All smiles over Jazz Aspen’s lineup
Last year’s Jazz Aspen Labor Day Festival lineup, featuring such headliners as hip-hop artist Kanye West and country singer LeAnn Rimes, raised eyebrows. This year’s lineup, covering Jazz Aspen’s two summer festivals, should elicit a different facial response: smiles. The schedule features rock bands with strong local followings, acts that have made impressive appearances on the Jazz Aspen stage, and one high-profile singer making her local debut.
In the first category is the long-running Allman Brothers Band – and two of its more recent offshoots. The Allmans, Southern rock stalwarts whose career dates back to the ’60s, headline Sept. 2 at the Labor Day Festival, which runs Aug. 31-Sept. 3 in Snowmass Town Park. Gov’t Mule, a hard rock band formed in the mid-’90s by current Allman Brothers singer-guitarist Warren Haynes, closes the festival, Sept. 3. Gov’t Mule has become a prominent act in its own right; when tickets went on sale for a rare small-club date last September at Aspen’s Belly Up, they sold out in a day.Also on the Labor Day bill is the Derek Trucks Band, led by the Allman Brothers’ other guitarist, Trucks. The 27-year-old is the nephew of Butch Trucks, a founding and current drummer for the Allmans. Opening for Gov’t Mule, the Derek Trucks Band will be joined by singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi, Trucks’ wife, who performed at last year’s Labor Day Festival.Making her local debut, as an opening act Sept. 1 at the Labor Day Festival is Joss Stone. The 19-year-old British soul singer hit big with her 2003 debut, “Soul Sessions,” and the 2004 follow-up, “Mind, Body & Soul”; her latest album, “Introducing Joss Stone,” written primarily by Stone and featuring appearances by singers Common and Lauryn Hill, was released earlier this month.Also appearing at the Labor Day Festival are rockers Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, who sold out a two-night stand last year at Belly Up, and the innovative acoustic band Nickel Creek, both appearing opening night, Aug. 31. An additional headliner, for Sept. 2, is still to be named.
The June Festival, set for June 21-24 under a tent in Aspen’s Rio Grande Park, features two artists with illustrious histories at Jazz Aspen: jazz pianist Herbie Hancock (June 21), and classic-rock star Steve Winwood (June 23). Also on the bill are soul band Earth, Wind & Fire (June 22), making their third appearance at the festival; and Southern rock band the Black Crowes (June 24), in their Jazz Aspen debut and their first local performance since the 1998 Concert for Harmony on Buttermilk Mountain.Hancock, Jazz Aspen’s distinguished artist-in-residence, has appeared on Jazz Aspen stages with a variety of projects. He has led his own acoustic trio; and played with his electric funk band, the Head Hunters; in a duo with saxophonist Wayne Shorter, a partner from the famed Miles Davis Quintet of the late ’60s; and as part of Directions in Music, a tribute to the music of Davis and of John Coltrane. This time, the act is billed as Herbie Hancock & Friends; the combo will include trumpeter Terence Blanchard and guitarist Larry Coryell, with additional members to be announced. Opening the show is vocalist Madeleine Peyroux.Winwood burst onto the ’60s rock scene as a 15-year-old singing “I’m a Man” with the Spencer Davis Group, and continued to make innovative rock ‘n’ roll as a member of Traffic and as a solo artist. He made his Jazz Aspen debut at the 1999 Labor Day Festival, a show cited by many – including Jazz Aspen founder and executive producer Jim Horowitz – as one of the organization’s high points. Winwood’s last album, 2003’s “About Time,” explored the Hammond B-3 organ, and South American rhythms. Opening for Winwood is Benin-born singer, Angelique Kudjo.Additional opening acts for the June Festival are bassist-singer Marcus Miller, and one of the student combos that has participated in Jazz Aspen’s JAS Academy Summer Sessions band program. The festival will also feature a series of JAS After Dark shows at Belly Up, with acts still to be determined.Jazz Aspen also announced the acts for its summer benefit event, JASummerNights Mambo. The event, set for July 21 at the ABO facility at the Pitkin County Airport, will feature Cuban-born trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and his Big Band. The event continues that night with a Belly Up show by New York-based, pan-Latin band, Yerba Buena.Tickets for both festivals went on sale to the public April 2 at the Wheeler Opera House box office, at 1-866-JAS-TIXX (527-8499), or online at http://www.jazzaspen.org. Tickets for the JASummerNight Mambo are available by calling 920-4996.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.