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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

The Rhythm of Community Life

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“Without music life would be a mistake.  ~Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Recently I heard a contemporary musician say on the radio, that music is not meant to be thought, but to be felt. Indeed, if we think about the first beats we ever heard as human beings, it would be the soothing, rhythmic beat of our mother’s heart in utero. Music reminds us of the rhythm of our own bodies, the sounds of our world around us and our body’s ability to reverberate with them. It calls to our souls in words we cannot express, reaching back to older, simpler, lighter and darker places in our collective primal memory. As Ludwig van Beethoven said, “music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.”

It is also a mediator of community life. For centuries, music has called us together, acting as a communication medium over ancient times, place and peoples. Music marks every dimension of our collective cultural lives –births, deaths, transitions, gatherings and separations. It tells us who we are, where we are, what we are doing and all we were in the past. It is, as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “the universal language of mankind.”

In this month of July, we are blessed with an abundance of music in our community. Maybe you’ve been hanging out at the Noontime Notes Concert Series which started in June and continues through to the middle of August at the Oak Street Plaza with local trios and quartets? If you haven’t, this concert series is free and open to the public, starting at 11:30am and finishing around 1 – just in time to pack up the picnic! Today, the series welcomes Mark Sloniker on Jazz Piano. The Old Town Sunday Sounds Concert Series in Old Town Square also started last weekend and will continue through August 30 every Sunday from 2-4pm. This Sunday, Finders and Youngberg, a bluegrass group and solo artist Russ Hopkins will be performing for your pleasure. You can find a complete schedule for this series here.

This week of course, kicks off the Fort Collins Jazz Experience, welcoming The Ramsey Lewis Trio to the Lincoln Center Performance Hall on from 7:30pm and then Al Jarreau on Saturday, July 11 starting at 8pm. You can get tickets and more information here. Fill out the form here for a chance to win one of 12 sets of Special Combo Tickets to see BOTH performances ($150 value, 2 tickets to each concert).There is also a great interview with Ramsey Lewis by Stacy Nick of the Coloradoan and full event schedule of the Jazz Festival to fill every single day this week.

And, just in case you’re wondering, this is just the start….With thanks to [phil h] and FadderUri for their wonderful images!

Were it not for music, we might in these days say, the Beautiful is dead.  ~Benjamin Disraeli

The Beet goes on!

Kirsten Broadfoot

Sound + Space = Place

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A few years ago, I attended a conference in Chicago and for part of the morning, a group of us walked in pairs through the streets, one with their eyes closed, and the other, well, making sure they didn’t fall over. We were listening to the sound of the city and after each of our turns, we would write notes about what we so intently ‘heard’, the sounds that make up space and in turn, create place. I will never forget the sound of stilettos on a marble floor inside a large atrium. As we move through space, we fill it with musical notes of our own. Our own little community symphony. Next time you’re sitting still or even walking with someone, try it. Close your eyes and listen to the music of place.

Now, if you were lucky enough to see the Laser Harps at this month’s Imagination Fair, then you have probably already experienced the ways in which our movements in space also interact with waves of light to create particular sounds and forms of music. At the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science, they have a soundSpace, where people can “…’play’ the room as if it were a musical instrument” as Scott Lindroth, Associate Professor of Music at Duke University puts it. The more you move in the space, the more the music comes to life as your movements are captured on web cameras positioned around the installation. Such an interactive installation adds new meaning to composing live performances in an unusual amalgamation of dance and music mutually creating each other. For a wonderful video on how children respond to such a space, see below.

As you’ve probably guessed by reading this far, there is an intimate relationship between sound, space and place, not to mention who we get to be through, in, and with them all.

