The many flavors of jazz at the JAS Cafe | AspenTimes.com

The many flavors of jazz at the JAS Cafe

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times

Singer Stacey Kent opens Jazz Aspen Snowmass' JAS Café winter series with performances tonight and Saturday at the Little Nell.

Jazz Aspen Snowmass' JAS Cafe Downstairs@the Nell series has expanded in size. The series, held in an intimate space in the Little Nell that caught on immediately with audiences when it debuted in 2010, grows to 12 artists over this winter season.

The series also expands stylistically, encompassing numerous facets of jazz: Latin, fusion, vocal, swing, New Orleans and even one side of jazz that will likely come as a surprise to even the biggest jazz-head.

Fans anxious to hear a variety of takes on jazz won't have to wait long. The JAS Cafe series opens this weekend with vocalist Stacey Kent, who embodies eclecticism in her approach to music. A New Jersey native, Kent moved to Europe to study languages, and her travels and studies made their way into her music. In addition to interpreting classics of the Great American Songbook and writing her own tunes, she developed a taste for French chansons and in 2010 released the all-French album "Raconte-Moi."

Kent's latest album, "The Changing Lights," finds her relocating, in style, to Brazilian bossa nova. While she doesn't consider the album to be a true example of bossa nova, the influence is heavy, with Kent singing in Portuguese and taking on tunes by Brazilians Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes. Kent's take on bossa nova also allows her to spotlight her guitar-playing.

Kent performs tonight and Saturday with two shows, at 7 and 9:15, each night. Her backing quartet features her husband and regular collaborator, Jim Tomlinson, on saxophone.

Easily the most surprising take on jazz in the JAS Cafe series will be given by the Gypsy Allstars, who play Dec. 28 through 30. The eight-piece group — whose founders include guitarist George Reyes, son of Nicolas Reyes of the French/Spanish group the Gipsy Kings — traces gypsy music to an unlikely spot, in India. The band's show, titled "Return to Rajasthan," features a table player and an Indian-born vocalist.

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The series takes a turn back in time, and in a Southern direction, on Jan. 10 and 11, when trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, known for his membership in various Wynton Marsalis projects, brings "Hello Pops," his tribute to New Orleans-born icon Louis Armstrong.

Kathy Kosins, a jazz singer who allows the influences of her native Detroit and her love for R&B into her sound, is set for Jan. 30 and 31. Brazilian-born singer-pianist Eliane Elias returns to the JAS Cafe on Feb. 14 through 16 after acclaimed performances last winter.

Spyro Gyra celebrates its 35th anniversary of making horn-heavy fusion with appearances Feb. 20 through 22. The duo of French singer Cyrille Aimee and Brazilian guitarist Diego Figueiredo returns to the series March 7 and 8.

The JAS Cafe makes the leap into 1940s-style jump blues and swing with San Francisco-based Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers on March 21 and 22. The series closes on a Latin note with Cuban-born percussionist Pedrito Martinez leading his combo to a return engagement April 3 and 4.

Stacey Kent

Tonight and Saturday, at 7 and 9:15 p.m.

Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ JAS Café Downstairs@the Nell

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