November 30, 2007
“Cover Yourself,” the latest CD by Blues Traveler, kicks off with a keyboard riff. It’s a sure sign that Blues Traveler 2007 is not the same band as, say, Blues Traveler, circa 1995. For starters, the band didn’t have a keyboard player until the 2000 addition of Ben Wilson; the focus was on the dynamic harmonica playing and rapid-fire vocalizing of frontman John Popper. The point of “Cover Yourself” seems to be that Blues Traveler has, through personnel shake-ups (especially the 1999 death of founding bassist Bobby Sheehan) and aging, changed its perspective on its music. The CD features new recordings of past Blues Traveler tunes; the songs were selected by fans. The reworkings are all radical: “Mountains Win Again,” written by Sheehan and inspired by Aspen, is now a slow blues; “Runaround,” the unexpected monster hit from 1994, gets punched up with a horn section. Oddly enough, with guitarist Charlie Sexton appearing on a straight-outta-Delta take on “Carolina Blues,” and G. Love adding a blues-rap to “Just For Me,” “Cover Yourself” finds the band becoming what it has always hinted at being: a blues band. It will be interesting to see which versions of the songs make it to the stage when Blues Traveler performs Saturday, Dec. 8, at the base of Aspen Mountain, in the Aspen Skiing Company’s free Hi-Fi Concert series.
For some 50 years, jazz pianist Walt Smith has been livening up the local music scene. And for a good portion of those years ” “forever,” according to his wife, Carol ” Smith’s primary bench has been at Kurt Wigger’s Glenwood Springs spots: the Sopris Restaurant, which has been closed for more than a year (and is about to reopen as a Mexican eatery), and the Buffalo Valley Inn. At 80-something, Smith still impresses as a musician, but the regular Tuesday night gig is reaching the end of its trail. On Tuesday, Dec. 4, Smith assembles the valley’s best ” including vocalist Jeannie Walla, saxophonist Steve Cole, drummer Chris Goplerud and guitarist Walter Hanselmann ” for the End of an Era concert. The show, accompanied by dining and dancing, is being billed as “the last concert at the Buffalo Valley,” so consider this an honest piece of history in the making.
It’s remarkable that Jayne Gottlieb Productions, the Basalt-based theater training ground for kids, has only been around since 2005. But Gottlieb, the spunky leader of the troupe, has energy to burn, having presented 10 full-scale musicals in just over two years. In that time, the program has grown from a couple dozen participants to a hundred or so, and their presentations ” like last month’s “Peter Pan” ” have been packing the Basalt Middle School auditorium. The company continues its expansion: its stage version of the Gene Kelly film classic, “Singin’ in the Rain,” played in Basalt last week and now comes upvalley. With Ben Mertz and Ben Belinski alternating in the leading role of silent-film star Don Lockwood, the show comes to the Wheeler Opera House Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 8-9, with matinee and early evening show times each day.