The emphasis seems to be on fun as Jazz Aspen Snowmass celebrates its 15th year with this week’s June Festival. Bobby McFerrin, known as much for his engagement with the audience as his vocal acrobatics, makes his first Jazz Aspen appearance in a decade. Boz Scaggs, who performed an acoustic jazz set at the 2003 June Festival, returns with his all-hits show. David Byrne, whose show at last summer’s Labor Day Festival was curtailed by weather, tries again to play his big show, featuring the Tosca Strings. Yerba Buena, a hit with the dancers as a late-night act last June, moves up to the big stage. And the whole thing starts with a double blast of upbeat reggae and smooth soul, as Steel Pulse and Isaac Hayes team for an opening-night bill. The June Fest runs Thursday through Sunday, June 23-26, in Rio Grande Park.
As has become a tradition, the 56th Aspen Music Festival summer season opens with appearances by the Takacs Quartet. But this year also brings change; the performances mark the final Aspen appearance by violist Roger Tapping, who gives up the seat he has held for nine years to Geraldine Walther, a three-decade veteran of the San Francisco Symphony. The Takacs has been close to Aspen’s hearts – and close to Aspen: the quartet, formed in Hungary in 1975, has been based in Colorado since 1983, when it began a residency at the University of Colorado. The Takacs performs a pair of recitals at Harris Hall: on Wednesday, June 22, with pianist Andreas Haefliger, and on Saturday, June 25, with Haefliger and violist James Dunham. Also on the opening-week schedule: Vladimir Feltsman plays a special event with clarinetist Joaquin Valdepenas and mezzo-soprano Suzanne Mentzer; and Nicholas McGegan conducts violinists Gil Shaham and Adele Anthony and the Aspen Chamber Symphony.
The bad news is that Jazz Aspen’s JAS After Dark program, which has sprawled out to multiple rooms in past years, has been narrowed down some this year. The good news is that the focus has narrowed to the Belly Up, Aspen’s marvelous new nightclub. More good news is the lineup, featuring acts that should play well in the club setting. Jazz-funk keyboardist Ramsey Lewis kicks off the series on Wednesday, June 22. The following day brings two sets by singer Maria Muldaur, followed by a midnight show with New Orleans horn band Bonerama. Guitarist John Scofield appears in a trio, with bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bill Stewart, on Friday, June 24, and Robert Walter’s 20th Congress, a groove group led by the keyboardist from the Greyboy Allstars, closes the run. Away from the Belly Up, Syzygy has jazz sets Thursday through Saturday, with acts including Steve Peer & All That Jazz, and saxophonists Jeff Jenkins and Nelson Rangell. In Snowmass, the Blue Door has Mama’s Cooking on Thursday and Bonerama on Friday.
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The city of Aspen’s office building is exempt from paying encroachment fees, yet private developers have to now pay $9 a square foot, per month, starting in 2020.