Dylan gives nod to Jazz Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Dylan gives nod to Jazz Aspen

Stewart Oksenhorn

Bob Dylan has been most everywhere lately: television awards shows, critics’ top-10 lists and on stages in practically every corner of the country.Dylan’s so-called Never-Ending Tour has made stops from Telluride to Tupelo, at county fairgrounds and modern arenas. He should even appear on the big screen in the not-too-distant future: “Masked & Anonymous,” starring Dylan as a musician freed from prison to play one last concert, is set to begin production in July.And now Dylan is set to come to Aspen. Jazz Aspen Snowmass has announced that Dylan has signed on to perform at the annual Labor Day festival. Dylan will play on Sunday night, Sept. 1, with opening acts still to be set. The festival, normally held in Snowmass Village, is expected to be moved to the Buttermilk Mountain base area due to golf course construction in Snowmass.”It’s been a long time coming,” said Jim Horowitz, executive producer of Jazz Aspen, who has been trying to bring Dylan to the festival for seven years. “It’s like getting to the top of a 20,000-foot mountain for me. He’s definitely an artist who’s reached that living icon status.”Also recently added to the festival bill is Phil & Friends, led by former Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh. Phil & Friends will perform on the festival’s opening night, Aug. 30.Dylan, who emerged as a folksinger in the early `60s before turning to electric rock `n’ roll in 1965, has had a career upturn of late. After spending most of the `80s as a commercial and critical bust, Dylan found a return to form with the 1989 album, “Oh Mercy.” Dylan earned critical praise for a pair of early-’90s solo, acoustic albums – “World Gone Wrong” and “Good As I Been to You” – but the albums were hardly aimed at a wide audience: both consisted entirely of raw takes on old, mostly forgotten American folk songs.In 1997, Dylan was diagnosed with a serious infection of his heart sac. Shortly after, he released “Time Out of Mind,” an album whose songs – “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven,” “Lovesick,” “It’s Not Dark Yet” – painted a grim but eloquent picture of getting old. Despite its creepy tone, “Time Out of Mind” was hailed as one of Dylan’s finest efforts, and he won a Grammy Award for best album. The usually reclusive Dylan did a live performance on the Grammy broadcast.In 2001, Dylan received an Academy Award for “Things Have Changed,” one of several of his songs featured in the movie “Wonder Boys.” Dylan performed the song on the broadcast and also gave a memorable acceptance speech.Dylan’s hot streak continued with last year’s release of “Love and Theft,” his first album of new material since “Time Out of Mind.” “Love and Theft” was hailed as another of Dylan’s best and, with its survey of American roots styles, most unusual albums. Dylan earned three more Grammy nominations for “Love and Theft” and won the award for best contemporary folk album.On stage, Dylan has been on fire for several years, receiving overwhelmingly positive reviews. After years of regularly switching band members, Dylan settled several years ago on a combo that included guitarists Larry Campbell and Charlie Sexton, bassist Tony Garnier and drummer David Kemper. (Kemper was recently replaced.) The steady combo has worked wonders for Dylan’s reputation as a live artist, which had been sketchy for years. Dylan and his band have worked up a working repertoire of dozens of tunes, including American folk songs and tunes that span Dylan’s career. Shows last summer in Vail and Telluride showed him in peak form, playing with energy and focus.”Considering where his career is at now, he’s probably the biggest act we’ve booked,” said Horowitz, noting this will be Dylan’s first-ever appearance in the area, one of his rare festival performances, and one of few concerts in the U.S. this summer. “CSN in 1998, Santana in 1997, they weren’t quite on the wave he’s at now. It’s a great thing for the festival, for the community, to get an artist of this caliber.”Jazz Aspen’s Labor Day Festival runs Aug. 30-Sept. 2. Aug. 30 will feature Phil & Friends, with Gov’t Mule – a band led by Phil & Friends singer-guitarist Warren Haynes – opening. Set for the closing day, Sept. 2, are Willie Nelson and Nickel Creek. Additional acts for each day are still to be announced.Tickets for the Labor Day festival will go on sale in May.