August 27, 2008
Have the huge crowds and loud rock n roll sounds kept you away from the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival? Then Monday, Sept. 1 might be your day to join the festivating. The closing day is more or less acoustic day, with the emphasis on string music. Opening the show is Denver bluesman Otis Taylor, who leans closer to the acoustic Delta blues than to Stevie Ray Vaughn. It might be more accurate to say that Taylor has his own take on the blues; his recent album Recapturing the Banjo focuses on an instrument typically associated with bluegrass. Dobroist Jerry Douglas music spans a wide range, but leans mostly toward bluegrass and other string styles, so the volume shouldnt get anywhere near Widespread levels. Mondays headliner is Colorado quartet Yonder Mountain String Band, whose motto Drive Without Drums gives a hint that the festival should close on something less than a loud bang. And Monday traditionally draws the smallest crowds of the event.
The riddle of how to give genuine literature the treatment it deserves in the cinema may have been answered, for the moment, with Elegy. An adaptation of Philip Roths short novel The Dying Animal, Spanish director Isabel Coixets film places all the emphasis on the characters their words, their faces, their bodies and trusts Roths language to speak for itself. Which is not to say that Elegy lacks cinematic dynamics. Coixet has chosen actors Ben Kingsley as the aging New York professor and theater critic David Kepesh, and Penelope Cruz as the student whose beauty staggers him you cannot look away from. Roths deep, clear-eyed meditations on sex, wisdom and human flesh and frailty come through with a minimum of distraction. You leave Elegy feeling almost as if you have read a supreme novel. The film is showing in Aspen.
Warren Haynes comes down to Earth slightly, after his local heroics last Labor Day Weekend. Last year, the singer-guitarist played a main-stage set with the Allman Brothers Band, the Southern-rock institution that he revitalized in the 1990s. The show drew a festival-record crowd. Earlier that day, Haynes made a guest appearance with Michael Franti & Spearhead. He returned to the main stage the following day to close out the festival with a set by his hard-jam quartet, Govt Mule. That night, he put an exclamation point on the weekend with a solo performance at Belly Up. (The feat landed pictures of Haynes in The Aspen Times five days in a row, which is likely a record.) Haynes doesnt appear at the festival this time around or at least, hes not scheduled to but he returns to Belly Up for his first solo acoustic shows since last year in Aspen. So he wont be accused of slacking, hes bringing enough songs so there will be no repeats from night to night.