Smooth sounds of jazz at Keystone Wine & Jazz Festival
For the uninitiated, jazz might evoke images of dank clubs filled with smoke and beatniks toe tapping to thumping string bass lines, while fedora-clad cats pick out smooth rhythms on trumpet and guitar. It’s time to dust off those old perceptions and bring jazz out under the bright light of the Colorado mountain sunshine with this weekend’s Keystone Wine & Jazz Festival.
The festival’s musical lineup includes musicians from all over the region and opens Saturday, July 18, with composer, guitarist and producer Chris Standring, whose interest in music began as a kid growing up in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England, when he first landed on classical guitar. That obsession with traditional harmony grew through his teens and landed him at the London College of Music.
“Jazz musicians there told me that what I was playing was not real jazz,” he said with a laugh. “I quickly started studying people like Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, the great Wynton Kelly, Miles Davis, and it was over by that point — I had to go down that path.”
Standring said asking why he gravitated toward jazz is like asking why he likes one kind of music over another — a question that just can’t be answered — but if you want to constantly learn new things, to break out of the typical ruts, you end up on a path toward either classical or jazz music.
“All I can say is because I studied music at such a young age, the very idea of playing rock ’n’ roll, playing three chords for the rest of my life, was not interesting to me,” he said. “I wanted to completely pursue harmony and sophisticated music a little more.”
So the guitarist dived into the fraternity of jazz, releasing a dozen albums over a career spanning more than two decades. He’s now the host of an Internet show where he does “Charlie Rose-style interviews” with the older generation of jazz musicians, creating an oral and musical history of the art form. As for the Wine & Jazz Festival, Standring said the most important thing is to connect with the audience.
“For instance,” he said, “on my records, and when I’m recording in the studio, I might fall in love with a piece of music, but if that piece of music doesn’t translate live, I’ll be very hard on myself and take it out of the show. It has to be something that translates in a live setting. I’m a stickler for making something cohesive so people really enjoy it. I don’t call it pandering to the audience; I just want the entire experience to be fun for everybody and for me.”
Jazz for the masses
Following Standring on Saturday’s schedule is Denver-based act Dotsero, a name taken from a favorite fishing spot along the Colorado River that reflects the band’s roots.
“I love going up to the mountains,” said Steve Watts, lead saxophone player for Dotsero. “A lot of people who grew up on the coasts, they have a kindred connection with the ocean and the water and the waves, and having grown up in Colorado with the mountains, I feel the same kind of connection, a spiritual feeling with the mountains.”
The members of Dotsero grew up in the Denver area listening to many genres of music, and influences trickled in from all over the place — country from Charlie Pride and TV’s “Hee Haw” to the birth of funk and rock ’n’ roll in the late’60s and early ’70s and jazz from local musicians and school music programs. The band distilled all of those strains into their current sound.
“We grew into a genre that we didn’t necessarily understand but enjoyed playing,” Watts said. “It’s a fusion, jazz fusion, for lack of a better term.”
Watts said the most important thing Dotsero does at a show is to emotionally move the audience in some way, and that engagement comes a bit easier in a non-stuffy environment like Keystone Wine & Jazz, where people are enjoying the wine, the sunshine and the atmosphere.
“Some people, when they hear jazz, they have a preconceived idea that this is going to be boring, this is going to be something that’s over my head, that I’m going to have to work to like,” Watts said. “This is not the case with us. One of the first, most important things for us is to connect with the audience, to a level that they’re comfortable, whether it’s dancing, listening, just grooving along to the beat or whatever.”
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