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All that Jazz!

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“What we play is life. If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.”

Louis Armstrong

Fort Collins Jazz Experience is committed to bringing the highest quality jazz music and celebrating its history right here in Fort Collins. Thanks to The Downtown Business Association, the Bohemian Foundation, and other local businesses, this past week, Fort Collins was the place for “cool”—and total immersion in the experience of jazz.  An amazing list of events provided opportunities for Northern Coloradoans to eat lunch while listening to jazz, enjoy ice cream and jazz, boil crawfish along with jazz, practice Tai Chi with jazz. . .to name just a few!  Multiple stages filled the air with the sounds of local and regional musicians and all over town people breathed in jazz.  Headliners Ramsey Lewis Trio and Al Jarreau also joined the celebrations as “greats” in the genealogy of jazz musicians.

Kirsti reports that last Thursday in Fort Collins she was part of the audience who sat on the edge of their seats in the Lincoln Center.  They were treated to what can “only be described as virtuosity from the Ramsey Lewis Trio.” jjJazz heritage is rooted in African community performance where stage and performer are not separately defined, and the Trio “effortlessly and seamlessly moved through a joyful, evocative, intimate, raucous dance with the audience.  Afficionados tapped their toes,clapped an d shouted in a very particular form of call and response with the music and musicians.”  Kirsti says the Trio created “a never ending showcase of talent, including individually sublime performances on soloinstruments and magical improvisation as instruments and musicians dialogued.”  The audience was, “mesmerized by the performance of what it means tobe music, as they watched musicians meld with their instruments, fingers flashing so fast you could barely see them caress keys, strings or cradle drumsticks.”  For Kirsti, “the composition ‘Exhilaration’ was exactly that, rising and falling in tempo and volume, as sound rippled t

hrough the piece.”  She also talked about the ballad ‘Conversation’ with its “exquisite rendering of the gentle rhythm and ebbs and flows of emotion, along with volume and tone that characterize an entrancing interaction.”  Nobody wanted the evening to end and the Trio played for 90 minutes, which included 3 standing ovations and encores!

On Saturday night the experience continued with over two hours of mostly love songs and a lot of boogieing down, fun, and passion added to the mix.  Al Jarreau captured hearts with his charm, wit, social commentary and ability to find humor in the human condition, including his own life!  Al Jarreau earned a Master’s Degree in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling (here’s a shout out to other University of Iowa alums!), and although he went on to make his name as one of the most critically acclaimed performers of our time, he’s still jamming to get everyone involved!  One of his greatest joys is to get audiences to sing along, and a number of times during his performance, he held out his microphone for a response or a request to finish a sentence.  His infectious energy got the audience singing, clapping and nodding as he performed old favorites and even improvised about skiing in Aspen!  “Talk about a Rocky Mountain high!”

Jarreau was joined by 6 other musicians all acclaimed in their own right, and together they shared the sheer bliss of making and making up jazz together.  While it felt as though the musicians were thrilled to have us there, it also seemed as though they would make music whether they had an audience or not!  Well-known for his scat singing and ability to imitate, Jarreau didn’t need an actual instrument, although he seemed to be playing an instrument for most of theevening.  Sometimes he didn’t even need words, “dum dum dum mmmmmm, ooh, ooh, bam!”

Al Jarreau at Lincoln Center, Fort Collins

Al Jarreau at Lincoln Center, Fort Collins

Whether playing new pieces, reviving old ones, or reinterpreting other contributions, Saturday’s performance was filled with surprises.  I have to admit that I’m not particularly fond of “My Favorite Things,” from the Sound of Music, since I’ve listened to my sister and my children sing it one too many a time.  However, Jarreau managed to make it fresh and as new as a crisp apple struedel—in his version, “wild geese” turned into “old geezers ,” who can still get a jam on!  Jarreau (born in 1940) said he wouldn’t share his chronological age, but he certainly shares the joy of finding your passion and doing what you love to keep feeling alive.  Ooh, ooh, bim, bam, bap!

Speaking of defying age, or rather gravity.. .on July 15, you can meet Dr. Bob Phillips, at Science Café Fort Collins.  His adventures include NASA training as a Payload Specialist, decades of research and teaching, and 130 scientific publications plus 2 patents.  On the second Wednesday of each month, interested scientists and Fort Collins citizens gather to discuss issues in contemporary science.  On July 15 (5:30 p.m. at the Stonehouse Grille) you can hear about how going to space and learning to live there is a great adaptive challenge.  Dr. Phillip’s talk will present some of the changes that occur in space flight and how humans accommodate this new environment. Isn’t it great that everything is constantly changing?

Improvisation is crucial!

Deborah Lombard