Genuine Jazz moves to Copper
Genuine Jazz and Wine has always offered diversity, and now it’s changing things up even more with a new location.The festival, which has been going strong in Summit County for 26 years, takes place at Copper’s Conference Center and at the tented Pavilion at the base of the mountain. Both venues offer shelter, so there’s no threat of rain-out (or snow-out, as the case may be in Summit).The festival moved from its home at The Village At Breckenridge Resort because the resort is currently closed, due to a massive construction project. It is not estimated to open until next ski season. “They wanted to skip a year of Genuine Jazz & Wine, and I couldn’t do that,” said Michael O’Brien, talent agent. “Copper was a natural fit due to proximity for fans to Front Range, easy access off highway, plenty of free parking, modern amenities, a more spacious ballroom and a completely walk-about venue (lodging to ballroom to restaurants to coffee shops etc). Copper is a known concert venue, whereas there isn’t a hotel venue in Breck that does enough consistent shows to be known to the public (except the) Riverwalk, (which was) too expensive.”Some of the featured performers are Paul Taylor, Eric Darius and Matt Marshak, among others.
Darius aims to keep jazz alive by writing music that appeals to everyone – younger and older generations alike.”As a young person into jazz, it is important for me that the music stays alive,” he said. “I’m trying to bridge the gap and … invite high school and college kids in, too, with music that they can relate to.”To this end, he fuses rhythm-and-blues, hip-hop, soul and rock to create an innovative sound, especially in his latest album “On a Mission,” which is due out on June 29 but will be available at his Genuine Jazz shows.He employed some of the top producers, instrumentalists and engineers to record the album, from veteran chart-topping musicians Rick Braun and Brian Culbertson, to hip-hop producer Micah Otano and Grammy-winning producer and engineer Peter Mokran.”Each producer brings a different sound to the mix, and each one has the ability to bring out my different musical sides,” Darius said.In the past, he has focused on fitting within the boundaries of contemporary jazz, but on this record, he followed his own yearnings.”It’s my fourth album, and I felt like it was time to take some chances and do something musically that I haven’t done before,” he said. “(All the great artists) push boundaries and try new things. I listen to all styles of music, so why not make an album that incorporates them. I went out on a limb and expressed myself and what I’m about.”And Darius is all about the love of jazz. He grew up listening to his father’s records, but it wasn’t until he was 9 years old that he saw a saxophone in person, at church.”I was just blown away with the soul and emotion that came through that instrument,” he said. “It just penetrated me.”By age 10, he was taking lessons, and the following year, Sonny LaRosa and America’s Youngest Jazz Band, which toured the country and played at Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, invited him to join. Growing up, he sacrificed hanging out with friends for practicing, “but I wouldn’t trade it for anything because I’m getting to do what I love to do.” By age 23, he signed his first record deal. Now, he’s committed to spreading jazz to anyone and everyone.”Jazz used to be at the forefront of the ’40s and ’50s,” he said. “Now, it’s a pop-based culture. I incorporate rhythm-and-blues, pop and hip-hop roots that younger people can relate to. It’s important, so they’ll grab onto it and jazz will continue.”Of course, it’s a fine line between maintaining the essence of jazz and weaving in other styles.”I try to stay true to the standards of what jazz is all about but give a twist to it,” he said. “Jazz is really based around the groove and improvisation and freedom.”And, his work is paying off.”I’m starting to see everything manifest – younger people at shows, (kids) commenting on Twitter,” he said. “People are really starting to open their eyes and ears to my kind of music, and that’s really encouraging.”At his shows, he delivers an “action-packed,” danceable performance, which he strived to re-create in his latest record.”I want people to be able to close their eyes and feel like I’m performing in front of them,” he said. “The album is about celebrating life and music and capturing all the different emotions.”
Taylor grew up in Denver and has lived in Las Vegas for more than 30 years, and though he’s performed at Genuine Jazz twice (a few years ago) he’s looking forward to returning to Colorado.”Whenever I can get back to my home state … it’s always an honor,” he said. “I love my fans in Colorado.”Taylor found his way to Las Vegas after earning a full ride for his music to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. Upon graduation, he “put all his eggs in one basket” and focused solely on building a music career. The first few years were “lean,” but “I kept my eye on my dream, and more importantly, kept writing,” so when a label came knockin’, he was ready.His next task: Hone his unique vibe, which he characterizes as sensuous and seductive – with additional influences from popular music, rhythm-and-blues and alternative rock.And his most current variation of sound came a bit by accident, or serendipity as he calls it. He recorded his latest album with two producers – one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast. While flying east, his soprano saxophone was damaged, but something inside had forewarned him, whispering, “Bring your tenor sax.” He ended up writing the lead melodies in tenor, and “things started to click. I made a whole tenor album. It was pretty hot stuff, so I called it ‘Burnin’,” he said. “It’s got a gutsier sound and as things turned out, lent itself to the retro ’70s soul sounds.”The result: a robust and sensual new album that Taylor is following up on with a new project, due out in the first quarter of next year, which draws upon alternative rock and pop genres.
This year, Marshak, one of the freshest musicians on the contemporary jazz scene, acts as both emcee/festival host and artist.”It’s an amazing line-up of artists,” he said, commenting on the great contemporary jazz musicians that will be in Breck.And he brings some phenomenal sounds himself – specifically, a funky mix of jazz, rhythm-and-blues, blues and world music ranging from South African to Indian. But his background lies in rock ‘n’ roll. “I like to tell people I’m a recovering rock ‘n’ roll guitar player,” he said.He kind of fell into playing rock, but after years of performing rock shows, “after one really loud rock gig, I decided I have to start working on what my heart is really calling for,” he said. “Deep down, (jazz) is part of my destiny. My ears and heart were calling for something different, where the parameters were much wider.”His passionate jazz music allows him to express him personality more, “because you can blend so much, and really, there’s no rules,” which spurs him to be more creative.Still, his rock history sneaks in, “usually in guitar solos,” he said. “I’ll never lose that. The rock attitude is always a good thing. Couple it with the sensitivity of a jazz musician, and it’s a nice blend.”His next evolution involves blending old- and new-school, which has become a bit of a trend in contemporary jazz.”I’m looking to do something that’s pretty modern and funky but yet use traditional instruments, like upright bass and jazz drums. I’m craving more the organic old-school kinds of sounds with some more modern sounds.”But whatever he does, one thing will remain the same: his spontaneous, energetic and unpredictable stage shows, which rely on a loose sketch and take off from there.
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