Expert tease: Arts insiders share their picks |

Expert tease: Arts insiders share their picks

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times

Hip-hop collective the Wu-Tang Clan, with rapper Ghostface Killah, appears this month at Belly Up Aspen. (Stewart Oksenhorn/Aspen Times Weekly)

Want to know what’s on Aspen’s culture calendar for the upcoming season? Check any of the numerous guidebooks, browse the Internet, pick up the papers (that is, The Aspen Times), ask a concierge.

Want to know what, among the many choices of concerts, art openings, films, etc., is truly worth your time and money? Ask the insiders who keep their eyes and ears open to such things. Below are the picks of various artists and arts presenters and observers.

Josh Behrman, owner of Mountain Groove Productions:

At the Wheeler Opera House, I think [March 27] is the most exciting thing there. It’s his Great American Songbook tour, and I’d like to see his twist on that. He’s probably got a great handle on that music, I guess. And he’s half of the second-greatest songwriting team, after Lennon and McCartney. It’s exciting to have such an icon in the Wheeler. It’ll feel like a living room.

[Jan. 15-16] is at the top of the list at the Belly Up. He’s thought of as Ben Harper-meets-Jack Johnson, but from Australia ” à la John Butler Trio. I’ve always wanted to see him live; I even tried to bring him here myself. He’s an interesting character, interesting writer, interesting musician.

And [Tuesday, Dec. 11, Belly Up]. Going back five, six, seven years, when I first heard them, they sounded like a great indie band, a great rock band. But I never got a chance to see them. No, in a small venue … .

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And “I’m Not There” [the Bob Dylan biopic, which opened nationally last month, and shows Jan. 2 in Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings series], for every reason ” for the story; the filmmaking; the six different actors, to see how they portray Dylan; for the soundtrack. It has every ingredient you could want in a movie. To me, this is on the same level as a live event.

Jim Horowitz,: Jazz Aspen Snowmass executive producer:

[Feb. 8, Wheeler Opera House]. We had them in our free series, but I didn’t see the show. I was traveling. I’ve heard from a lot of people they put on a killer show, but I’ve only heard them on CD.

[Feb. 26, in the Aspen Music Festival’s Artist Recital series]. As a piano player since the age of 4, I loved pianists. Ax is someone I first heard in Aspen years and years ago, and was blown away. To see him in a small venue like Harris Hall is like a dream.

[Dec. 28, Wheeler Opera House]. I like that kind of thing. Singers of American songs are always of interest to me. And I’ve heard great things about her.

Lewis Teague, director (“Navy Seals,” “The Jewel of the Nile”), and member of Aspen Film’s International Advisory Council:

[opening nationally, Dec. 21], by a director named Jake Kasdan, son of Larry Kasdan. Jake was at Aspen Shortsfest last year, talking about digital filmmaking. He showed clips from “Walk Hard,” and it was hilarious. And for technical reasons, I’m interested in digital film, and this is shot all digitally.

[scheduled for limited release Dec. 28], written and directed by John Sayles. I don’t know anything about it, but I’m a big fan of John Sayles. He always makes interesting and unique films.

[showing Dec. 27 in Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings], by Julian Schnabel, because his films are always unique, fantastic, with a lot of integrity. “The Diving Bell” got a very good write-up in The New York Times [this week].

[opening in limited release Dec. 14 and showing Dec. 28 in Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings], because Francis Ford Coppola is one of the most interesting directors of the last 30, 40 years. I have no expectation or preconception, but he’s made such wonderful and adventurous films that I have to see “Youth Without Youth.”

Jon Busch, operator of the Wheeler Film Series:

There are two reissued old movies. One’s from 1981, a film that set a trend, called “Diva.” An odd little thriller about a fellow who’s passionate about opera and steals a master tape from a diva. It gets him involved in the underworld.

The other one is the new and final director’s cut of They tell me it’s digitally remastered and looks brilliant. And unlike the last director’s cut, in this one, Ridley Scott was actually involved.

In both cases, they’re cult films. And “Diva” hasn’t been seen since 1981.

Andrew Todd, executive director of KAJX, music director at Christ Church, and pianist (Todd will be performing a recital of Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” suite Feb. 22 at the Aspen Chapel.):

At the Aspen Music Festival’s Artist Recital series, this year is a piano lover’s dream. My only criticism is, I wish they could do more programs.

There’s [Feb. 26] and [March 6], who have not played here in a while; and [Feb. 20], who played in the winter series two years ago. All three are wonderful, and they’re amazingly different. Hough has this English elegance, and he’s composing more lately. I just want to have him over to my house, drink sherry and have him play for two hours. Ax ” he’s core German repertoire, with Beethoven and Schumann. The Schumann “Humoreske” is a real unsung piece; most people will not have heard that before. And Piotr is going to play more Bach. He played Bach here last time, and I just loved it. And David Finckel and Wu Han [Feb. 12] ” that’s like homecoming whenever they’re here.

