Grand Lake / Live Music: Take a ‘voyage through jazz’ |

Grand Lake / Live Music: Take a ‘voyage through jazz’

Cyndi McCoy
Grand Lake, Colorado

When Wes Mix plays jazz, he leaps and bounds from its true classic style, taking advantage of the genre’s opportunity for infinite creation. The traditional sounds are just the “first step,” he said, “in this voyage through jazz.”

The Grand Arts Council hosts Mix during its next Concert in the Pines, along with the West End Jazz Band. Members are Eric Stafeldt (trombone), Dennis Condreay (banjo), and Al Hayes (tuba). They hope to share the unique heritage of and love for the music from Mix’ hometown.

The multi-instrumentalist was born, raised, and “adopted” by New Orleans jazz musicians from all walks of life in the city that is the heart of Louisiana. His dad lived next door to American trumpet virtuoso and bandleader Al Hirt in the ’30s, his first idol.

Since his early days, he’s learned seven instruments, his focus being trumpet, taking his first formal lesson at the University of Chicago. He turned pro at age 14 and played with “all the N.O. greats” 1960-2006. He also served with the Queen City Jazz Band 1975-79 and formed Best of New Orleans Talent Agency in 1983.

As he honed his growing talent and appreciation for jazz, he was greatly influenced by the talents of the Beatles, Big Band and classic composers like Beethoven and Bach.

Now residing in Denver, he hungrily seeks a jazz world that inspires him to take out the horn and jam.

“Jazz is creative,” he explained. “Most of what I hear is recreative, copied, uninspired. I’m not sure what to call it, but I’m certain of what not to call it. You can’t call it jazz.”

The greatest social change associated with music, he said, perhaps is happening all around us.

“If music hath charms to soothe the savage beast, it also has the power to reinforce a subculture of gangland, drugs, and lack of respect for life itself,” he said.

His generation, he said, “may indeed be the last who can claim … that we learned from the greats, right there on the bandstand.”

Mix’ gift is to try to bring people out of that downward spiral of convention and isolation, which has him worried about the life span of true jazz forms. His purpose through music, he said, is to demonstrate the compatibility of all music forms. He suggests trying to play a Beatles song with a jazz band, or Bach on a five-string banjo.

The Grand Arts Council will also be taking entries at the concert for a drawing (during the March 21 concert) for two tickets to a Central City Opera performance this summer. Wine will be available for $5 per glass. Concert tickets are available at the door.

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