Welcome to Jazz About Town! Monthly installments will be covering a wide variety of jazz related topics. We plan to keep you informed about the music’s colorful history, the lives of its important creators, composers and performers and information about recordings. We will periodically list local and regional jazz events with special emphasis on our own nationally acclaimed Roswell Jazz Festival and its student educational component, the RJF School of Jazz.
If you were unable to attend any events at our city’s eleventh annual celebration of world class jazz music this past week, you may very well have missed the best one ever, according to many joyful jazz fans as they departed the finale concert at the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art last Sunday afternoon.
The Roswell Jazz Festival is an anuual presentation of the 501(c)3 known as Pecos Valley Jazz and Art Festival, Inc., whose mission is to promote and celebrate our unique American art form, jazz. The members of this organization are, for the most part, dedicated volunteers who give generously of their time and energy throughout the entire year in order to bring five days of cultural enrichment to the community.
In previous years, the festival was always held on the second weekend of October. The 2016 event had to be necessarily rescheduled for October 19-23 because key members of our “family” of musicians were booked on an early October jazz cruise, and were therefore unavailable to come to Roswell. One benefit of the change was no longer having to compete with the Albuquerque Balloon Festival and Ruidoso’s Cowboy Symposium.
Wednesday October 19th marked the start of the festival, with a dinner show hosted by Josh Ragsdale at The Liberty. Santa Fe’s Bert Dalton Trio, with Dalton at the piano, Milo Jaramillo on bass and John Bartlitt at the drums performed familiar jazz standards as well as lesser known selections, impressing the enthusiastic audience with a wide variety of musical moods.
Thursday morning, a swinging group comprised of tenor saxophonist Houston Person, vibraphonist Chuck Redd, trombonist Dan Barrett, bassist Erik Unsworth, drummer Ricky Malichi and yours truly on piano visited Roswell High School, Berrendo Middle School and Mountain View Middle School to perform a RJF School of Jazz outreach presentation for students. We had a ball, interacting with the kids and playing blues and jazz se- lections for them. The students responded extremely enthusiastically at all three schools.
Thursday afternoon found The New Impressions Trio, featuring last year’s guest of honor and festival favorite Ricky Malichi at the drums, UTEP professor Erik Unsworth on Bass and legendary guitarist Curt Warren at Reischman Park, performing their swinging brand of straight ahead jazz in an admission free setting. Early in the concert Unsworth’s G-string broke (no pun intended), leaving him with only three strings. He impressively continued to perform, sounding absolutely amazing until local jazz bassist Kent Taylor arrived and provided his own personal instrument to allow Unsworth to finish the concert without further problems. The New Impressions Trio is a great sounding group, and are now headed to an El Paso studio to record an exciting new CD set for release in the near future.
Thursday evening offered the public the first chance to experience the brand new Pecos Flavors Winery location at the former Tinnie Mercantile location and what a fabulous new venue this has become! The Ragsdale family has designed an almost ideally intimate club-style setting for presenting music. The room is much larger than Pecos Flavors’ former location and has a romantic feel with candles and soft lighting. Plans to add a much needed bandstand are said to be in process. Thursday evening’s Xcel Energy sold out event, titled “Three Bones,” featured three of the country’s great mainstream jazz trombone players: Dan Barrett, John Allred and Russ Phillips plus songstress Rebecca Kilgore. Backed by a super rhythm section consisting of Rossano Sportiello on piano, Richard Simon on bass and Eddie Metz Jr. at the drums, the group put on a show that rocked the house. Leader Barrett had brought along his special written arrangements of classic Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Tommy Dorsey selections, often bringing up Kilgore to add her sultry vocals. The musicians performed flawlessly and the audience ate it up. This show definitely was an outstanding festival highlight.
The Friday noon free concert on the courthouse lawn featured most of the festival musicians and drew a large, appreciative crowd. Mayor Kintigh presented RJF guest of honor Harry Allen with a gold key to the city. Later, when Allen announced that he had tried the key at local banks with no success, Kintigh reminded him that the key would get him out of jail. Later that afternoon, Reischman Park was packed for the free concert by pianist Floyd Domino and mandolin virtuoso Paul Glasse. The popular Jazz on the Patio event at Peppers, spon- sored by 400 Penn Plaza and the Pecos Flavors event featuring festival co-founder Dr. Roger Dickerson both sold out, drawing enthusiastic audiences.
At 7:30 p.m., after a warm-up set by Chicagoans Andy Brown and Petra van Nuis accompanied by Curt Warren and Erik Unsworth, main stage action began at the new HiQ venue. The atmosphere at the venue is warm and engaging and has the feel of a 1920s Chicago speakeasy. Master of ceremonies Bob Entrop was excellent and knew exactly when to and when not to insert his dialogue. Both the Domino and Glasse set with Malichi and Simon and the Red Hot Mama’s set with Kilgore, Parrott and van Nuis thrilled the audience. By the time tenor saxophonist Houston Person appeared on stage for the last set, a few patrons in the packed house had elected to leave. They may have very well missed the outstanding set of the evening. Person, appearing with brilliant trombonist John Allred, pianist Cunliffe, drummer Redd and bassist
Simon brought the crowd to a spontaneous standing ovation with their bluesy rendition of the old top forty hit Sunny.
