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Big Easy in the mountains

New Orleans keyboardist and composer Allen Toussaint, left, joins Elvis Costello, right, for a performance at Jazz Aspen's June Festival. (Jimmy Katz photo)
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Summer concert organizers in the valley are trumpeting efforts to give Louisiana musicians work in the Rocky Mountains, far from the continued devastation of the Gulf Coast.In Glenwood Springs, the Summer of Jazz concert series is devoted entirely to New Orleans acts. The Snowmass Village Free Concert series features five shows – including the first four – by bands from southern Louisiana. Jazz Aspen Snowmass has several New Orleans-related programs in its June Festival. And it has given its July fundraiser a New Orleans theme: Crescent City Swing.”What these people really needed, in the wake of the storm, was what gives their lives value, and that is to work,” said Jim Horowitz, executive producer of Jazz Aspen. “We’ve always been interested in and supportive of New Orleans music. This year, it’s appropriate and necessary, whenever possible, to give work to these musicians.”Horowitz put out word that Jazz Aspen’s arms were open to Gulf Coast acts. “In some cases, we went to the agents and said, ‘Hey, we want this band; let us know when they’ll be in this part of the world, and we’ll give them work,'” he said. Horowitz added that Jazz Aspen last year raised $107,000 for the New Orleans Musicians Clinic, money earmarked to help put musicians to work.Bob and Mary Noone, founders and directors of Glenwood’s 21-year-old Summer of Jazz, picked up more than the phone. The couple last month attended their first New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. The Noones had already decided to give an all-New Orleans theme to this year’s series; the trip to the famed Jazzfest provided the chance to hand-pick the artists they wanted to present.”We were on a mission,” Mary said. “We literally would run from stage to stage. We didn’t eat any of that great food.”The trip was a combination of exhilaration and devastation. A friend’s house where the Noones stayed – two blocks from the Fair Grounds Race Course, site of the festival – was spared much damage; a 200-year-old pecan tree was destroyed. But all around the festival entrance homes were still abandoned and badly damaged. The two toured the Ninth Ward, the low-lying scene of the worst devastation. Inside the fair grounds, where the festival drew huge crowds and excellent reviews, they witnessed one memorable performance after another.”The musicians, they really did shine a different kind of light than those who weren’t from New Orleans, the Gulf Coast, since Katrina didn’t blow them all away,” Bob said. “You could feel the musicians weren’t playing the scales to get their pay and get on the bus. They’re celebrating.”The Noones took notes on their favorite artists. Often, immediately after the performance, they went backstage, found an agent, and began booking a show on the spot. It was easier than anticipated.”I had expected there would be an exodus out of New Orleans, with these musicians in demand all over the world,” Bob said. “But it doesn’t seem to be that way.”So the Noones pretty much had their pick. They were able not only to select their favorite acts, but to reflect the broad spectrum of New Orleans styles.The Glenwood Summer of Jazz, which presents concerts in Two Rivers Park every Wednesday evening from June 7 to July 26, includes samples of brass bands, zydeco, Mardi Gras-style parades and several takes on traditional jazz.

Snowmass’ Free Concert Series, Thursday nights on Fanny Hill from June 29 to Aug. 24, offers New Orleans’ more rock ‘n’ roll side. The series opens with bluesman Tab Benoit and follows in consecutive weeks with roots rockers the Iguanas, funk band Papa Grows Funk, and soul-rock band the subdudes, who have roots in Louisiana and Colorado. Later in the season, R&B band Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, led by British-born, New Orleans-based singer-keyboardist Cleary, performs.Jazz Aspen’s June Festival, June 22-25 in Aspen’s Rio Grande Park, includes a tribute to New Orleans by British rocker Elvis Costello and special guest Allen Toussaint, a New Orleans keyboardist and composer, June 24. Set to perform June 22 on the Cooper Mall Free Stage is pianist Henry Butler, who relocated from New Orleans to Boulder.Toussaint, with his big band, headlines Jazz Aspen’s gala fundraiser, Crescent City Swing, July 22 at Aspen Highlands. Also performing will be the Soul Rebels.All this music is inevitably going to remind the Noones of the scenes they witnessed: “Bob and I were really struck when we went down there,” Mary said. “You think it’s further along – and it’s not. It’s really neglected.”Up and down the valley, concert producers are countering that neglect.”We want to help out however we can,” Mary Noone said. “And we think hiring them is the best thing we can do.”

June 29: Tab BenoitJuly 6: The IguanasJuly 13: Papa Grows FunkJuly 20: subdudesJuly 27: Li’l Ed & the Blues ImperialsAug. 3: SouliveAug. 10: Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster GentlemenAug. 17: Sonya KitchellAug. 24: Sam BushGlenwood Springs Summer of Jazz (7 p.m. Wednesdays, Two Rivers Park)June 7: Dr. Michael WhiteJune 14: The Jordan FamilyJune 21: Troy “Trombone Shorty” and Orleans Ave.June 28: The Jason Marsalis/Jonathan Batiste TrioJuly 5: Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience, with the Wild Magnolias openingJuly 12: Irvin Mayfield QuintetJuly 19: The Jazz VipersJuly 26: Soul RebelsStewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com


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