Fresh faces to take stage at Jazz Aspen festivals |

Fresh faces to take stage at Jazz Aspen festivals

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen CO Colorado
Danny ClinchSteely Dan - singer-keyboardist Donald Fagen, left, and guitarist Walter Becker - make their area debut in September at Jazz Aspen Snowmass' Labor Day Festival.

ASPEN – Last spring, Jazz Aspen Snowmass – from the festival organizers to the concert-going public – was singing the blues. Getting the 2010 festival lineup into place was a protracted process, and when the results were announced, with such headliners as the age-old Lynyrd Skynyrd, the general reaction was disappointment.A year later, Jazz Aspen is rocking. The nonprofit organization announced its 2011 summer lineup of artists, and it’s fair to say that it’s back in the groove.The June Festival (June 24-26 in the Benedict Music Tent) will feature the local debut of Jennifer Hudson, best known for her Academy Award-winning role in the 2006 musical film “Dreamgirls,” and Sheryl Crow, performing her “100 Miles From Memphis” tour, focused on a vintage soul style.The Labor Day Festival (Sept. 2-4 in Snowmass Town Park) will feature the area debuts of pop legends Steely Dan, rocker Lenny Kravitz, the Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, and country stars the Zac Brown Band, who earned the 2010 Grammy Award for best new artist. The festival will also have the Jazz Aspen debuts of mash-up producer Girl Talk, Texas singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham, and retro-soul big band Fitz & the Tantrums.”Last year, we were scrambling, and didn’t get the results a lot of people were looking for,” Jim Horowitz, Jazz Aspen’s executive producer, said. “It’s not like we don’t understand the market. We do. But it’s not like going to the grocery store and picking off the shelf what you want.”In fact, this year it almost does seem like Jazz Aspen got to pick what it wants. With the assistance of concert giant AEG Live, hired by Jazz Aspen last year to help book acts for the Labor Day Festival, Jazz Aspen was able to book Steely Dan and Kravitz – “bands we’ve been making offers to forever,” Horowitz said. “We’re very happy working with AEG. They’ve helped, no doubt.”Steely Dan, it was announced Thursday in a press release from their publicist, is embarking on a three-month tour this summer, the Shuffle Diplomacy Twenty Eleven Tour. The concerts will feature an 11-piece band, and “an idealistic strategy for World Peace.” Select shows will feature the performance of entire albums, or set lists determined by fans; Horowitz said it hadn’t been determined yet if the Jazz Aspen date will be among those shows.Jazz Aspen also announced that, outside of the festivals, the Cuban band Buena Vista Social Club, whose 1997 CD, produced by Ry Cooder, was an international sensation, was scheduled to perform on Aug. 22 at the Aspen District Theatre. “We’ve been chasing them for 15 years,” Horowitz said.The June Festival also includes a previously announced concert by Wynton Marsalis & the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. That show, on July 2, will be presented in association with the Aspen Music Festival. The June Festival opens June 24 with a double bill of singer-guitarist Raul Midn and African-born bassist Richard Bona. The festival also includes club concerts at the Little Nell featuring the 12-piece Latin band Maraca, and the Hot Club of Detroit.Jazz Aspen’s summer season will also include the annual summer gala event, a Brazilian Carnival set for July 16 and benefiting the organization’s educational programs; and a Block Party, on July 22 on Hopkins Ave., with ’70s tribute band, Vintage.Horowitz said he was pleased with the number of acts Jazz Aspen has booked that haven’t played the area before. “That doesn’t always happen,” he said. “But it was definitely a goal. After 20 years, there are some themes that emerge, and one is that, when we can deliver fresh faces, it’s exciting to us and to the community. Labor Day is all fresh faces.”Another goal was to book some acts that will attract a younger audience. With Girl Talk – the stage name of 29-year-old Gregg Gillis, who performs by mixing samples tracks on a laptop computer – Horowitz said, “that’s a bullseye with the younger crowd.” He added that two opening acts for Girl Talk will be announced soon.Tickets for the June and Labor Day Festivals will go on sale Monday, March 14. Tickets can be bought at 888-512-SHOW (7469), online at, or through Belly Up Aspen. Jazz Aspen has added an early bird ticket-buying option for the Labor Day Festival, with single-day ticket priced as low as $40 through April 8. A limited number of those tickets are available, and prices go up gradually after April