Niki Haris, longtime Madonna collaborator, opens JAS Café winter series
IF YOU GO …
WHO: Niki Haris and the James Horowitz Quartet
WHERE: JAS Cafe Downstairs at the Little Nell
When: Friday, Dec. 20 & Saturday, Dec. 21, 7 & 9:15 p.m.
How much: $40
Tickets: Both 7 p.m. shows are sold-out; jazzaspensnowmass.org
Niki Haris, the longtime Madonna backup singer and jazz vocalist, made her Aspen debut two winters ago when she opened the JAS Café’s winter series alongside Jazz Aspen Snowmass founder James Horowitz on piano.
Haris is back in that slot to kick off the winter jazz season in Aspen, mixing holiday classics, jazz standards, blues and soul in the Little Nell’s basement venue in four shows on Friday and Saturday night.
Haris describes the set as “sweet and simple and Christmasy.” Though best known for her decades touring stadiums and arenas with Madonna, Haris is right at home in an intimate listening room like the JAS Café. The daughter of jazz piano great Gene Haris, she was reared in rooms like it.
“It reminds me of when I was growing up,” she said. “It feels a lot more like family.”
Haris performed with Madonna on massive tours from the mid-1980s through the start of the new millennium. She was onstage singing and dancing on Madonna’s “Who’s That Girl” tour and the legendary “Blonde Ambition” run, she was in the film “Truth or Dare” and in the iconic “Vogue” music video, up through the “Ray of Light” era.
“I learned discipline about creating your own vision and sticking to it,” Haris said. “And making sure that you’re living your own narrative, not judging yourself through somebody else’s eyes.”
In recent years, Haris has been collaborating with fellow Madonna singer Donna De Lory, recording and performing shows like a retrospective Madonna “Songs and Stories” event at the Standard Hotel in Los Angeles last month, sharing fond memories of their days with the queen of pop.
“People talk about how calculating she is, but I saw so many times when she would not do that and go with her gut,” Haris said. “I learned so much from her in the beginning. Good stuff that now I go, ‘Oh, this is what she meant by that!’”
Haris’ show with the James Horowitz Quartet launches the three-month JAS Café concert series, which hosts shows at the Nell, the St. Regis and — new this year — The Collective in Snowmass Village.
The series picks up in the New Year with Alphonso Horne and the Gotham City Kings (Jan. 10 and 11), Martin Taylor and Laurence Juber (Jan. 31 and Feb. 1), Curtis Stigers (Feb. 13 and 14), Duchess (Feb. 20 and 21), Poncho Sanchez (March 7), Carolyn Leonhart (March 13 and 14) and Jamison Ross (March 27 and 28).
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The Virtual Aspen Music Festival’s Sunday concerts have been going from strength to strength in a year without audiences in the seats.