Telluride Jazz Festival: Barefoot and Funky

Mountain festivals are the best. One minute you’re dancing barefoot with a former mayor and the next you’re shimmying your way to the front of the crowd to see jazz legends up close and personal. Telluride is no stranger to music festivals, as this little mountain haven houses three of the largest festivals tucked away in the Rocky Mountains. First there’s Telluride Bluegrass, the summer solstice kickoff that sells out in less than an hour. And in September is Blues and Brews, celebrating two of my very favorite things. And nestled in between is the underrated Telluride Jazz Festival, which this year brought in the likes of Poncho Sanchez, Lettuce, Nigel Hall Band and Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, just to name a few.

Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band
Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band

The weekend went off without a hitch, significant rainfall or technical issues. Festival-goers stripped of their jackets and their shoes to dance underneath a clear blue sky, with a picturesque backdrop that looked as if Bob Ross had pulled a fast one on us all. Children twirled on their parents’ fingers while trumpets, saxophones, percussion and guitar rained down from the stage above.

On night one, Grupo Fantasma closed out a fantastically exhausting day of jazz as festival goers left the park clutching their “Jazz is Cool” coozies and smiling from ear to ear. Some hit the late night jazz venues while others headed back to their campsites.

photo 3
Lettuce at Telluride Jazz



My favorites for night two included Brooklyn jazz group Snarky Puppy, whose percussion/ drum battle was something of legend. So much steel drum in one place–that’s a place I want to be. Then came the legendary Pablo Sanchez, beating his bongos to a pulp and keeping the crowd dancing to his sexy latin jazz grooves. The band closed with a ridiculously well-received rendition of “Watermelon Man” and set the stage for Lettuce.

Lettuce served up a completely different brand of jazz and really brought the party. The jams of Brooklyn-based jazz group remind everyone from your grandmother to your little sister how important instrumental funk and soul music is. In an era of “press play” musicians, it’s so gratifying to see such talented musicians coming together for one weekend.

With charming locals, fresh brews, mountain vistas as far as the eye can see and enough activities to keep you occupied for the rest of your life, I’ve got one thing to say about this festival:

Telluride Jazz Festival: come for the music, stay for everything else.

  1. It was timbales, not steel drum – the festival showcased Latin jazz this year, not Calypso.

    But more glaringly it's PONCHO Sanchez, not Pablo, and he plays the Congas, not the Bongos.

Comments are closed.

Discover more from 303 Magazine

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading