Hot jazz fills cool nights
In its second year in downtown Aspen, Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ June Festival fulfilled its promise of turning Aspen into a weekend-long, townwide party. Despite cool temperatures and a persistent threat of rain, attendance at the main stage in Rio Grande Park was strong. When the main-stage performances concluded each night, fans swarmed to nightspots around town, giving Aspen an after-dark vibrancy that has become a rare experience.Wynton Marsalis and his quintet opened the main-stage proceedings on a high note, with pianist Eric Lewis sharing the spotlight with Marsalis in tradition-grounded but satisfying jazz. Marsalis broke the reins when he paid tribute to the late Ray Charles and Elvin Jones with a pair of New Orleans-flavored gospel tunes. When Marsalis wished a happy 50th birthday to Jazz Aspen founder and executive producer Jim Horowitz with music and cake, the mood was appropriately celebratory.Soul singer Al Green and bluesman Buddy Guy mixed a high degree of showmanship with impressive musical skills in their headlining sets. Guy opened his show playing a string of songs on acoustic guitar, presenting another face of the 67-year-old. Countryish rock singer Shelby Lynne and avant-jazz keyboard trio Medeski, Martin & Wood stuck more to pure musicianship in their opening sets, and were greeted warmly for their efforts.The buzz band of the “outer festival” was Yerba Buena. The seven-piece New York band’s high-energy pan-Latin sound caused a stir in the St. Regis hotel’s Mill Street Club and on the Cooper Avenue Free Stage. Crowds also flocked to various corners of town to see New Orleans’ Rebirth Brass Band, Texas’ Asylum Street Spankers and Brazilian pop singer Daude. Stewart Oksenhorn
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.