John Jorgenson Quintet highlights Sunday at Folk ’N Bluegrass Festival

This week marks the last story about this year’s Folk ‘N Bluegrass festival, so it seems appropriate to feature the festival’s final performer.

By the time you read this, the festival will be just a day away, with Reservoir Hill camping opening Friday morning, and the Free Friday concert happening Friday evening at 5 p.m. in Town Park. The popular free concert will bring hundreds of locals and festival-goers together to hear performances by Jeff and Vida and The Boston Boys at the gazebo.

 Later that night, two-day ticket holders can head up to Reservoir Hill to catch shows by Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen at 8 p.m., followed by The Badly Bent at 9.

Then, on Saturday morning, main stage performances get underway at 11 a.m. and continue throughout the evening, followed by late-night acoustic sets from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. on the late-night stage.

Sunday brings another full day of music on both the main stage and Rendezvous stage, wrapping up around 7:30 p.m.

Eleven music workshops will be offered throughout the weekend in guitar, banjo and mandolin, featuring performing artists appearing at the festival. There’s also a free children’s program with arts and crafts, face painting and juggling shows on both days. Kids 12 and under are admitted free to the festival with an accompanying adult.

 Sunday evening’s last performer is renowned guitarist John Jorgenson, plus his talented ensemble, The John Jorgenson Quintet.

Jorgenson was a founding member of the Desert Rose Band, the Hellecasters, and a six-year member of Elton John’s band.

Jorgenson is known as one of the pioneers of the American gypsy jazz movement.  He has performed as a solo artist as well as collaborated with other musicians all over the world.  His articles and lessons on gypsy jazz have appeared in prominent guitar magazines and he has given master classes around the country. He has performed with some of the most respected European proponents of this style, Bireli Lagrene and Romane.  His playing has been included on a CD with Babik Reinhardt and Jimmy Rosenberg, and on another featuring Angelo Debarre and Moreno.  In 1988 Curb Records released Jorgenson’s “After You’ve Gone” CD, a collection of Reinhardt- and Goodman-styled ’30s swing, featuring guest artists Darol Anger and David Grisman.

 Growing up in southern California, John was playing both the piano and the clarinet by age 8. At 12 he got his first guitar and practiced voraciously while continuing to study classical music on woodwinds.  By age 14, John was playing professionally.  Learning first to play rock guitar, John absorbed other guitar styles as quickly as he discovered them. This broad musical palette has enabled him to play with artists as diverse as Elton John, Luciano Pavarotti, Bonnie Raitt, and Benny Goodman. He is an “A-List” session player working in LA, Nashville and London and has appeared on numerous platinum-selling and Grammy-winning CDs.

Jorgenson first came to national prominence in the mid 1980s with The Desert Rose Band, which he co-founded with Chris Hillman. The band earned five No. 1 singles and garnered several awards. During this time, John won the ACM’s Guitarist of the Year award three consecutive times. 

Following the Desert Rose Band, John formed another award-winning group, the virtuosic guitar trio The Hellecasters. Originally conceived as a “one off” gig for fun, the group went on to produce three acclaimed CDs and a live video, winning both Album of the Year and Country Album of the Year from the readers of Guitar Player Magazine for the stunning debut effort “Return of the Hellecasters,” released in 1993.

 In 1994 Elton John called and invited Jorgenson on an 18-month world tour. The 18 months stretched into a six-year period that included not only sold-out world tours, but also recordings, television appearances, and collaborations with many other artists including Sting and Billy Joel. In addition to acoustic and electric guitars, John was also featured on saxophone, pedal steel, mandolin and vocals.

 Although John Jorgenson is well-renowned in the pop, country and rock world, gypsy jazz is the style of music closest to his heart.  Because of his international reputation as a gypsy jazz player, John was twice asked to recreate Django Reinhardt’s music for feature films, “Gattica” and “Head in The Clouds.” The latter, released in early 2005 and starring Charlize Theron and Penelope Cruz, features John on camera as Django Reinhardt, complete with burned hand and gypsy moustache.

2004 also marked the release of “Franco-American Swing” on J2/FGM Records.  As Jorgenson’s latest creative work, the CD is full of infectious gypsy jazz music. The Nashville Chamber Orchestra joins John in this collection of original compositions and gypsy jazz classics, pushing the boundaries as it adds to the tonal palette of traditional gypsy jazz. Beautiful melodies and soulful virtuosity abound for listeners treated to John Jorgenson’s dazzling fretwork and sizzling clarinet playing.  Additionally, John released two gypsy jazz guitar instruction books and DVDs, and a third instruction book is due to come out later this year. 

 Currently living in Nashville, John tours worldwide playing gypsy jazz with The John Jorgenson Quintet.  He also performs in the UK with his electric band, John Jorgenson and Friends, and continues to collaborate with other artists live and in the studio. The quintet will perform the closing set at 6 p.m. on Sunday, June 7.

 Advanced tickets to the Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass Festival will be on sale locally through the end of day today, June 4 ,at Moonlight Books downtown and at ReSport in the Pagosa Lakes City Market Shopping Center. Tickets are also available online at or by calling (877) 472-4672. 

For complete festival information, including ticket information, 2009 lineup, performance schedules and musician bios, visit

Photo courtesy Folk West
Sunday evening’s last performer at the Folk ’N Bluegrass Festival will be renowned guitarist John Jorgenson, with his talented ensemble, The John Jorgenson Quintet. Jorgenson will close out the event that features more than two days of great and varied music — Friday afternoon at Town Park and on Reservoir Hill Friday night, Saturday and Sunday.