This month, the place in which we live — here in Fort Collins — will reverberate intensely with many different kinds of sounds and understandings of space and place as we welcome a series of artists and scientists to our community. A few blogs back, we posted a video of Wynton Marsalis, jazz artists extraordinaire performing The Ballad of the American Arts at the 22nd Annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy and taking the audience on a historical ride of cultural identity as performed through jazz. Jazz, as a musical form, has proven hard to define and even harder to agree upon in terms of its pedigree. Still most jazz critics and scholars agree on some critical characteristics of the music and the artists that produce it, such as the importance of improvisation, its ability to absorb and transform influences, its special relationship with time (the ‘swing’ rhythm),  its fundamentally democratic creative nature in terms of the freedom given to performers to add their own ‘touch’ to a piece of music, and its grounding in collaborative, group interaction. Jazz spans a wide range of styles and continues to evolve in rhizomatic fashion due to these fundamental characteristics and the influences of those who play it as well as the places from which they come. You could say that jazz as a particular sound creates a space that many from diverse places can share.

From July 9-11, The Fort Collins Jazz Experience, hosted by the Downtown Business Association, welcomes the Ramsey Lewis Trio and Al Jarreau to our community. The Ramsey Lewis Trio will kick off the event at the Lincoln Center Performance Hall on Thursday, July 9 from 7:30pm with Al Jarreau following two nights later on Saturday, July 11 at the same location but starting at 8pm. Ramsey Lewis of course, is known as “The Great Performer” — a jazz icon, composer, pianist and radio personality while Al Jarreau is the only vocalist in history to win Grammys in jazz, pop and R&B. I am looking forward to hearing him use his voice as several diverse instruments!

Speaking of diverse instruments, on July 25, Doc Severinsen and El Ritmo de la Vida roll into town to bring us their own unique compositions featuring Doc on trumpet (he’s a virtuoso trumpeter and for a long time was the musical director of Johnny Carson’s big band on the Tonight Show as well as playing in major orchestras throughout the US and Canada), Gil Gutierrez on guitar and Pedro Cartas on violin. For a taste of what is to come in what has been called an ‘electrifying display of their virtuosity and blending of instruments’, click here. Doc and El Ritmo de la Vida will be at the Lincoln Center Performance Hall on Saturday, July 25 at 7:30pm. This trio got together when Doc visited Mexico thinking about retirement. Instead, he says, “…when I heard them play I knew that I would be playing with them for some time to come. Latino music, along with the blues, has always been among my favorites, and Gil and Pedro do it along with a European style that I love and so do our audiences.” The place of Mexico, opened up a new space for a new sound for all!

In between both these magical musical events, we have an equally enlightening discussion of life in space by Dr. Bob Phillips, Former NASA Space Station Chief Scientist at July’s Science Cafe on July 15 from 5:30pm to 7pm at the Stonehouse Grille. As usual, this event is free and will present some of the changes that occur in space flight and how and why we change form, function and behavior to accommodate this strange new environment. Dr. Phillips trained as a veterinarian and holds a PhD in physiology and nutrition. His life story and how he came to be involved with NASA and become an in-flight researcher on the first dedicated Biomedical Research Space Shuttle flight as well as how these experiences have fueled his work with NASA’s Life Science Education and Outreach program should make for a fascinating evening. We look forward to seeing you there, and please feel free to post a comment with any feedback you have from the evening!

Sound + Space = Place. Here’s to a wonderful July in Fort Collins and Northern Colorado!

Kirsten Broadfoot

Summer Sights and Sounds in Fort Collins

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What’s happening this weekend in Fort Collins?

Well, perhaps you’re a regular participant in First Friday, Old Town Fort Collins, but if you just keep planning to see what it’s all about and don’t manage to get there, this Friday is the next opportunity for you to join in!  On the first Friday of every month between 6-9 p.m., Old Town Fort Collins galleries keep their doors open so that you can see what’s going on with a self-guided tour. The participating Downtown Business Association Member Galleries are Art on Mountain, The Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art, Illustrated Light Gallery, Lincoln Center Galleries, Meko’s Gallery & Framing, and Trimble Court Artisans.  Leap of Faith is also participating and Georgia Rowswell will be there this weekend to meet people…. Where you go and what you choose to see is up to you–get your map here! As John Updike says, “what art offers is space–a certain breathing room for the spirit.” So this Friday, take time to make space and allow the arts in Fort Collins to feed your spirit. First Friday Gallery Walk provides a great way to engage with and celebrate creativity.

