So here we go!
This year kicked off in strong, Telluride fashion, with a three-night mini-bluegrass fest at the Sheridan Opera House. It featured Yonder Mountain, Hit & Run, Burnett Family and Tony Furtado. Even more music in that same vein was delivered throughout the rest of the season, with New Monsoon, Tim O'Brien and Drew Emmitt playing local venues.
Emmitt, singer and mando and guitar player from Leftover Salmon, increased his skill and appeal another notch or two this year with his new solo album, band and tour. That tour included two shows in Telluride, one at the Opera House, which he blasted with high-quality, polished, driving bluegrass, and another in Mountain Village as part of the free Sunset Concert Series, where he played to a big and happy audience.
The Michael D. Palm Theatre saw its first band in 2005, as the Telluride Jazz Society brought Chuchito Valdes and his Afro-Cuban Ensemble to the stage. And Valdes did not hold back, breaking in the beautiful new grand piano with a worthy performance.
The Fly Me To The Moon Saloon held strong over the year with a schedule that was continuous, if sparse compared to past years. The Moon still brought in a good mix of up-and-coming and very interesting bands, however, ranging from electronica to rap to jazz-punk to groove-grass to would you believe? straight ahead rock and roll. Some of the bands that visited the Moon for the first time in 2005, and which we should be on the lookout for in the future, were: Signal Path with their slick live electronica; Psyche Origami and their smooth, intelligent rap in the style of the Pharcyde; The Last Bus, bringing mountain boogie out of neighboring Montrose; and Saaraba, a hippy ska group from New Orleans.
The Sheridan Opera House boasted some big hitters this year on its stage, including Soulive, Dr. John, Taj Mahal, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Madelaine Peyroux, Junior Brown, Nanci Griffith, John Hammond, Maura O'Connell, Dave Mason and, wrapping things up this New Year's Eve, Los Lobos. The fact that all of these shows were intimate performances for only a couple hundred people made them all the more special.
KOTO produced a few great shows as fundraisers in 2005. The Liquid Soul show at the Opera House is one of my top five shows of the year, and The Motet, covering Michael Jackson tunes at the annual Halloween bash, was a "thriller" of a show. The Doo Dah Concert in July had Jackson Browne rocking Town Park for a relatively small audience. This show really had no chance of raising money and it didn't but was put on thanks to the generosity of Las Montañas restaurant, which financially backed, or in this case, paid for, the show.
KOTO has stayed true to its sense of duty to bring one huge show to town each year, but that can be risky business. This is why KOTO, in the past, has teamed up with a division of Clear Channel, letting the media giant front the risk. But now, public outcry against the monopoly monster combined with complaints from other festival producers about KOTO snapping up one weekend each summer in the park for a big concert, has led KOTO to sever ties with Clear Channel, making it that much harder for them to put on these kinds of shows.
Thanks to Pat Barber, producer of the Telluride Row CD featuring local singers and songwriters, we witnessed new, great, local talent, including the incredible voice of Jennifer Pumo and the raw power of Veritas. Barber has pulled more musicians out of their closets to perform and be recorded on the second Telluride Row release, which will be a combination CD/DVD/booklet. This release has been in the works all year and should be out this spring. Barber has teamed up with TCTV, Emmylou Harris and Oscar winning filmmaker Bobby Houston to put more Telluride musicians on the map.
And of course there were the festivals.
Bluegrass was bluegrass for the most part this June, but it also brought in a few twists. Stanley Clarke stole the bass spotlight from Victor Wooten of the Flecktones, who was not present this year, and Bobby McFerrin captured the attention and love of the entire park without a single instrument. Wilco split the audience in two the annoyed and the ecstatic when they turned country on its alternative edge.
The Jazz Celebration in August mixed traditional with experimental. The weekend featured the regal Ron Carter, perhaps the most accomplished jazz bassist in the world, and Dave Holland, perhaps the second most accomplished jazz bassist in the world. It also brought in funky experimental jazz with Garage A Trois, made up of jam band all stars Stanton Moore, Charlie Hunter, Mike Dillon and Skerik, and the Benevento Russo Duo. The Duo, Dillon and Skerik are making Telluride their new stomping ground, having played several shows in various incarnations over the past year.
September's Blues and Brews mixed tasty micro beers with super music and miraculous weather. On stage, the Black Crowes proved rock and roll is surely not dead, and Henry Butler blew me away, not because he is blind and can play the piano with absolute technical perfection and soul, but because he had one the best bands of the festival. The line-up was deep and the tie to Hurricane Katrina was emotional. The Reverend Al Green brought everyone back down to earth with his soul gospel and 70s slick R&B entourage just long enough before sending them back out into space one last time, feeling that loving vibe.
Some of the hardest working and touring bands becoming regulars in Telluride over the past year were Mama's Cookin' (who play the Moon New Year's Eve, see page C3), Wally Ingram, Eric McFadden, and Jerry Joseph. All sneaked into town in various forms and with different bands, but they also all played together with Stockholm Syndrome.
The above by no means includes all of the highlights from the past year, but these are some that shone the brightest. There is more than enough music for us all to be thankful for, and more on the 2006 horizon, promising another big year of music in our tiny town.