Some of Colorado’s top jazz musicians will light up the Salida Jazz Fest on Saturday, Aug. 25, along with New Orleans-based Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Nicholas Payton and the New York-based Gerry Gibbs Thrasher People Band.
The inaugural jazz festival kicks off at 11 a.m. in Riverside Park with a local favorite, the CMC Jazz Project Big Band under the direction of Gary Johnson, featuring the best jazz musicians in central Colorado.
The Ostevetto Jazz Quartet takes the stage at 12:45 p.m. with Otto Koch on piano, Steve Johnson on bass, Phil Scheuer on drums and Philip “Fly” McClard on saxophones. The four have been playing in various bands and combinations for 25 years. They play straight-ahead jazz with a focus on improvisation.
Equinox is a jazz quartet from Buena Vista featuring Bob Rheam on trumpet, John Lusk on guitar, “Fat” Bob Songster on bass, Brian Pence on drums and special guest saxophonist Brad Eastin. These widely accomplished musicians will perform at 2 p.m.
Dick Cunico and 21/3 (Twenty-One over Three) present their rhythmic and melodic instrumental sounds at 3:30 p.m. Their CDs include A question of time and In the Nick of Time. The jazz-rock influences of Weather Report, The Yellowjackets, Frank Zappa and Chick Corea can be heard in their musical textures. The ensemble will be joined by Louise Wilson, trombone.
Unconventional Wisdom Jazz brings funky, Latin-tinged improvisational music to the stage at 5:15 p.m. Leader Bud Gordon, trumpet and flugelhorn, toured as lead trumpet with Ray Charles as part of The Ray Charles Orchestra in 1978-79 and played in the Colorado Springs Contemporary Jazz Big Band and Phil Allen’s Thin Air Jazz. Unconventional Wisdom Jazz include Songster on bass; Geoff Cleveland on piano, organ and synthesizer; Randy Bowen on drums; and David Musante on guitar.
“It is amazing how many great jazz musicians we have in Colorado and especially the area around Salida,” said Michael Varnum, director of the SteamPlant Event Center, which is presenting the jazz festival. “I first met Bob Rheam when he worked on my car. Bob played with the O’Jays, the Temptations, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey bands and many others. Through Bob, I met Bud Gordon. Bud is a great player, yet he comes to Salida every October to play in a Polka Band I put together for the High Country Bank/SteamPlant Oktoberfest.”
Payton received a Grammy for Best Instrumental Solo in 1997 for his performance on the album Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton. He formed BMF Records, where he created #BAM Live at Bohemian Caverns, performing on both trumpet and Fender Rhodes, and Sketches of Spain with the Basel Symphony Orchestra in Switzerland. He has collaborated with legendary musicians Trey Anastasio, Dr. John, Stanley Jordan, Herbie Hancock and many others.
Payton will join the Gerry Gibbs Thrasher People Band on stage at 7 p.m. Gibbs, band leader and drummer, is also a Grammy Award nominee whose first album, Gerry Gibbs Sextet – The Thrasher, features saxophonist Ravi Coltrane with Quincy Jones as executive producer. His most recent recordings, Gerry Gibbs & The Thrasher Dream Trio, We’re Back and Live In Studio, featuring Jon Carter and Kenny Barron and have topped the national jazz radio charts.
“We started a Sunday evening series called Jazz on the Plaza 10 years ago at the SteamPlant,” Varnum said. “This festival is an evolution of those great performances.”
The live jazz continues until about 9 p.m., followed by fireworks.