by his wife, Anne, a flutist, as the Ivory and Gold duo during the three-day event, which runs Friday through Sunday at various venues in Evergreen. 

Jim Reiners, one of the founders of the Jazz Festival, said he was excited about Barnhart’s appearance and also about a new venue at this year’s event, the Stagecoach Sports Grill.

Among the 70 hours of jazz music will be coronet player Bob Shultz and the Frisco Jazz Band, who will take the stage along with the Queen City Jazz Band featuring renowned vocalist Wende Harston.

The Bogalusa Strutters, an all-star Colorado group, will offer audiences selections with improvisational flair and featuring tributes to jazz immortals Jelly Roll Morton and Sidney Bechet. The group’s pianist, Brad Pregeant, grew up in New Orleans, giving his style its Big Easy sound. Performing with Pregeant will be Lance Acker on clarinet, Bill Evans on bass and Don Grove on drums. 

Also from the Big Easy are Louis Ford and his New Orleans Jazz Flairs, a group that spiced up last year’s festival with notable tunes and stories about the history of jazz.

The group is known for its extensive repertoire featuring Ford’s high-flying clarinet. The band has performed at festivals from Norway, Switzerland and Japan to Sacramento and Sun Valley. 

Also returning to this year’s festival will be another favorite Colorado group, the Poudre River Irregulars, a collection of exuberant musicians who got their start in Fort Collins.

Another local group, the Denver-based Gypsy Swing Revue, features musicians Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli delivering their distinctive violin/guitar gypsy jazz sound to festival-goers.

Those who relish swing can get their fill while listening to After Midnight, another Denver group that re-creates the sound of the Benny Goodman Sextet. The group is led by clarinet player Roger Campbell and features Rick Weingarten on vibraphone; its repertoire also includes many other big names from the swing era.

Back by popular demand, the Carl Sonny Leyland Band will play California-style jazz ranging from boogie-woogie to blues and featuring vocals by Leyland.

The festival provides music for languid listening or kicking up your heels. Dancing is encouraged during performances, especially at the Evergreen Elks Lodge ballroom, where dance demonstrations and lessons are offered. 

“It’s grown in its recognition around the country,” Reiners said of the festival, which he said draws jazz lovers from near and far.

Another special activity during the festival is the student workshops held on Thursday and Friday, providing student musicians the opportunity to learn from Denver-area jazz performers. Many of the students are then invited to perform with the Queen City Jazz Band on Saturday.  

Festival information

Evergreen Jazz Festival venues are the Evergreen Elks Lodge, the Evergreen Lake House, Evergreen Christian Church, where a 9:15 a.m. Sunday gospel service will be held, and the Stagecoach Sports Grill.

Complete schedule information is available at the Evergreen Jazz Festival website at www.evergreenjazz.org.

A free educational concert will take place from noon to 2 p.m. on Friday at the Evergreen Elks Lodge.

A free shuttle will be available to take festival goers to the different venues. 

Tickets range in price from $155 for an all-inclusive three-day badge to $75 for half-day attendance. 

Tickets must be picked up at the festival will call. To order tickets online, visit the website. To order by phone, call 303-697-5467. Visa, MasterCard and personal checks are accepted.