"Slide" by Daryl Price

"Slide" by Daryl Price

Have you noticed that no matter how many times you stroll through Old Town, there’s always something to explore?  For example, this Friday evening, Trimble Court Artisans presents a new exhibition of Colorado Miniatures by artist Patsy Barry. At The Center for Fine Art Photography, you can also see the photographs of 39 artists from 4 countries, selected by Chris Jordan for the Works of Man exhibition and experience Poetry Night in the cafe.  If you’d like to take a “peek” at the kind of art and furniture Fort Collins area residents collect, see the exhibition Fort Collins Collects, at FCMOCA. Then, over at Old Town Art and Framery, you can see the original painting used for this year’s Fort Collins Jazz Experience poster and meet the artist Daryl Price at a special reception.  As Peggy Lyle, from the Downtown Business Association, says, “The image is a perfect example of how jazz can transcend music and blossom into many art forms, making jazz a subculture and way of thought.  It perfectly embodies the Fort Collins Jazz Experience’s mission and emphasis.” The list goes on. . .  You could visit the new gallery Kirsten wrote about last week — Leap of Faith on Oak Street, or plan to enjoy the summer evening by listening to local jazz musician Kenny Workman, the scheduled performer for Benny and Jerry’s FAC Concert Series. Old Town Square isn’t the only place to listen to music on Friday night either.  All over Fort Collins you can hear cool sounds, including the The Poudre River Irregulars and Heidi and the Rhythm Rollers at Avo’s, and All that Jazz: Kevin Kerrick and Friends over at The Tap Room (@ Catalyst).  Get more details at the Fort Collins Convention and Visitors Bureau website.

You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness.  You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.
~Erma Bombeck
This weekend is of course Independence Day and Fort Collins’ residents have celebrated community style for generations. On Saturday the 4th in the Fort, if you’re an early riser, don’t miss the local balloon launch at 5:30 a.m. (weather dependent).  There’s also the Firekracker 5k (8:30 a.m.) and kids’ run starting in City Park, along with the 29th Annual Old Timer’s Game at 9:30 a.m. Later, you can head off to Old Town Square and Civic Center Park where festivities kick off at 11 a.m.  There’s something for everyone in the line up for this family celebration with activities and entertainment in Civic Center Park (LaPorte and Mason). Music, gymnastics, a petting zoo, and craft booths are part of the fun of celebrating Independence Day together with neighbors, friends and other residents.  What’s a summer celebration without food, snocones, hotdogs, and a pie eating contest (12:30) to follow?  For the younger crowd, there’ll also be bounce castles, Mountain Kids performances, and hands on games!  The soundtrack to all this fun will come from the Poudre River Irregulars’ Dixieland and Jazz, Mojomama‘s hip shakin’ grooves and the Fort Collins Symphony’s special 4th of July performance.
Of course, in Old Town Square you’ll need blankets, lawn chairs, and sunscreen to enjoy the sunshine, beer garden, and free performances all afternoon until the fireworks finale in City Park.  Celebrate this great big Independence Day bash with Archie Funker, an 11 piece Funky Horn Band, The Delta Sonics, Chicago Style Blues & Swing, and Soul Proprietor, Funk and Soul.  Beginning at dusk, fireworks over City Park Lake will cap off the day.  You can use the free Transfort shuttle service from Downtown Transit Center and CSU Moby Arena parking lot.  Rides begin at 6:30 p.m.
The music won’t just be for the 4th either. This year, a new FREE downtown concert series will keep the music playing in Old Town Square all summer long.  The Old Town Sunday Sounds concert series is planned for Sundays, 2-4 p.m. from July 5 through August 30.  This week, solo artist Kyle Sullivan of SoulFeel initiates the showcase of local performers.  So, you can support local talent, and look forward to Sunday afternoons full of Rockabilly, Rock, Bluegrass, Country, and more!
Make life a celebration!
Thanks for the fireworks photo rosepetal236!
Deborah Lombard