Friday, January 4, 2008

Jazz pianist plays with soul and style

Express Staff Writer

From the Va-Va-Voom to the Lobby Lounge in Sun Valley, Brooks Hartell keeps tickling the ivories. Photo by David N. Seelig

While Baldy's two base lodges—at River Run and Warm Springs—no longer provide après-ski musical entertainment, much to the disappointment of snowsporters relaxing after a brilliant day on the mountain, Sun Valley has not lost the music entirely.

Après skiers and other types may continue to gather at the Duchin Lounge in the Sun Valley Lodge where the Paul Tillotson Trio holds court. And for the first time in the Sun Valley Inn Lobby Lounge next to the Ram Restaurant for a continuing collection of musical offerings.

The Inn's renovated bar is one of the valley's best-kept secrets, and is improved with the piano stylings of Brooks Hartell, who for five years has preformed in Sun Valley at one venue or another.

Hartell plays at the Sun Valley Inn Lobby Lounge from Monday to Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. through Saturday, Jan. 12.

A native of San Francisco, Hartell graduated from Mannes College of Music in New York, where he studied with distinguished jazz icons Jaki Byard, Chico Hamilton, Arnie Lawrence and Buster Williams. He plays a jazzy brand of tunes with soul and style.

A New Yorker, he teaches a full roster of piano and is currently working on a CD of original music, "Face The Sun," to be released in February.

Among his regular playing gigs in New York City are the Garage Restaurant Bar in Greenwich Village, Sunday nights at the Rue-B lounge in the East Village, the Zipper Theater with the burlesque show "Va-Va Voom Room," the Blue Water Grill and the Blue Fin.

The "Va-Va Voom" was formerly performed at the now-defunct Fez under the Time Café. In the summer he also performs at Mackinac Island, Mich.

"I've been coming here with my family for many years," Hartell said. "They have a home in Elkhorn. As a kid I used to stand by the door at the Duchin Lounge and watch Joe (Fos). As soon as I was 21, I went in and Joe let me play with the band. With the help of (Ketchum pianist) Alan Pennay, I was able to get some work with Sun Valley at River Run."

But things changed slightly this year with Sun Valley's restructuring of its entertainment offerings. As it turns out, Hartell wasn't upset moving away from raucous skiers, however much he enjoyed the atmosphere.

"The Sun Valley Inn Lobby Lounge is a great bar," he said. "I can't believe it's been laying dormant. It's an even better venue for me. I'm hoping to build it up. It's a great room for my solo act."

Hartell plays his own original music along with jazz standards and blues with an improvisational solo-piano style.

"It's a full spectrum of jazz piano from infancy all the way to the present," he said. "I grab from all eras."

The Lobby Lounge is a lovely, commodious space that fortuitously overlooks the scenic pond. It's open for breakfast, lunch, après-ski beverages, cocktails, appetizers and dinner. Food service is available every day from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. with a full bar open from 11 a.m. to closing. There is even WiFi access and a large, flat-screen TV.

For more information call 622-2266. No reservations are necessary.

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