Jazz Aspen June Experience: Lizz Wright; Leslie Odom Jr.; Lyle Lovett & the return of the gospel brunch

Lyle Lovett
Aspen Times file

The 2018 Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Experience includes the familiar faces of Aspen regulars Lizz Wright and Lyle Lovett, some new ones in “Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr. and the annual music festival at the Benedict Music Tent also boasts the welcome return of a Jazz Aspen tradition: the Sunday morning gospel show.

“It’s been a long time, but it was a popular tradition for Jazz Aspen,” says Jazz Aspen President Jim Horowitz.

The concert starts at 11 a.m. and will feature the New Orleans-based Harmonistic Praise Crusade, led by choirmaster Joshua Kagler.

The gospel brunch was a locals’ favorite in the old days of Junefest in Rio Grande Park, but was dropped when the festival moved to the Benedict Music Tent. After more than a decade off the schedule, the free gospel event on Sunday, June 24, will be preceded by a $40 optional brunch in the VIP tent at 9:30 a.m. with a pre-concert talk by jazz guitarist Raul Midon, who will play the JAS Café that night.

A free lawn party outside of the Benedict starts at 6 p.m. on Friday and 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. Those parties include world music from Paa Kow and Valle Musico Quartet, rock from the Rad Trads and local flavor from Jazz Aspen summer camp students and the Aspen High School duo D&L.

As for the headliners, here’s what you need to know:


7:30 p.m.

Lizz Wright

A Jazz Aspen favorite, Wright has headlined the JAS Café and shared the Junefest bill with Jamie Cullum back in 2007. The singer recently released “Grace,” an uplifting and affirming collection of songs that she was inspired to record after the 2016 presidential election. Seeing the bitter divisions the election exposed, Wright looked homeward to the South, her native Georgia and the American gospel tradition, recording classics like “Singing in My Soul” beside a version of Bob Dylan’s “Every Grain of Sand” and Allen Toussaint’s “Southern Nights.”

9 p.m.

Leslie Odom Jr.

The Tony- and Grammy-wining vocalist, who originated the role of Aaron Burr in the groundbreaking Broadway musical “Hamilton,” also has two solo jazz albums to his name (along those ubiquitous Nationwide insurance commercials he stars in). The concert marks Odom’s Aspen debut, in a post-“Hamilton” moment when he is red-hot and in demand around the world. A bonus: he’ll perform with student singers from the Aspen Music Festival and School.


8:30 p.m.

Lyle Lovett and His Large Band

The Grammy-winning Texas songwriter can do just about anything. And he’s done just about everything onstage in Aspen, regularly playing local stages for stripped-down solo shows, with his acoustic group, with duos and with this harder-rocking outfit that he originally put together for his 1989 album “Lyle Lovett and His Large Band.” Aspen loves Lyle Lovett and he loves Aspen back. One of the most talked-about concerts of this summer season, this one is sure to draw a big crowd in the tent and out on the lawn Saturday night.


8:30 p.m.

Georgia On My Mind: A Tribute to Ray Charles

The bonus weekend show, a collaboration with the Aspen Music Festival and School, brings the beloved a capella group Take 6 back to Junefest with a cavalcade of special guest sincers including Clint Holmes and Nnenna Freelon, saxophone player Kirk Whalum — all with the H2 Big Band playing being them. These bonus weekend tribute shows, like last year’s Ella Fitzgerald performance, have dependably become a musical highlight of summer in Aspen.

Aspen Times Weekly

Bar Talk: Barraquito

On a recent trip to Spain, I discovered something that I believe tops the espresso martini. It’s called a barraquito.

See more