If you go
What: Central Jazz
When: 11 a.m. Saturday, June 9
Where: Grand Z Casino, 321 Gregory St., Central City
More info: centraljazz.co
Etc.: KUVO Jazz Brunch featuring music from Adam Bodine will kick off the festival at 11 a.m. at The Grand Z Casino, 321 Gregory St., Central City, in the Mile High Room. The $8 buffet includes free mimosas. Must be 21 to enter.
Central Jazz lineup
• Dragon Smoke
• NOLA Central All-Stars (Ivan Neville, Ian Neville, Alvin Ford Jr., George Porter Jr., Nick Daniels, Tony Hall)
• Joe Marcinek Band (Melvin Seals, Tony Hall, Joe Marcinek)
• George Porter Jr. & Runnin' Pardners
• Adam Deitch Jazz Quartet
• Juno What?! (after party)
• Cycles (after party)
• The Copper Children
• Venus Cruz
• Adam Bodine Trio
• The Midnight Club
• Chris Conquered
Las Vegas has more art than Paris' Louvre museum, said Colorado music promoter Jeremy Fey. Since Central City is a "Micro Vegas," he has plans is to take the gambling-dominant mountain town and turn it into a cultural mecca.
"It makes sense for our macro-revitalization plans," said Jeremy Fey, who, along with his brother Tyler Fey, is reviving the mountain town's jazz festival, a long-running staple that from 1976-1992 brought music to its hills.
"Gamblers need art and culture too," Jeremy Fey said.
He add, "Practically 60 percent of Central's commercial core is vacant." That leaves plenty of room for the arts, he said.
The old Central City Jazz Festival will be rebooted as Central Jazz, which will host big-name local and national funk and jazz acts. The festival kicks off at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 9, with a KUVO jazz brunch in the Mile High Room at the Grand Z Casino. Mimosas and a buffet will be followed by live music from dozens of big acts — like superjam group Dragon Smoke (Eric Lindell with members of Galactic and Dumpstaphunk), along with Melvin Seals, Adam Deitch Jazz Quartet and local artists such as Juno What?!, Venus Cruz and The Adam Bodine Trio.
The festival will also debut its curated roster of acts, dubbed NOLA Central All-Stars — this year featuring the Neville Brothers, Alvin Ford Jr., George Porter Jr., Nick Daniels and Tony Hall. Tyler Fey said that organizers plan to curate a superjam roster every year.
"This is a very specialized lineup that touches the hearts of those who know and love this genre and vibe," said Tyler Fey. "It's a lineup we were proud to book because of the level of music history that has combined to create these superjams and supergroups."
Jeremy Fey said there will be "15-straight hours" of music that will swing into 2 a.m., where music fans can hit the late-night after party concert in the Grand Z Casino. (Central City offers 24-hour service laws.)
"(It's) a great setting, with a great lineup, and at a great value," said Jeremy Fey, noting that the intimate setting will host a cozy 3,200 people.
Central Jazz is organized by Feyline, a company founded by Colorado's legendary concert promoter and father of Jeremy and Tyler, the late Barry Fey.
Gambling on arts
Aside from boasting the oldest operating opera house in the United States (where Central City Opera runs), the town has been predominately void of arts. Since introducing casino gaming in the early 1990s, the town has drawn more gamers and gamblers. At hardly 2.5 square miles, the city calls itself "The Richest Square Mile on Earth." The Feys hope the festival will be the genesis of more culture in the town.
"The support we are receiving from all involved has been nothing short of remarkable," said Jeremy Fey, who said the city and neighbors have greeted the festival with open arms. "Central Jazz has galvanized the city."
Jeremy Fey said he has been visiting Central City since he was a boy and moved there in 2017 with his family.
He said he moved there with "the explicit desire to ... bring world class arts to Central, to create a mechanism for emergent artists through artist residencies and hospitality."
Tyler Fey said arts and entertainment seem to be more prevalent for the current generation, and that's one of the reasons the brothers want to pave the way for more diverse offerings for the gambling-heavy town.
"Over 70 percent of Vegas revenue is now non-gaming," Tyler Fey said, noting that casino towns are beginning to make more forays into entertainment. The brothers are looking to engage more of the community, as well as visitors, with more robust offerings.
And it will all start by hosting some serious funk and jazz legends.
Joey Porter, member of Colorado's funk masters The Motet, will perform at the casino after party with his funk-fusion side project Juno What?!. The quartet — which in the present iteration will feature all Motet members (a mini-Motet?): Dave Watts, Garrett Sayer, Ryan Jalbert and Porter — will be flying in late Saturday night after some East Coast gigs, and Porter said he'll be ready to keep the party rolling late.
Since The Motet has been soaring in popularity, this is the first show of the year for Juno What?!. And with no more scheduled, this will be a rare chance to catch its grooves.
"I'm excited to play this festival because I'm buds with most of the acts on the bill," like Joe Marcinek, Porter said. Porter produced Marcinek's latest album. "I'm trying to get there as soon as possible so we can all have a good time. I'm excited, it looks like it will be a really fun and talented lineup."
Porter said Juno What?! sprung from reminiscences of his old rollerskating days in the 1980s.
"Back in those days, we didn't have digital DJs," said Porter. "There would be a DJ who would have to flip a record over while we were skating. I'd skate to the Gap Band, Earth Wind and Fire, Zapp, all those legends. It was that old-school funk that really helped shape what I do today."
Many of the Central Jazz acts have been playing jazz and funk way before it was cool — and way before its recent reboot by the likes of Bruno Mars. (Although Porter appreciates Mars and "anyone who plays my kind of jams.") These acts have been getting funky since the inception of the genre. Grand master of funk George Porter Jr. will be on the bill with the NOLA Central All-Stars and his band The Runnin' Pardners. Porter Jr. was a member in long-influential The Meters, which just won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year.
"I am honored to have this award bestowed upon me, but I am really just trying hard to continue to work to keep the music real. I did not do it alone," said Porter Jr., via email. "I am glad I get to still play with some really great younger players, they have helped keep the music I was involved with alive, and give me space to keep growing."
Porter Jr. said he's excited to visit Central City for the first time, especially for a jazz festival.
"There are so many outstanding long-running jazz and music festivals in Colorado," said Porter Jr. "I certainly hope Central City will become one of them. It promises to be another great Colorado mountain high." (He added by writing "Smilin'.")
The Fey brothers said they anticipate the festival becoming a staple and have already been in conversations with jazz greats for future installments.
"It is further in our plans (that) Central City will become Colorado's go-to destination for festivals of all the arts," said Jeremy Fey.