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Surreal town, soulful sounds

(Photo by Susan Gatschet-Reese)

Telluride is a surreal, European hamlet that is at once ridiculously monied (multi-million dollar corner lots with groomed yards to envy anything in Cherry Hills Village), and the poster town for hippie haven, where dogs run loose and kids without helmets ride bikes in the middle of the street.

The 10,000 foot backdrop of glorious mountain peaks, sliced by a sparkling waterfall, all serve to let you know you're not in Mayberry RFD, no matter the gingham-curtained doll houses lining every street (complete with true white picket fences).

All this is a long way of saying you know you're in the midst of extraordinary circumstances at the Telluride Jazz Festival -- made all the more so by a world-class line-up of jazz musicians there for one purpose: to play.

And that's what day one was: professionals playing their hearts out, most notably the 2012 Guest of Honor, Roy Hargrove.

There's but one way to describe Roy Hargrove walking onto the Sheridan Hotel Theater stage last Friday night: haunting.

Hargrove is known in the jazz world as the inspiration for exceptional musicianship that encompasses virtuosity, most notably on the trumpet and flugelhorn. With a resonating infusion of harmonies and melody, Hargrove is a man who, lost in brilliant transcendence, leaves audiences sit at once enthralled and thrilled.

He missed last Friday's afternoon performance due to chronic health issues. That quickly faded to the background on Friday night's stage as he and the Roy Hargrove Quintet took charge, playing off one another, feeding off one another, having a damn good time. The Quintet is made up of: Justin Robinson, alto saxophone; Sullivan Fortner, piano; Ameen Saleem, bass and Quincy Phillips, drums.

Perhaps the most moving moment came when Hargrove dropped his trumpet to his side, took the mike and quietly offered his deeply moving September in the Rain, rendering the song in such a heartfelt delivery, he and it making it lingered in the room long after the last note.

He further won hearts and when he and Robinson went stage-left, disappeared behind the curtains, reappeared in the theater wings, then proceeded to play and stroll about the room. The crowd nearly genuflected in admiration, as they should: Hargrove's soul made the evening.

On Another Note

And then there's the new faces at the festival. No one can call Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, a mid-afternoon act of Friday's first day, lazy. The Dirty Brids are a high-octane band, driven by hot horns and rock- and blues-tinged vocals by Arleigh Kincheloe.

There was no use trying to sit still when the funk, fun and sweet harmonies exploded from the stage -- and few did. Expect to see more of Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds. They're impossible not to like and already adept at leaving audiences wanting more.

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Cathie Beck

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