Evergreen Jazz Festival Hits Rocky Mountain High Note

Evergreen, Colorado, is about 1400 miles from New Orleans. But from July 28th through the 30th, the scenic mountain community will again become “Bourbon Street with Altitude” as it hosts the 16th annual Evergreen Jazz Festival.

Located 17 miles southwest and 2,000 feet above Denver, Evergreen’s mountain ambiance, postcard views and daytime temperatures in the low 80s provide an ideal setting for what one national columnist called “the best jazz festival anywhere!”

Hot Jazz Jubile

Nationally known for its combination of top bands, intimate venues and appealing mountain setting, the festival will offer over 80 hours of great jazz from eleven bands, including three making their first-ever appearances in Evergreen:

Ivory&Gold®, featuring Jeff and Anne Barnhart
Ivory&Gold®, featuring Jeff and Anne Barnhart, makes a return appearance in the 2017 Evergreen Jazz Festival. (submitted photo)

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 will be with them, playing bass as “one of the boys.”

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

UpBeat Records

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

Evergreen JazzOther 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.

Saturday night, 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’s been one of the most popular sets of the whole weekend. So we’re excited to do it again and are sure the audience will love it.”

Adds Music Director Ed Danielson, “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! 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 OKM 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 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 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 always develops.

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.


In addition to the festival, Evergreen offers a delightful main street that features a stretch of wooden sidewalk, boutiques, galleries and an array of restaurants. There’s also a public golf course (if you’ve never played at high altitude, you’re in for a treat), and it’s only a half-hour drive to the casinos of Black Hawk and Central City.

Evergreen is also a convenient starting point for visiting the many attractions of the Denver area, including the U.S. Mint, Botanical Gardens, Art Museum and Coors Field, home of Major League Baseball’s Colorado Rockies. And because the town is just a few miles off Interstate 70, it’s easy to venture farther west to Breckenridge, Vail, Rocky Mountain National Park, and the many other destinations that make the Rockies so appealing in the summer.


But for jazz fans, the place to be is right in Evergreen, starting Friday, July 28. For the full schedule, tickets and complete information including lodging, visit the festival website at www.EvergreenJazz.org or call 303-697-5467.

Jim Reiners has been involved with the Evergreen Jazz Festival since its founding in 2001.

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