Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Jazz up your autumn

The Sun Valley Jazz Jamboree returns for its 25th anniversary

Cornet Chop Suey plays at the 2013 Sun Valley Jazz Jamboree.
Express photo by Roland Lane

For The Express

    Get ready for five days of nonstop music, more than 200 world-class musicians and thousands of smiles. Today, Oct. 15, through Sunday, Oct. 19, the Sun Valley Jazz Jamboree will present top jazz bands in its 25th-anniversary event in the Wood River Valley.
    Jazz is one of five officially recognized “original American art forms.” The director of the Sun Valley Jazz Jamboree, Carol Loehr, explained, “Jazz belongs to us. I believe it is just as important as Betsy Ross, the American flag and the Pledge of Allegiance. It is not always squeaky-clean. Its evolution describes, in musical form, the development of the United States—the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
    Roots of the jazz festival date back to 1989. Fabulous weather, blue skies and fresh, mountain air made Sun Valley the perfect venue for this event. People travel annually from all over the country and the world to partake in the merriment and music. The festival’s website states, “Each year, between 5,000 and 6,000 jazz connoisseurs from each of the 50 states and several foreign countries attend the event.”
    This year, more than 40 bands are scheduled to play through the weekend.
    “All the bands want to play in Sun Valley,” one band leader said. “Things are perfect here—the venues, appreciative fans, accommodations—everything, not to mention a spectacular setting in these gorgeous mountains.  An invitation to come here is a prized possession in our industry.”
    Styles of music in the festival include vintage jazz, contemporary jazz, zydeco, blues, gypsy jazz, big band swing, cabaret shows and comedy acts.
    Many of the favorite bands from past years have returned to play classic jazz and swing: Bill Allred and his Classic Jazz Band, Blue Street Jazz Band, Titan Hot Seven, Cornet Chop Suey, Bob Draga, The Midiri Brothers, Ivory & Gold, and the Pieter Meijers Quartet with Brady McKay.
    Bringing the New Orleans funky jive will be Tom Hook, Meschiya Lake & Dem Lil’ Big Horns, and the New Orleans Racket Makers. Rock-and-roll lovers should check out High Street’s performance.
    Loehr said the Jazz Jamboree’s music has “universal age appeal, but the younger crowds should really check out two of our new bands, zydeco party band Gator Nation, and the bluesy queen of the boogie woogie, Sue Palmer and her Motel Swing Orchestra.” Additional new sets this year will be Argentinean gypsy jazz virtuoso Gonzalo Bergara & his Quartet and Western swing masters Billy Mata & the Texas Tradition.
    Main venues for the festival are at Sun Valley Resort facilities in Sun Valley and Ketchum. They include the indoor ice rink, Satchmo’s (aka The Boiler Room), the Opera House, Limelight Room, Continental Room, Inn Lobby Lounge, Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge and River Run Lodge.

Jazz is an incredible gift that America has given to the world… Everyone who likes to laugh, cry, dance, listen, love, eat, drink and be merry should come to this event. And if you don’t like to do any of these things, come and we will convert you.”
Carol Loehr

    There will be three free concerts in the Ketchum Town Square, across from Atkinsons’ Market. Each will be from 12:30-1:30 p.m. Tom Rigney & Flambeau kicked off on Tuesday; Meschiya Lake & Dem Lil’ Big Horns will play today, Oct. 15. Lastly, Sue Palmer and her Motel Swing Orchestra will shake things up on Thursday, Oct. 16.
    Loehr’s recommendations include the Marching Band Salute and the “Zydeco Hurricane” performance created by combining two zydeco bands, Tom Rigney & Flambeau with Gator Nation.
    “I always love the Marching Band Salute on Saturday morning.  Professional and amateur musicians join together to celebrate the good ol’ USA with John Phillip Sousa and his cohorts,” Loehr said. Girl Scout troops will present the colors and say the “Pledge of Allegiance,” as men and women of the armed forces are honored.
    Dance plays a big part in the Jazz Jamboree.
    “In addition to our vintage dancers, Sun Valley Jazz is attracting young lindy hoppers from all over the Northwest,” Loehr said.
    Veteran Jazz Jamboree dance instructors Emily Ernst and Josh McLoughlin will be joined this year by local dance artists Dale and Peggy Bates, and will teach a total of 13 dance classes. Dance classes are free with paid admission to the festival. Classes will explore Balboa, lindy, line dancing, Charleston, foxtrot, swing and blues. Additionally, everyone at the festival is invited to dance in the Preliminary Dance Competition on Saturday morning. The winners will compete for prizes in the Final Dance Competition at the Sun Valley Indoor Ice Rink on Saturday evening.
    Wine tastings will take place Thursday, Oct. 16, and Saturday, Oct. 18, from 3:30-5 p.m. at the indoor rink. The Midiri Brothers Sextet will play the tasting on Thursday and Tom Rigney & Flambeau with Bob Draga will take over on Saturday. Attendees receive a free commemorative wine glass to mark the occasion.
    Sunday evening at the Limelight Room, the celebratory Afterglow Dinner finishes out the weekend’s events. Acclaimed singer Yve Evans will kick things off with piano music during dinner at 7:30 p.m., and starting at 8:35 p.m. dancers are encouraged to boogie the night away. Organizers are putting together a “Director’s Choice” band that they claim will be a real “barn burner” to mark the 25th anniversary of the event.
    Jazz is important to our culture, Loehr said.
    “It speaks about slavery and freedom, success and failure, love and hate, joy and sorrow, right and wrong,” she said. “It can be sizzling hot or blue and cool. It is a reflection of human nature in general, and specifically the history and emotions of the American people.”
    The Sun Valley Jazz Jamboree is an opportunity for anyone, no matter his or her exposure to jazz, to explore that history and inspiration.
    “Jazz is an incredible gift that America has given to the world,” Loehr said. “Everyone who likes to laugh, cry, dance, listen, love, eat, drink and be merry should come to this event. And if you don’t like to do any of these things, come and we will convert you.”
    Registration is located at the Sun Valley Inn. For sale will be: All Events passes, day passes, After Five (half-day passes), After Glow Dinner and Big Band Dance tickets (Sunday, Oct. 19), Priority
Seating passes, and Wine Tastings tickets. The sales office will be open through the weekend.
    For more information, visit or call (208) 622-2855.

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