Right … about … NOW! … you should be getting that slightly excited, enormously overwhelming feeling that means that Aspen’s summer of activities is about to crash down on your frail shoulders. Festivals, food and films, bluegrass and brew glasses, dance and dramas, and concerts from classical to jazz to rock to reggae to funk to country. My heart palpitates to write about it.Relief – or at least a touch of guidance through the bigness of it all – is here. We have lined up the arts insiders to point out what’s on their radar screen for the summer and why.Classical musicHarvey Steiman, 12-year attendee of the Aspen Music Festival and online and print critic of the festival. Steiman’s reviews of the Music Festival will appear in The Aspen Times in July. He is also editor-at-large of Wine Spectator magazine:Vladimir Feltsman, with Susanne Mentzer and Joaquin Valdepeñas [June 23], because they are three such compelling musicians. Feltsman is never boring, always has an interesting take on things. And the concert last year when he collaborated with other musicians was astounding music-making.The July 3 concert with Evelyn Glennie. She has a touch with percussion that very few musicians have. She’s made the percussion into a superstar solo classical music endeavor.
And the Kronos Quartet [July 8]. If you’ve ever heard [Steve Reich’s] “Different Trains,” it’s one of the greatest, most moving pieces of the second half of the 20th century. And the Kronos did the first performance of it [in 1988].Michael Goldberg, owner of the Belly Up and classical music fan (Editor’s note: I picked Goldberg to give his views on popular music, but he launched right into classical, in which he was well versed. So … ):No. 1 is Beethoven’s Ninth [conducted by David Zinman on July 9, for the Ninth on Ninth benefit event]. Because it’s Beethoven’s Ninth. Not to be a warhorse adherent, but there are certain pieces I could hear live repeatedly, and it would always be an emotional experience. This is one of them.And Vladimir Feltsman, who appears twice [June 23, see above, and Aug. 18]. He’s such a phenomenal pianist. Especially his Bach interpretations. [Bach’s English Suite in A minor is part of the Aug. 18 program.]TheaterMike Monroney, actor, director and Crystal Palace performer:I’m interested to see what the Theatre Aspen season is like now that they’ve gone away from the repertory format and are doing three-week runs of each show. With the name change [from Aspen Theatre in the Park], they’re focusing on year-round presentations, so I want to see how that goes. And I’m looking forward to what David [McClendon, artistic director of Theatre Aspen] is doing with the new theater. [Theatre Aspen’s tent in Rio Grande Park has been expanded and renovated for this season.] I’m specifically looking forward to “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” [opening June 30 and running through July 30]. It’s fairly ambitious – they’re going to have to bring in some African-American talent. And it’s just great music.
Also, Peggy Mundinger and Wendy Perkins are doing an independent production of “Parallel Lives,” a sketch show [at Aspen High School’s Black Box theater, Aug. 24-26 and Aug. 28-29]. It would be fun to see if someone could pull off an independent production that’s not under the umbrella of a larger organization.Popular musicMichael Goldberg (see above):Steel Pulse, Spearhead, David Byrne and Loggins & Messina. And Willie Nelson. But if I had to pick two, it would be Steel Pulse, because they’re the first performers I saw at my brother’s club, the Belly Up in Solana Beach, Calif. And Loggins & Messina. I’ve never seen them. But the idea of seeing this reunion concert is like seeing Simon & Garfunkel a few years ago, because there’s so much history there for me, listening to their records.Brad Manosevitz, bassist for local band Coyote Gospel:This is tough, because there’s a lot of stuff coming through. (Editor’s note: After expressing enthusiasm for most every show, Manosevitz narrowed it down to four.)Shawn Colvin [July 9, Massive Music & Movies, Snowmass Village] is great, any way you get her – solo, with a guitar accompanist, with a band. And she hasn’t been here in a while.
Ramsey Lewis [JAS After Dark, June 22, at Belly Up] is a great jazz keyboardist – way bad, old-school, bad-ass funky roots. He’s the source.Bobby McFerrin [Jazz Aspen June Festival, June 25] is not only really talented, but he’s fun. He really gets the audience involved. This is a fun night of music.And David Byrne [Jazz Aspen June Festival, June 24] was here last year, and it’s amazing that they’re getting him back. Last year he did a shortened show because of the weather, but it was great. It’s going to be fun to see him do the new stuff.Visual artsJim Baker, executive director of Anderson Ranch Arts Center:The Laurie Simmons exhibit [Laurie Simmons: The Boxes (Artis Vinklers), opening July 2 at the Baldwin Gallery]. She’s such a remarkably influential artist. She’s so inventive and the work is always changing; she’s always surprising and compelling. She sees with an intelligent eye.I’ve had a chance to meet Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson [the new director of the Aspen Art Museum]. My sense is she’s going to have a great impact. She’s had a strong vision for the things she’s done in the past. But I don’t expect to see the beginnings of that yet. You usually see those results a few years out.
