Telluride Jazz 2016: Overview & Bye Paul

Telluride Jazz 2016: Overview & Bye Paul

 Jon Cleary is Guest of Honor for 2016 at the 40th annual Telluride Jazz Festival. New Orleans Legend to perform with Absolute Monster Gentlemen and special guest. Passes/tickets here. Full schedule here.

Just prior to the official weekend, The Telluride Society for Jazz and Jimmy Jazz (Berkowitz) present a special screening of a film that explores the life and music of jazz great Miles Davis, “Miles Ahead.”  That event takes place Thursday, August 4, 8:30 p.m. at Telluride’s historic Sheridan Opera House. (Scroll down to the bottom of the story for more information on that event and to watch the trailer.)

“Some cats love it, man. Most simply ain’t digging’ it no matter what angle they’s swingin’ at. Layin’ down ten, Jack, blow’n a riff, ya can’t hate Jazz ’cause there ain’t no such animal. (“Jazz: A Multimedia History,” Compton’s New Media)

Telluride Jazz Festival poster artist is Eugenio Cohaila. from an original painting donated by the Elinoff Gallery.

Telluride Jazz Festival poster artist is Eugenio Cohaila. from an original painting donated by the Elinoff Gallery.

There is such an animal – but it must have been cobbled together by blind men. Jazz is a jigsaw of styles, sounds, rhythms, and eras summed up in a pithy one-syllable word.

Different things to different people.

At its center, however, jazz is an aural elixir so yummy it makes your ears smile, but trying to define “jazz” is like trying to hold on to quicksilver:. Legendary trumpet player Louis Armstrong’s sums up pretty darn well: “Jazz is only what you are.”

Jazz was around before the Louisiana Territory became part of America. It was what black musicians played in the streets of Storyville in New Orleans. Legend goes that after a sailor got murdered in Storyville, jazz was relegated to the brothels. The word “jass,” slang for making love, then became associated with the kind of music played in brothels to accompany raunchy activities.

Years ago, vocalese great Jon Hendricks whispered in my ear: “Jazz has its roots in African American church music. Just substitute ‘Oh baby’ for “Oh God.’”

French author Jean Cocteau once declared the musical genre “over.”

Over? Really? Nowadays there are jazz festivals across the country and around the world, close to 500 in all, in places such as Montreux, Monterey, and Newport. In the southern Rockies alone, every resort town of renown holds jazz celebrations, including Aspen, Vail, Flagstaff – and, of course, Telluride.

The 40th annual Telluride Jazz Celebration takes place Friday, August 5 – Sunday, August 7. The event, skillfully nurtured for years by impresario Paul Machado, has earned international laurels for featuring the best in classic, mainstream, blues, Brazilian, African, and Latin jazz sounds. Performances are staged outdoors in the daytime and in intimate clubs and historic concert halls at night. Telluride Jazz celebrates of the art, soul, history, and future of the genre. Here the altitude may push the performers a bit, but the scenery inspires.

The Guest of Honor for Telluride Jazz 2016 is pianist and singer Jon Cleary, who will be everywhere you want to be over the weekend: on Friday, August 5, Cleary headlines a Jazz After Dark set at Telluride’s historic Sheridan Opera House; his Main Stage Town Park set is scheduled for Saturday, August 7; Cleary also appears Sunday at New Orleans Day, an annual tip of the hat to the Big Easy. He performs with his current working band the Absolute Monster Gentlemen – esteemed guitarist Derwin “Big D” Perkins, bassist Cornell C. Williams, and the drummer simply known as Jellybean. Cleary is also half of a duo with John Scofield.

Jon Cleary and The Absolute Monster Gentlemen

Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen

The Telluride Jazz line-up also includes Galactic, Ms. Lisa Fischer & Grand Baton, Jeff Coffin & The Mu’Tet, Kermit Ruffins & The BBQ Swinger, Rebirth Brass Band, Caleb Chapman’s Crescent Super Band with Jeff Coffin, Nigel Hall Band, Veronica Swift and the Eric Gunnison Trio, Sobredosis Del Sabor, Kevin McCarthy Trio, USAF Academy Band Falconaires, Telluride Student All-Stars, and Stillwater Allstars.

Also headlining the weekend is Grammy-winning bassist Marcus Miller, who donated a signature Sire V7 bass to the Telluride Society for Jazz, the non-profit which produces educational music programs in the Telluride community, as well as the festival itself.

The 40th annual Telluride Jazz Festival is also the swan song of long-time impresario Paul Machado, who took over the event in 1991. After 26 years, Paul officially retires on August 31.

Good-bye Paul, a thumbnail sketch of the retiring impresario:

Telluride Executive Director, Paul Machado, introduces guest of honor Dr. Lonnie Smith and his trio at the 37th annual Telluride Jazz Festival at Telluride Town Park in Telluride, Colo., Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013. Photo by Barton Glasser

Telluride Executive Director, Paul Machado, introduces guest of honor Dr. Lonnie Smith and his trio at the 37th annual Telluride Jazz Festival at Telluride Town Park in Telluride, Colo., Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013.
Photo by Barton Glasser

“With great respect for all my friends on the Telluride Society for Jazz Board and the Telluride Jazz Festival staff, I submit my resignation as the Telluride Society for Jazz’s Executive Director as of August 31, 2016. It has been my honor and privilege to be a part of this organization as a founding member since its inception and I look forward to supporting and assisting in the smooth transition for the Telluride Society for Jazz, the Telluride Jazz Festival, and all its music educational goals for its continued success moving forward promoting music education for those in this community, as well as beyond the reaches of Telluride.”

Over the years, the Telluride Jazz Festival changed hand time and again.

In 1983, the Town of Telluride took over.

By 1984, town clubs and bars supplemented the principal venue, Town Park.

