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80 hours of live jazz this weekend

Written by Jim Reiners on .

On July 28-30, Evergreen will become “Bourbon Street with Altitude” as it hosts the 16th annual Evergreen Jazz Festival.

Nationally known for its combination of top bands, intimate venues and appealing mountain setting, the Evergreen Jazz Festival will offer over 80 hours of live traditional jazz ranging from Dixieland to ragtime to blues, boogie-woogie and swing. This year's lineup includes three bands making their first-ever appearances in Evergreen.

The Barnhart-Midiri Quartet, featuring the irrepressible Jeff Barnhart on piano, flutist Anne Barnhart and brothers Joe and Paul Midiri on reeds and drums, is sure to makes its Evergreen debut swingin’ and memorable.

Also new for 2017, the Ellis Island Boys leave their steady gig at Disney California Adventure Park to bring their lively sound to the Rockies. Longtime Evergreen favorite Katie Cavera is with them, playing bass as “one of the boys.”

Rounding out the newcomers is The Brain Cloud from Long Island City, NY, and their incredible take on Western Swing and so much more.

Two bands made their Evergreen debuts last year and took the Festival by storm. No surprise that The Fat Babies from Chicago and Denver’s Joe Smith and the Spicy Pickles are both in the 2017 lineup. Dancers, be ready!

Other returning favorites include the incomparable Carl Sonny Leyland Trio from California and Colorado greats Queen City Jazz Band with vocal star Wende Harston and Gypsy Swing Revue. Two other groups are back but with different names. Tight Like That (formerly Bogalusa Strutters) and Cali-Co Ragtime Quartet (formerly Big Little Ragtime Band) are proven crowd- pleasers no matter what they’re called.

In the true spirit of spontaneity that is jazz, the Festival will feature a jam session of top members of different bands, literally getting together for the first time on-stage. “We’ve done this the last three years,” says Production Manager Jeannie Mann, “and it was probably the most popular set of the whole weekend. So we’re excited to do it again and are sure the audience will love it.”

“I got a big kick when one of the guys announced that not only had they never played together, most of them had never even met before!" adds Music Director Ed Danielson.  "But talent clearly prevails. They were sensational!”

There are also special guest appearances on-tap for the Denver Jazz Club Youth All-Stars and the University of Colorado-Denver Claim Jumpers, giving patrons a look at the future of traditional jazz and some reassurance that there will indeed be a future.

Several times each day between sets, Dance Showcase segments will provide authentic demonstrations of the great variety of Jazz Age dances, complete with period costumes. Jitterbug, Lindy Hop, Black Bottom and more add another dimension to the weekend celebration of America’s unique art form.

As is tradition with the Evergreen Festival, educational clinics and performance opportunities are planned for student musicians. Clinics will be held Thursday and Friday morning, July 28 and 29, with instruction provided by many of the musicians appearing in the Festival. Several of the instructors will also speak and perform in the two-hour Educational Presentation that will again open the Festival this year. This kickoff event begins at noon Friday in the Elks Lodge Ballroom and is free and open to the public.

The opening sets of the Festival are scheduled for 2:30 Friday afternoon on the popular Elks Lodge Patio and in the acoustically marvelous Evergreen Christian Church. Other venues include the Elks Ballroom with its spacious dance floor, the beautiful Evergreen Lake House, and Rocky Mountain High Restaurant & Bar. The five small, distinctive venues have become virtual trademarks of the event, offering audiences varied listening environments, all with an up- close-and-personal appeal. Patrons and musicians both say they enjoy the special rapport that develops during each set.

The first of the daily dance lessons will take place Friday at 2:30 in the Elks Ballroom. Lessons are free to festival ticket holders. Dancing is encouraged in all venues

Music continues throughout the weekend until 6 pm Sunday, with three or four venues active every hour. Patrons are welcome to move among the venues as they choose, and a free shuttle makes it easy to reach those not in walking distance. Food and beverages are available at all venues, and parking is free. The complete weekend schedule is available at the festival website www.EvergreenJazz.org.

Sustaining sponsors of the Evergreen Jazz Festival are jazz89 KUVO radio and the Canyon Courier, Evergreen’s weekly newspaper. Key financial support is also derived from grants from the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District, the Denver-area's unique organization for support of the arts, and from Colorado Creative Industries, dedicated to the vitality of performing, visual and literary arts. Festival tickets can be purchased through the website or by calling 303-697-5467.  They will also be available at the Evergreen Elks Lodge during the festival.

The Evergreen Jazz Festival is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization operated by volunteers in and around the Evergreen, Colo., community. Funding is through ticket sales, grants, sponsorships, individual contributions and fundraising events. The festival website is www.EvergreenJazz.org.