Jazz Aspen Snowmass hoped moving its June Festival from Snowmass Village to downtown Aspen would give the festival a lift. The event has escalated since the relocation two years ago, but much of the credit goes to the selection of acts. This year’s program, Thursday through Sunday, June 22-25, is the most enticing yet. Two British-born artists – Elvis Costello and singer-pianist Jamie Cullum – make their local debuts, while one of American rock’s biggest names – Trey Anastasio – plays Aspen for the first time since 1992, when his former band, Phish, could still play a theater like the Wheeler Opera House. Rounding out the headliners is June Fest veteran Diana Krall, appearing for the first time on a festival bill alongside Costello, her husband. It’s a long shot, but hopefully audiences will even pay attention to the opening acts: vocalist Lizz Wright, honky-tonker Delbert McClinton and funk maestro Maceo Parker.
Shostakovich and Britten: A Musical Friendship, one of three mini-festivals at this summer’s Aspen Music Festival, doesn’t get under way till August. But audiences can get a head start on Shostakovich, who was born 100 years ago, in the festival’s first week. Pianist Vladimir Feltsman – who, like the composer, felt the sting of Soviet oppression – opens the season Wednesday, July 21, with an all-Shostakovich program. The Saturday, June 24, concert by the Jupiter String Quartet features Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8, a dark work inspired by the World War II firebombing of Dresden, Germany. The week is capped Sunday, June 25, when the Aspen Festival Orchestra, conducted by the festival’s music director David Zinman, performs Symphony No. 7, “Leningrad,” composed during the 1941 siege of the city.
The June Festival main stage is not big on up-and-coming talent. Those who want to hear fresh voices can find it at the double bill Friday, June 23, at the Belly Up, part of Jazz Aspen’s After Dark series. Brandi Carlile, a 23-year-old from rural Washington, could be headed for stardom, having opened for Chris Isaak and appeared on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” Her self-titled debut CD, recently re-released after its initial 2005 launch, reveals a take on country not far from that of Shelby Lynn. Opening is Gran Bel Fisher, a 24-year-old singer and pianist whose debut album, “Full Moon Cigarette,” due next month, reaches for grand, smart pop-rock.
Henry Butler is a quintessential New Orleans musician. His piano-playing on ’90s recordings “Orleans Inspiration” and “Blues after Sunset” reveal the influence of New Orleans icon Professor Longhair. Butler’s inspirational “Somewhere” was a highlight of the recent album “Sing Me Back Home,” a tribute to his hometown. But he is more than just New Orleans; he has played straight-ahead jazz, and roots-rock in collaboration with guitarist Corey Harris. His last album, “Homeland,” featured blues and R&B with a full band. And Butler is even more than a musician; though blind from birth, he is a noted photographer. With his home flooded by Hurricane Katrina, Butler has relocated to Boulder. He plays in his new home state Thursday, June 22, on the Cooper Mall Free Stage, as part of Jazz Aspen’s June Festival. For another free hit of New Orleans, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews – who also appeared on “Sing Me Back Home” – plays with his band Orleans Avenue, Wednesday, June 21, in Glenwood Springs’ Summer of Jazz series, in Two Rivers Park.
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