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Tales from Telluride

In early August, 'OZ staff parked in a cool mountain town of Colorado for their first WWOZ On the Road gig of the year, The Telluride Jazz Celebration. From one of WWOZ’s unique recording/broadcasting trucks, jazz greats like Roy Hargrove, Bill Frisell and John Scofield were broadcast live from the spectacular mountain setting. The audience: WWOZ audiences in New Orleans, KUVO fans in Denver, Colorado, and internet listeners around the world. The trip was sponsored by Harrah’s Club 528 in New Orleans.

Since the early 1990s, WWOZ staff have built their chops recording and broadcasting live from New Orleans' Jazz and Heritage Festival. They've used those mad skills a few times at other events around the country. But WWOZ General Manager David Freedman says the Telluride recording and live broadcast marks a new era for 'OZ On the Road to "step up its game." WWOZ will also co-produce a live CD of the 2007 Telluride Jazz Celebration.

The event was a win-win for both the station and the event. Telluride got WWOZ's expertise, and 'OZ staff got to spread the word about New Orleans music and culture to a whole new audience. Staffer Mary Liz Keevers came stocked with WWOZ.org bumper stickers and other giveaways. She says the station got dozens of new supporters out west.

"I met a couple from Boulder, Colorado, who’d never heard of the station. They called their son in college in Canada, and he started listening online right away. Another guy tapped me on the shoulder and showed me his teenage son, working a Blackberry. 'We're on your web site right now,' he said."

The town of Telluride has swelled with jazz fans every summer since 1977. But it remains a smaller music festival, tucked away up in the mountains, seven hours' drive from Denver. Grassy plains provide a setting for the stages, with steep blue mountains serving as a backdrop for "some of the best-produced live music concerts I've ever heard," said 'OZ General Manager Freedman. The festival debunks notions of just who is a jazz fan, too. One of Freedman's favorite acquaintances was a dude in a cowboy hat, who’d brought his horses to the festival grounds. He watched the music intently and gave insightful commentary on contemporary jazz. That’s a hot set, partner.

Freedman says the whole experience was enlightening, for the station staff and the Colorado audience. He got the chance to network on behalf of musician relief groups, like Sweet Home New Orleans. And the staff found strong connections with people who, on the surface, seemed to live in a place that’s the opposite of New Orleans — in ecology, culture, even the way people talk. But, as it so often does, music overcame any difference. Freedman is confident the relationship between WWOZ and the Telluride Jazz Celebration will continue, and that Louisiana musicians can find more support from fans so far away.

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