After experiencing one of our greatest cultural resources — that would be live jazz — while being trapped indoors for the past several months, it's time to make plans for the outdoor-venue and festival circuit. The music needs to breathe in some fresh air, and so do we. There's nothing like taking in a live show at Red Rocks or one of Colorado's esteemed mountain festivals. Here are some under-the-stars, open-air highlights to look forward to:
Jazz Aspen Snowmass has unveiled the details for its June Festival, and it's encouraging to see "jazz" being the operative word again for some of these shows. The Count Basie Orchestra with vocalists Kurt Elling and Roberta Gambarini and James Brown's best-known saxophonist, Maceo Parker, will appear on June 26. Get tickets at jazzaspensnowmas.org.
The Denver Botanic Gardens Summer Concert Series is spotlighting such jazz artists as trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz At The Lincoln Center Orchestra on July 7 (Marsalis will also take his horn and band to Boulder's Chautauqua Auditorium the following night). Another prominent trumpeter, Chris Botti, appears at the Botanic Gardens on Aug. 11, and there should be a lot of warmth and sentimentality on display for the Orquestra Buena Vista Social Club Adios Tour's stop there on Aug. 22. All the details are at concerts. botanicgardens.org.
The Telluride Jazz Festival has another strong lineup of shows this year, including the 2015 Guest Of Honor, saxophonist Ernie Watts, as well as the Bill Frisell Trio and a new project featuring keyboardist John Medeski and The M&M's. Many of the festival's highest-profile performances take place in the pristine Telluride Town Park, where I have experienced some of the most transcendent musical moments of my life. The stunning mountain backdrop doesn't hurt the overall effect. Details can be found at telluridejazz.org.
As far as Red Rocks jazz presentations, so far the only scheduled show features a longtime festival favorite, singer and pianist Diana Krall, with opening act Pink Martini, on Aug. 12. Let's hope an enterprising promoter steps up and brings more life-affirming music to this venue soon.
Other scheduled outdoor jazz-leaning festivals for the season include the Estes Park Jazz Fest & Art Walk, June 6-7, the traditional-minded Evergreen Jazz Festival July 24-26, and the smooth-jazz/R&B-flavored Winter Park Jazz Festival July 18-19.
More music: If you're searching for an elusive Ben Webster or Nina Simone recording on vinyl, visit the Denver Record Collectors Spring Expo at the Ramada Plaza, 10 E. 120th Ave. in Northglenn, on April 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; keyboardist Erik Deutsch and the Jazz Outlaws combine jazz and country music at Dazzle on May 2; there's a "Happy Birthday to Ella" (Fitzgerald) celebration featuring Bonnie Lowdermilk and Eric Gunnison at Nocturne Jazz And Supper Club on what would have been Fitzgerald's 98th birthday, April 25; I was lucky enough to catch the final set in a two-night run with Trio M at Dazzle on April 10. Pianist Myra Melford, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson were in top communicative form, delighting the audience with the most playful avant-garde pyrotechnics I've ever witnessed in that venue.