By the mid-1980s, the Lowes (Lynn Rae and Buck) took over as promoters. Paul was Lynn Rae’s stage manager.

Paul also worked for the Lowe’s successor, a woman named Cheryl Clayton, before being handed the reins.

When Paul Machado became Telluride Jazz director the event was hemorrhaging. With passion, persistence, patience, and perspiration, over the years, he managed to rewrite the story. With help from the Town of Telluride, friends, his board, and supporters, Paul raised thousands of dollars in sponsorships. And while his eye was on the bottom line, for him, the real bottom line was recruiting jazz legends for his line-up, icons like Herbie Mann, Stanley Turrentine, Terence Blanchard, Flora & Airto, Jon Hendricks, John Scofield, and so many more. Paul also gave lesser known talents a leg-up – among his “discoveries,” Esperanza Spaulding.

In addition, Paul Machado established numerous community and student education outreach programs: Telluride Student All-Stars Jazz Ensemble; Artists In The Schools; Artists In The Library; Wilkinson Public Library Free Stage; and FREE artist workshops and master classes such as the ones featured over the 40th at the Sheridan Opera House, including Jon Cleary, Friday, August 5, 3:30- 4:30 p.m.; With Jeff Coffin, Friday, August 5, 7 – 8  p.m.; and on Saturday, August 6, 10 – 11 a.m. with Veronica Swift. RSVP here.

Paul’s love of jazz dates back to his childhood in New Bedford, Massachusetts. His mother was a singer; he was a solo soprano bugler, a trumpeter, and a drum player.

After graduating from Indiana State University with a degree in physical education, Paul headed West to find “real mountains.” He wound up in Steamboat Springs where he contracted poison ivy and spent most of his time there with his feet in a creek. With a few pennies in his pocket, Paul finally made his way to Telluride.

Once in town, Paul discovered Ophir, where he has lived for years, once playing in the Ophir Band with the Gwinns. The trio made it all the way to the Moon Salon. Big time, right?

Paul became involved with Telluride Jazz in 1976, when he hosted sax player Richie Cole. After remodeling Cole’s San Francisco home over two winters, Paul developed a real appreciation for jazz artists. Most performers, he learned, don’t make much money. Their road is cold and narrow, but music is life. Not much else matters.

Since taking over the Festival in 1991, musicians have flocked to Telluride Jazz because the line-up is always world class; opportunities to jam abound; and Paul’s team, as well as the town, treats everyone with the respect they deserve.

More about Jon Cleary:


Not sure who is line ahead of him, but according to musical icon Bonnie Raitt, Jon Cleary is next.

“He’s the 9th wonder of the world,” said Raitt.

The New Orleans transplant by way of Kent, England has spent over two decades studying and amalgamating to the culture and lifestyle of New Orleans. In that time, Cleary also become recognized as one of the city’s most accomplished songwriters, multi-instrumentalist, and vocalists. In addition to contributing to albums for Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt, and John Scofield and performing with B.B. King and Ryan Adams, Cleary has released three critically acclaimed solo albums. The most recent offering, Go Go Juice, was produced by Grammy winner John Porter and ranked #1 in OffBeat Magazine‘s Best Albums of 2015.

In addition to solo projects and working with acclaimed artists, Cleary also has two studio albums with the Absolute Monster Gentlemen. Rolling Stone‘s David Fricke described Pin Your Spin this way:

“Cleary can be an absolute monster on his own, but Cleary’s full combo R&B is as broad, deep and roiling as the Mississippi River, the combined swinging product of local keyboard tradition, Cleary’s vocal-songwriting flair for moody Seventies soul and the spunky-meters roll of his Gentlemen.”

More on Jimmy Jazz’s featured film, “Miles Ahead”:

Don Cheadle in “Miles Ahead.” Credit Brian Douglas/Sony Pictures Classics.

Don Cheadle in “Miles Ahead.” Credit Brian Douglas/Sony Pictures Classics.

The Telluride Society for Jazz and Jimmy Jazz present a very special screening of “Miles Ahead.” The screening takes place at the Sheridan Opera House on Thursday, August 4, 8:30 p.m.

“Miles Ahead” explores the life and music of jazz great Miles Davis. The program is open to the general public for a recommended donation of $15 at the door. Funds raised goes directly to the San Miguel Resource Center, Telluride’s only nonprofit focused on interpersonal violence. The VIP option, $35, is also available and includes an exclusive pre-party with complimentary food and access to preferred seating. Purchase you advance VIP tickets right here.

Here’s a review of “Miles Ahead” by Manohla Dargis from the New York Times, March 2016:

There’s a hopped-up scene in “Miles Ahead,” controlled yet frenzied, when you get why Don Cheadle decided to go for broke. He’s playing Miles Davis(he also directed) and the time is the late 1970s — although it’s also the 1960s. Time and space tend to blur in this movie and while the setting is a ’70s boxing match, a couple of figures from Miles’s past — his wife, his younger self — soon swing in to shake things up. She’s running scared and the 1970s Miles is running amok, but the younger Miles, well, there he is, too, playing it cool in the ring. Music is fighting, at least for this pugilist.

Does it matter that stretches of “Miles Ahead” — a gun-rattling, squealing-tire car chase included — came out of the filmmakers’ imagination rather than Davis’s life? (Mr. Cheadle shares script credit with Steven Baigelman.) Purists may howl, but they’ll also miss the pleasure and point of this playfully impressionistic movie. Big-screen biographies tend to come in one flavor: the bittersweet hagiographic. Most are polite exhumations that follow the often great man of history/art/politics arc with the usual highs and lows, witchy and whiny women, and transcendent payoff. “Miles Ahead” has these, including the transcendence; this is, after all, about Miles Davis…

Continue reading here.

And watch the trailer:



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