FilmSteve Alldredge, local screenwriter:Four movies stand out: “Lords of Dogtown,” written by Stacy Peralta [director of 2002’s “Dogtown and Z-Boys”]. That’s a great story about the beginning of the skateboard generation in L.A.”Murderball,” which won an award at Sundance. It’s about paraplegics playing rugby.Terry Gilliam’s “Brothers Grim.” I always like Gilliam’s work. This is his take on two guys who are the famous fairy-tale collective. It’s like a real weird road journey, with Heath Ledger, Matt Damon and Monica Belluci.”Broken Flowers,” by Jim Jarmusch. Bill Murray’s going through a midlife crisis, and he’s trying to determine if he fathered a son 19 years previously. So he goes from girlfriend to girlfriend. It just won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes.And at SummerFilms, the Best of Aspen Shortsfest program [July 25, Paepcke Auditorium]. I hope they show “Mad Boy, I’ll Blow Your Blues Away” [a top prizewinner at Shortsfest ’98].Stewy’s picksAnd since there’s some space left here, I’ll weigh in with my own views.
A pair of events surrounding Evelyn Glennie makes for a most intriguing experience. Glennie’s appearance with the Aspen Festival Orchestra, on July 3, marks her Aspen debut and the U.S. premiere of Steven Stucky’s “Spirit Voices,” composed with Glennie in mind (and co-commissioned by the Aspen Music Festival). That night, the SummerFilms program screens “Touch the Sound,” a documentary about the Scottish percussionist Glennie, who is deaf. The film is by Thomas Riedelsheimer, whose last work was the wonderful “Rivers and Tides,” about environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy.Two rock concerts fall into my can’t-miss category: Keller Williams, the one-man electronic jam band who headlines day one of the Chili Pepper & Brew Fest (June 17, Snowmass Village), has become a top-billed act on the jam circuit. Yet he’s only been to Aspen once – years ago – and I’ve never seen him. Also, the fabulous Derek Trucks Band plays a free concert (Aug. 6) in Snowmass’ Massive Music & Movies series.On the jazz front, guitarist John Scofield has a foot in the jam world, one in the jazz realm and now, with the release of “That’s What I Say,” a tribute to Ray Charles, a toe in the r & b sphere. His Aspen debut in Jazz Aspen’s JAS After Dark series (June 24) was moved from the Hotel Jerome to the Belly Up, a much better venue. He’ll play with bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bill Stewart, the trio that released last year’s live CD, “En Route.”The Kronos Quartet’s concert (July 8) sticks out on the Aspen Music Festival’s schedule. Not only is the program ultra-eclectic – minimalist Steve Reich, Icelandic pop band Sigur Rós, jazz composer John Zorn, Azerbaijan-born Franghiz Ali-Zadeh – but Kronos plays the heck out of everything.On the screen, I’m crossing my fingers that Todd Solondz’s “Palindromes” makes it to the valley. There’s an original gimmick: eight actors – men and women, dark and light, young and old – play the main character, awkward 13-year-old Aviva. Solondz is responsible for one of my favorite films, 1998’s “Happiness.” And he puts our shared hometown, Livingston, N.J., into most of his work.The summer brings big changes to three major institutions in the visual arts scene, and I’m anxious to see how it all shakes out. The death of Harley Baldwin leaves the Baldwin Gallery in the hands of his partner Richard Edwards; Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson begins her directorship of the Aspen Art Museum in July, taking over from the much-admired Dean Sobel; and the David Floria Gallery was recently pushed to tighter quarters in a different location.The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet makes two appearances in its own Aspen Dance Festival, and the first program (July 21-23) features the Aspen premieres of Twyla Tharp’s “Sweet Fields” and Edwaard Liang’s “Flight of Angels,” as well as an encore performance of Moses Pendleton’s blockbuster “Noir/Blanc.” For my daughter’s sake, I hope Fred Garbo Inflatable Theatre (July 24), one of the festival’s two children’s performances, is as entertaining as it seems.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org