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Telluride Jazz Festival, Town Park, Telluride, CO- 8/2-4

Few places in this great state are as picturesque and stunning as Telluride. This quant mountain town is the cultural mecca of the southwestern region of Colorado and plays host to several music and film festivals throughout the year. Telluride Jazz Festival is perhaps the most reserved and under-reported of all of their events, but this year featured an all-star lineup at the famed Town Park Stage. It is the 37th year for Telluride Jazz, and it has been the host to some of the most renowned musicians in the genre. Galactic, John Scofield, Stanley Clarke, and Dr. Lonnie Smith were all headlining; meaning this weekend in Telluride was sure to be one for the books.

My wife and I drove though the night to reach our destination. There was a massive storm percolating over the San Juan Range, which could be seen as far away as Glenwood Springs. Lighting flashed in the distance as we rode over seven hours to Telluride from the Front Range. The one downside is just how far Telluride is from Denver. It’s a trek, but one that is very much worth the trip. As we made our way past Montrose we hit the eye of the storm. Torrential downpour threatened to wash out the road as we finally hit the highway that would take us down valley and into town. We set our tent up in the rain and darkness and quickly went to bed. With three days of music and camping ahead of us, it was time for rest.

We awoke to a beautiful blue sky on Friday morning. For those that have never been, Town Park where the venue is located is actually a campground. This meant we were a mere three hundred yards from the entrance to the festival grounds. The weather all weekend alternated between absolutely perfect to downright drizzly. The music began around 1 PM on Friday with 2013 Band Contest Winners New Sound Underground. These young men had an explosively funky sound. The entire band biked from Minnesota to Telluride. It took around 30 days. With songs like “Natural High” and “Our Thing” it was obvious why these guys rose to the top to win their place at the festival. New Sound Underground put on a great set and it was a solid beginning to this one of a kind festival.

We watched the Telluride Allstars Leaders and Alumni Quintet next on the Town Park Stage. This band had an incredibly dynamic ability just play together. Made up of alumni of Telluride’s all-star program, and lead by Bob Montgomery on trumpet as well as Josh Quinlan on saxophone. Together they direct the program and spread the joy of music. Their set had a super laid back sensibility but with a solid intensity. They ranged from tightly performed jazzy jams to all out Latin detonations. They were impressive musicians.

Nigel Hall has long been known for his work with Royal Family Records. He is currently recording with Chapter 2 as well. His set took on an almost gospel feel as he blended jazz, funk, R&B, and more. He and his band played for just under ninety minutes during which we got a little bit of rain. It was hardly enough to dampen anyone’s spirits. Front Range favorites The Motet lead by Dave Watts took the stage next. They have a sleeker lineup with Jans Ingber on percussion and vocals. With a performance of “Shake Your Booty” the crowd was in sync. They sun began to drift down the valley basking the canyon walls in a beautiful Alpenglow light. The Motet continues to be one of the most versatile bands playing in Colorado. They can pretty much play anything on cue and have spent the last two summers bouncing around the festival circuit. Their set at Telluride was truly spectacular. They invited Nigel Hall back up to the stage to sing on their closing tune.

The John Scofield Uberjam Band closed out Friday night in high musical fashion. This super group is comprised of Scofield on guitar, Adam Deitch on drums, Andy Hess on bass, and Avi Bortnick on guitar and samples. This is an insane collection of talent and their set at Telluride was flawless. Instead of sticking to their straight funk and groove sound they are known for from their first album, they pushed it up a notch utilizing samples and some far out sounds. They performed songs new and old including “Every Night is Ladies Night” and “I Brake 4 Monster Booty.” They recently released a second album, which was the impetus for an extended tour. This group defies genre by simply playing together and riffing off of each other. This was straight avant-garde jazz at its finest. As Uberjam finished up we walked the short distance back to our camp and called it an early night.

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