Africa and New Orleans became intricately tied a century and a half ago when slaves were permitted to congregate in New Orleans’ Congo Square to play music derived from their native Africa. Those rhythms and dynamics became the core of jazz, America’s first indigenous art form, and the key foundation for American popular music. The continent and the city had a reunion of sorts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, as American leaders dropped the ball on the city and its black majority – much as the white-dominated West has turned its back on Africa. New Orleans jazz icon Wynton Marsalis examines the relationship in “Congo Square,” a 2006 piece he co-composed with Ghana’s Yacub Addy. Marked by a blend of American jazz and West African drumming, “Congo Square” will be performed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, conducted by Marsalis, and the Ghanaian percussion ensemble Odadaa! The concert, Tuesday, June 26, at the Benedict Music Tent, kicks off a series of event co-presented by the Aspen Music Festival and Jazz Aspen Snowmass.
The immediate impression made by the two new exhibitions at the Aspen Art Museum is a sense of absence. Both German-born Nicole Wermers, whose sculpture-oriented “Masse und Auflösung” is in the downstairs gallery, and Korean-born Koo Jeong-A, who created her installation in the upstairs gallery during her recent residency at the museum, are working with spare elements. But the emphasis on space, light and orientation works its effects on viewers over time. Wermers’ “Palisades” video utilizes a camera aimed at the ceiling; the tour of public buildings offers a perspective that makes us rethink how we move through buildings. In Koo Jeong-A’s installation, the beauty of a piece of marble (from the town of Marble) is revealed through subtle lighting, best seen from a distance. Other pieces of material are placed on the ceiling, on top of beams and in various nooks of the gallery. A reception for the two exhibits will be held Friday, June 29.
Once upon a time, at the dawn of the genre that came to be known as alt-country, there was Uncle Tupelo, an Illinois band led by singer-songwriters Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar. After four influential albums, the group broke into two factions: Tweedy made experimental rock in Wilco, while Farrar founded Son Volt. Despite earning the tag of being Wilco’s rootsier (and less heralded) sibling, Farrar has not lacked for covering new ground. On last year’s “Death Songs for the Living,” by his side project Gob Iron, Farrar made a chilling, appealing update of early American folk music. And on Son Volt’s latest, “The Search,” the band opened up the texture to horns and more exuberant sounds. Son Volt makes its local debut Saturday, June 30 in Snowmass Village’s Massive Music & Movies event, with one-man jam band Keller Williams opening.
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