The name of the concert – “Keeping Classic Jazz Alive” – makes it sound as if the music is on its last legs. But the featured player, local pianist Walt Smith, brings fresh ears to the music, even at 79. Smith, who first came to Aspen in 1950 to play a six-week stand at the old Golden Horn, specializes in a certain era and style of jazz: Gershwin, Basie, Porter. But Smith still adds to his personal repertoire (even if those “new” songs have been around for 60 years). And he brings a vital approach each night, never playing a tune the same way twice. (“I can’t,” he claims.) Smith is backed by a local all-star group – singer Jeannie Walla, saxophonist Steve Cole, trumpeter Tim Fox, bassist Mark Gray and drummer Chris Goplerud – at Carbondale’s Thunder River Theatre on Thursday, July 12. Smith also leads a trio every Tuesday evening at the Buffalo Valley Inn in Glenwood Springs.
On record, Lucinda Williams is as reliable an artist as exists today. Even if her latest CD, “West,” released in February, is a half-step down from the recent string of albums (“World Without Tears,” “Essence,” “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road”) that earned her recognition as America’s best songwriter from Time magazine, Williams is still a force of poetry, emotion and romance gone bad. “Come On,” a slap at a lame lover, is a highlight of “West,” and on par with her strongest statements. Onstage, Williams is more of a wild card. Her 2005 appearance at Belly Up remains a highlight of the club’s existence; it was at complete odds with her flat showing a year earlier at Jazz Aspen’s Labor Day Festival. Williams returns to the Belly Up stage Thursday, July 12. And while one wonders exactly what to expect, the upside is enormous.
For an Aspenite, the most enduring thing to come out of the Aspen Ideas Festival might not be a big idea in the realm of politics, medicine, technology or the environment. It might be a pile of rocks. This year’s Ideas Festival, which runs through Sunday, July 8, has seen the dedication of the Aspen Institute’s new Doerr-Hosier Center. It’s an impressive facility, especially in the way it spotlights the Roaring Fork River, below and behind the building. But most noteworthy is the red-rock wall, by environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy, that snakes up to the building. The piece begins as a barely noticeable line through the parking lot, that leads up to the red sandstone sculpture, which reaches up to 6 feet in height and runs through a pond. It then carries on, again as a simple line, through the building and out the back. With a proper imagination, Goldsworthy’s piece can be seen as flowing from the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness through the Aspen Institute, and into the Roaring Fork – a “wall” that unites, rather than divides.
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