The Snowmass Chapel is trying to start a They’re doing an early music program Feb. 8. Charlotte Mclain is our one true early music specialist in the valley, a wonderful harpsichordist.

It’s the 30th anniversary, a big deal, for the Aspen Choral Society’s [Friday and Saturday, Dec. 14-15]. And it’ll be fun to listen to it at the Wheeler. That’s where John Denver sang the “Every Valley” aria from the “Messiah” many years ago.

And the free Music in the West End series [which is organized by Todd], at the Episcopal Church, has its fifth anniversary. Jan. 18, there’s the They’re originally from Tasmania, but are in the string program at CU Boulder. And does a post-Valentine concert ” not classical ” Feb. 15.

David Floria, owner, David Floria Gallery, and music enthusiast:

Jeremy Deller’s opening Feb. 14 at the Aspen Art Museum. It’s a group show, curated by Jeremy Deller. For lack of a better term, you can say Deller is going to compose an installation, using memorabilia, works of art, historical references [related to the Neil Young song “Pocahontas”]. I’m a huge fan of Neil Young, so this sounds like an intriguing exhibition, looking at Neil’s take on politics, war, American history. And I like the concept of having artists curate an exhibition, rather than curators curating.

The Baldwin Gallery has Holograms, by opening Feb. 15. I really like his work; he’s the installation-environmental artist who’s doing the Roden Crater, his lifetime cosmological sculpture outside of Flagstaff. This is an exhibit of his holograms.

On the music side, at Belly Up [Friday, Feb. 14], and [Sunday, Dec. 16, Wheeler Opera House]. I’m an old folkie from the ’60s, and Greg Brown, I like his use of music and language. The same could be said for Richie Havens, who’s an icon of the folk movement. With a real original way of playing guitar. I’m looking forward to what he’s going to say as well as what he’s going to sing.

And I have an opinion or 18 of my own:

Most impressive is the Aspen Writers’ Foundation’s Winter Words series, which is pretty much one blockbuster after another. [Jan. 30, Given Institute] writes compelling books, is a dynamic speaker, and has forged a close connection to Aspen. The first public reading of her new book, “Run,” was here in Aspen. Other highlights include novelist [March 6, Given], and [Feb. 22, Wheeler Opera House], whose “A Long Way Gone,” a memoir of his time as a child soldier in Sierra Leone’s civil war, was excerpted in The New York Times Magazine. Beah will be in conversation with another top literary name from Africa, , and the talk will be followed by a benefit performance by rapper DMC of the pioneering hip-hop group Run-DMC.

Two standout concerts on the Belly Up calendar come from opposite ends of the spectrum, the rough and the gentle. Hip-hop posse on the heels of releasing its “Eight Diagrams” CD, brings its Clan Eight Diagrams Tour to town Dec. 19. It’s a little sketchy as to which of the eight Clan members will be present; Ghostface Killah, who was impressive in a solo gig here last month, is confirmed. From the other side of the music rainbow comes pop singer-composer [Jan. 10, in a benefit for the Buddy Program], whose latest CD is a re-do of Judy Garland’s famed 1961 concert at Carnegie Hall.

The has a special treat: All four pieces on its program of mixed repertory [Feb. 14 and 16, Aspen District Theatre] are new to Aspen, and one, by Helen Pickett, is a world premiere.

“Pocahontas,” from Neil Young’s 1979 classic “Rust Never Sleeps,” was always quintessential Neil to me: agonizing, historically grounded, puzzling, even funny. London-born artist Jeremy Deller devotes an entire show to the song; his opens Feb. 14 at the Aspen Art Museum.

The U.S. Comedy Arts Festival is gone, at least for this year. The scale of the event, and the big names, won’t be replaced, but there will still be some laughs in Aspen this winter (and not only when a dude in a full-length fur coat slips and lands on his ass walking on the mall). The Wheeler Opera House is teaming with sometime Aspenite David Brenner to present a series of comedy performances, featuring rising young comics, during February and March.

On the big screen, three films jump out; all of them are in Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings series. [Jan. 2] is Todd Haynes’ biopic of Bob Dylan. Appropriate to the task of capturing the ever-evolving Bob, the film uses six actors, including Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere and teenager Marcus Carl Franklin, to portray him. All I need to know about [Dec. 29] is that it is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, whose films include “Magnolia” and “Boogie Nights.” (If you need to know more, it is an adaptation of the Upton Sinclair novel “Oil,” and stars Daniel Day-Lewis.) [Dec. 30], from Spain, is a psychological horror film with a gothic edge and depths of human emotion.

And from the CD racks, look for a subtler-than-usual twist on Southern rock by the “Brighter Than Creation’s Dark” [Jan. 22]; the hooking up their potent gospel with musicians from the Big Easy on “Down in New Orleans” [Jan. 29]; a long-in-gestation album from the , “Bedlam in Goliath” [Jan. 29]; and “9 Lives,” the latest by , who doesn’t make many albums, but makes them all count.

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