Thursday, July 9, 2020
Sun Valley Jazz Festival Toasts 30 Years with Carole King, Blizzard
Carole King performs with Patty Parsons, Yve Evans and the Hallelujah Chorus.
Monday, October 21, 2019


Jazz bands at the Sun Valley Jazz & Music Festival are quick to play haunting melodies about the autumn leaves.

But on Saturday they were fishing around for every song in their playbook to come up with songs about snow as an early season snowstorm blanketed Sun Valley Resort in white, leaving up to six inches of snow in some spots.

The parasols bobbing up and down in the Second Line Parade that marched around Sun Valley Village took on extra meaning as they protected their owners from the white stuff falling out of the sky. A small child attending the festival with her parents rolled a snowball as big as herself outside the Boiler Room, which had been renamed Satchmo’s for the week.

Women with parasols greet those participating in the Second Line Parade, a tradition springing from brass bands in New Orleans.

Floridians aimed their faces at the sky trying to catch snowflakes with their tongues. And cellphones went into overdrive with people trying to memorialize the white snow juxtaposed against the yellow aspen.

“I think we should call this the Snow Valley Jazz & Music Festival,” Les Engle of the Young Bucs doo-wop band told the audience before warming them up with “Surfin’ USA.”

Before the snow, the 30th annual version of the festival was on track to post its heftiest attendance figures since the 2008 recession and high gas prices send numbers plummeting. And venues remained mostly full on Saturday, even though the snow kept day trippers from Boise, Twin Falls and even Hailey at bay.

Crowds filled the venues to listen to the likes of an 18-year-old Shaymus Hanlin sing Frank Sinatra songbook with the poise of a veteran.

Boise Jazz Singer Emily Stanton sings with St. Louis trumpet player Brian Casserly during a performance by the High Street Band.

And a line of a hundred people was left outside the Sun Valley Opera House on Wednesday where Carole King took her place with Patty Parsons’ Hallelujah Chorus.

King, who owns a condo in Sun Valley, reared back her head as she sang, waving her arms enthusiastically, as she sang with the vivacious choir. Never mind that she was born into a Jewish family—her father a firefighter and her mother a teacher-- in Manhattan, N.Y.

She ended the set singing “With a Little Help from My Friends,” even though Parsons said King had said she didn’t need to do a solo.

“She was so energetic,” said longtime Hallelujah Choir member Nancy Auskelis. “She approached us about singing with us. She came to all the rehearsals and even a directed a few. She said not to make a big deal of it--she wanted to fly under the radar.”

Jerry Coleman, who hails from Alabama, was happy to be performing inside with the High Street Party Band while the snow was falling outside.

Another local—Bruce Innes—shared the commercial jingle he wrote for Safeway pantyhose at his set and recounted how Ray Charles, whom he once played for, refused to play “Georgia on My Mind” in the Peach State until the state removed signs forbidding African-American men and women to use bathrooms formerly restricted to white people.

This year’s festival attracted at least one woman who was celebrating her 93rd birthday. And it attracted a fair number of young people in their 20s and even some under 10. And none of them had trouble jumping to their feet as the nine-piece Young Bucs band from Coos Bay sang “Ba Ba Ba Ba Barbara Ann” and “Let’s Go to the Hop.”

“Ricky Nelson is the reason I’m up here,” vocalist and guitar player Les Engle told the audience. “When I was a boy, I would turn on my black and white TV and wait a minute for it to warm up. And Ricky Nelson would always appear, standing on the stairs to sing. And, within a minute, girls would show up. Well, here I am singing. But I’m still waiting for those girls to show up.”

Hailey resident Jim Perkins noted that he has only missed one Sun Valley Jazz Festival since it began 30 years ago—and that was while he was still living in Portland and the weather wsa too bad to fly his plane to Sun Valley.

The Young Bucs sing “Betty Lou’s Got a New Pair of Shoes” as a Jazz Festival volunteer dances with Miss Idaho Grace Zimmerman at Ketchum Town Square.

“I’ve always loved jazz,” he said. “It’s so very creative. And I love the rhythm, as well.”            



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