Last year’s JASummerNights Swing, Jazz Aspen’s annual benefit event, was a highlight of the season – and that had nothing to do with the night’s featured entertainment, neo-swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. What really swung was the spontaneous jam inside Iguana’s restaurant, with the student participants in the JAS Academy Summer Sessions program trading licks with masters such as bassist Christian McBride (on drums) and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon (on keys). The crowd that built up around the improvised session was witness to something special. It’s the sort of thing that can’t be planned for this year’s SummerNights Swing, set for Saturday, July 22 at Iguana’s. But the headlining act, Los Angeles funk-rap band Ozomatli, should provide a suitable alternative if the impromptu jam isn’t duplicated.
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet has been bringing the biggest names in dance to town; the current Aspen Dance Festival opened with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, and last winter saw MOMIX perform Moses Pendleton’s magnificent, full-length work “Baseball.” But the ASFB’s own company certainly merits mention right alongside those established names. The resident company has cemented its reputation by giving its athletic, hip performances on some of the world’s biggest dance stages, including New York’s Joyce Theatre and the Jacob’s Pillow Festival in Massachusetts. The ASFB company makes its first of two appearances at its own Aspen Dance Festival Thursday through Saturday, July 21-23 at the Aspen District Theatre; among the works is another Pendleton piece, the fan favorite “Noir/Blanc,” a dance of illusion created for the company. Also on the program are dances by Twyla Tharp, Edwaard Liang and Lar Lubovitch. The ASFB returns Aug. 5-6 with a wholly different program, featuring works by Nicolo Fonte, David Parsons and Trey McIntyre.
At the center of the Aspen Music Festival’s season theme, Self-Portraits, is Richard Strauss. As much as anyone, Strauss used his own life as direct inspiration; Music Festival artistic administrator Asadour Santourian calls him “the quintessential prototype” of the self-examining composer. And at the center of the Strauss emphasis is “Intermezzo.” The opera, to be performed in a semi-staged version by Aspen Chamber Symphony and conductor David Zinman Friday, July 21, revolves around an intimate note sent to the composer and intercepted by his wife, nearly leading to divorce. Strauss was convinced to write the libretto himself, giving the work an extra personal touch. Zinman revisits Strauss’ marriage in more abstract fashion Aug. 14, when he conducts the Aspen Chamber Symphony in a performance of the composer’s “Ein Heldenleben.”
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