The name Allen Toussaint doesn’t ring bells the way some New Orleans keyboardists do. While Dr. John wears headdresses, Art Neville is part of a famous family, and Henry Byrd adopted the unforgettable title of Professor Longhair, Toussaint is a mild-mannered Southern gentleman, given to taking the back seat. Though he is a fine singer, his biggest hits were recorded by others: “Southern Nights,” by Glen Campbell, “Ruler of My Heart,” by Irma Thomas. A pair of his songs worked their way into the repertoire of the Jerry Garcia Band. Some of Toussaint’s most memorable work came as producer, for the Meters and Dr. John. But at 68, Toussaint is having a moment, collaborating with Elvis Costello on the CD “The River In Reverse.” And Toussaint, not known for hard traveling, is making his name in Aspen. He performed last month with Costello at Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ June Festival and returns with his own band, including the Crescent City Horns, for the Jazz Aspen benefit CrescentCitySwing, Saturday, July 22, at Aspen Highlands.
As Aspen Highlands Village still struggles to find itself, the answer increasingly seems to be in visual arts. Highlands resident Olivia Daane’s LivAspenArt has become a busy little studio/gallery space. The Aspen Artists Gallery, run by West Townsend, features the work of some 60 local artists, representing virtually every style and medium one can imagine. Capping it all is the Harvey/Meadows Gallery, where the emphasis is on ceramic art (it is run by two ceramists, Sam Harvey and Alleghany Meadows). But the gallery gives the medium the widest latitude possible, as witnessed in the two current exhibits: New Mexico’s Michael Corney makes pots and sculptures that combine humor and mock frightfulness. The group show titled the Figure features human-oriented works in a variety of media. Both shows run through July 29.
Having developed relationships with outstanding choreographers, the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Company gets the best of both worlds, the familiar and the new. Choreographers likes Nicolo Fonte and Dwight Rhoden have formed a deep bond with the local dancers and can work to their strengths. At the same time, the two continue to create new pieces for the company to debut before local audiences. When the ASFB opens the Aspen Dance Festival, with performances Friday and Saturday, July 21-22, at the Aspen District Theatre, the program will include the world premiere of Fonte’s “It’s Not About the Numbers,” featuring an onstage sculpture by local artist James Surls. Also featured is the Aspen premiere of Rhoden’s “Miss Blue,” as well as Edwaard Liang’s “Whispers in the Dark” and Thierry Malandin’s “L’après-midi d’un Faun.” When the ASFB returns to its own festival, Aug. 12-13, with a different program, the highlights include the world premiere of a new dance by Rhoden. Also appearing in the festival: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (July 27-29); the spiritually oriented Indian company Nrityagram Dance Ensemble (Aug. 1); MOMIX, performing “Passion,” set to music by Peter Gabriel (Aug. 3-5); and Ballet West (Aug. 17-19).
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