Kurt Elling, Eliane Elias headline JazzFest Denver this weekend

Kurt Elling and Eliane Elias, both Grammy-nominated vocalists, headline this year's JazzFest Denver at Dazzle this weekend. Elling's warm baritone can stretch over four octaves and he honed his chops by listening to Mark Murphy, Jon Hendricks and other crooners before him. The guy's a mad scatter, as well as being deft in vocalese, where he's set words to songs written by John Coltrane, Pat Metheny and Herbie Hancock, all of which can be found on his 2003 Blue Note release Man in the Air.

For her part, Brazilian-born pianist/singer Elias started studying jazz at the age of seven. By twelve she was transcribing solos from the jazz masters, and at fifteen, she was teaching piano and improvisation at one of Brazil's most prestigious schools of music. She moved to New York in the early '80s, hooked up with Steps Ahead and then collaborated with Randy Brecker on Amanda in 1984. Since then, she's released more than eighteen albums on the Blue Note and RCA Victor Group imprints.

When McCoy Tyner, long-time pianist with John Coltrane's quartet, says Terell Stafford is one of the great players of our time and a fabulous trumpet player, that carries some heavy weight. Tyner, who's been playing professionally for fifty years, knows a good player when he hears one, and recruited Stafford to perform in his sextet and Latin All-Star Band. But before playing with Tyner, the trumpeter was influenced early on by Clifford Brown's rendition of "Cherokee" and went on to perform with jazz luminaries like Benny Golson, Kenny Barron and Jimmy Heath.

Organist Pat Bianchi had a long-standing Sunday night residency at Dazzle before moving to New York last year. He's performed with his mentor Joey Defrancesco quite a few times and they'll be touring in May and June. For the JazzFest sets with the Be3 Trio, he'll be joined by drummer Jim White and guitarist Steve Kovalcheck. 

In addition to hearing some of Colorado's heaviest player's perform with Convergence and the Brad Goode Quartet, there will be post-festival jam sessions at Dazzle on Friday night and at the Burnsley Hotel on Saturday and Sunday.  

Here's the full schedule. For more info, visit the JazzFest Denver site.

Friday, March 20
3 p.m.: Opening Party featuring Ellyn Rucker
4 p.m.: Janine Santana Group
5 p.m.: Janine Santana Group
6 p.m.: Colorado Conservatory of the Jazz Arts
7 p.m.: The Be3 Trio featuring Pat Bianchi, Jim White and Steve Kovalchuk
8 p.m.: Brad Goode Quartet featuring Ken Walker, Jeff Jenkins, Todd Reid and guest Henry Butler
9 p.m.: The Be3 Trio

Saturday, March 21
3 p.m.: Terell Stafford
5 p.m.: Terell Stafford
6 p.m.: Colorado Conservatory of the Jazz Arts
7 p.m.: Eliane Elias
9 p.m.: Eliane Elias

Sunday, March 22
2 p.m.: Colorado Conservatory of the Jazz Arts
3 p.m.: Convergence featuring John Gunther, Eric Gunnison, Paul Romaine and Mark Simon
4 p.m.: Kurt Elling
5 p.m.: Convergence
6 p.m.: Kurt Elling

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