Saturday morning came early for the RJF School of Jazz workshop session at Roswell Museum and Art Center. At 9 a.m., veteran educators Dan Barrett, Dr. Roger Dickerson and Ricky Malichi worked one on one with members of the ENMU-Portales jazz band under the direction of Rich Schwartz and the Berrendo Bull- dogs Jazz Band directed by Whitney Johnson. Both bands and their directors received praise from the educa- torss as they passed on advice and construtive criticism.
At noon, action again shifted to Reischman Park for a swinging set of Latin and standards with Allen, Allred, Malichi, bassist Pepe Carmona and yours truly. At the conclusion, trumpeter Charles Gordon sat in for a soulful rendition of Miles Davis’ All Blues and we rushed back to the RMAC Block Party to perform a rousing Salsa set with Spice of Life that had onlookers dancing in the aisles.
Back at the HiQ Saturday evening, Curt Warren and Andy Brown played a very tasty guitar duo set to the delight of dinner show patrons. A packed house welcomed master of ceremonies Greg Russell as he did a great job introducing the evening’s main stage performances. Harry Allen was officially installed as 2016 RJF Guest of Honor and was presented with a beautifully inscribed Nambé plate by members of the RJF Executive Committee. A standing ovation again closed out another outstanding, over-the-top performance by Houston Person’s quartet at the end of the evening.
Sunday’s RJF Worship in Jazz at First United Methodist Church was, judging by the comments of many, probably the most enjoyable worship service in recent festival memory. A New Orleans style traditional band, led by trombonist Dan Barrett and featuring Dr. Jim Shearer on tuba, Chuck Redd at the drums, Allan Vaché on clarinet, Russ Phillips on trombone and Roger Dickerson and yours truly at the piano collaborated with Tom Blake, John Fuss and choir along with a very receptive congregation to create a joyful, upbeat, foot tapping worship experience. The “jazz” sermon delivered by Rev. Tina Cross was very well written and impressively delivered.
The Bosendorfer Piano Showcase seems to have become a RJF finale mainstay tradition at the beautiful Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art. This year, three gifted jazz pianists dazzled the audience with both solo and trio performances. Bill Cunliffe, Johnny Varro and Rossano Sportiello were all at the top end of their pianistic prowess as they delivered incredible examples of their individual genius. Patrons rewarded the three maestros with standing ovations and departed the concert with expressions of jaw-dropping awe.
As most would certainly agree, the creation and production of this outstanding jazz festival is not any one person’s accomplishment, but a huge team effort. As proud executive director of the Roswell Jazz Festival, I would like to take this opportunity to give a heartfelt thank you to the many people who made our 2016 such a great success.
Roswell Jazz Festival Executive Board Members – Anne Baker, Chair; Jamie Boling, Vice Chair; Zelma Wilcox, Secretary; Robert Willis, Treasurer; Paula Grieves, Member-At-Large
Michael Francis, Executive Director.
RJF General Board Members –Sam Barnes; Tom Blake; Rev. Laird Cross; Rev. Tina Cross; Dr. Roger Dickerson; Cecilia Francis; Martha Hall; Tim Howsare; Pat Krakauskas; Zandra Orr; Kathleen Pittman; Rev. Larry Sidow; Misty Strickland; Carole Schlatter; Susan Voigt; Steven Zunigs;
Sound and Lights – Tom Blake, Paul Myza and Crew.
Webmaster and Social Media – Mike Barnes
Jazz Angels: Mr. and Mrs. Donald Anderson; Mr. John Walton; and Anonymous.
Roswell Community Donors; Stellar Coffee & Crew; Roswell Daily Record & Vision Magazine; RJF Souvenir Program Advertisers; Pecos Flavors Winery & Staff; HiQ Venue & Staff; Mayor Dennis Kintigh; City of Roswell; City of Roswell Lodgers’ Tax; City of Roswell Parks and Recreation; Pianowerkes of Albuquerque; Robertson and Sons Violin Shop; Lorin Sanders and Cattleman’s Kountry Kitchen; Berrendo Middle School; Roswell High School; Moutain View Middle School; First United Methodist Church; Xcel Energy; 400 Penn Plaza; Whitney Johnson and Berrendo Middle School Bulldogs Jazz Band; Rich Schwartz and ENMU- Portales Jazz Band; Southwest Printing; Cathy Burch; Dara Dana; David Haydak & Staff; Margaret Gillham; Capt. Bill Lamb; Pasta Café; Charles Gordon and “Jazzled”; Edie Stevens and Comfort Inn Suites; Comfort Inn; Laurie Rufe and RMAC.
Thank you, patrons for the great attendance numbers!
We will begin working on 2017 in a few short weeks. Please contact us at 505 359-4876 if you or your business would like to become a Roswell Jazz Festival sponsor.
Roswell Jazz Festival
Executive Director Roswell Jazz Festival