Jazz Summer Sessions in full swing | AspenTimes.com

Jazz Summer Sessions in full swing

Vocalist Nnenna Freelon performs tonight at Belly Up, opening Jazz Aspen's JAS Academy Summer Sessions performance series. Courtesy photo.

Taking the stage Tuesday at Snowmass Village’s Blue Door nightclub, jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon was expected to pass on words of wisdom to the 25 or so young musicians in attendance. But Freelon isn’t much in the mood for words.”I don’t want to talk; I want to sing,” said the five-time Grammy nominee.

So the audience, participants in Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ JAS Academy Summer Sessions, got a knockout rendition of “Never Let Me Go,” with Freelon accompanied by a percussionist and a pianist playing on an upright piano.”Talking about singing and singing are different,” said Freelon, one of the masters instructors at the 10th anniversary Summer Sessions, which runs through next Wednesday in Snowmass Village. “We’re going to do a little bit of both. So it’s not just from the neck up, but the neck down also.”Tonight, Freelon will aim entirely for the heart, not the head. Freelon kicks off the JAS Academy Summer Sessions concert series tonight with a performance at Belly Up. Backing Freelon are pianist Brandon McCune, percussionist Beverly Botsford, bassist Wayne Batchelor and drummer Woodrow Wilson. Opening is Evidence, a traditional quintet that is one of the five student combos in attendance at the Summer Sessions.

Summer Sessions includes master classes, seminars, jam sessions and critiques.The concert series continues Friday at Belly Up with a full night of Christian McBride. The bassist, the artistic director of the Summer Sessions, will perform an acoustic jazz show at 8 p.m. in a group made up of pianist Geoffrey Keezer, drummer Terreon Gully and saxophonist Ron Blake. That set will be followed by a late-night funk show, with McBride’s band joined by special guest DJ Logic on turntables.The series moves to the Hickory House for a Ribs & Jazz event on Monday. The free concert will feature sets by the JAS Academy student bands.

The series winds up with two Latin-leaning nights at Belly Up. Los Hombres Calientes, a group led by trumpeter Irvin Mayfield and percussionist Bill Summers that combines the sounds of Cuba, American funk and their home base of New Orleans, are set for Wednesday, July 27. Opening will be the Sofia Koutsovitis Group, led by the Argentinean-born singer Koutsovitis. Cuban-born pianist Chuchito Valdés, the son of the legendary Latin jazz pianist Chucho Valdés, closes the series with a pair of shows on Friday, July 29.Also this week is Jazz Aspen’s benefit, JASummerNight Swing. The event, on Saturday at Aspen Highlands’ Iguana’s restaurant, is headlined by Los Angeles rap-funk band Ozomatli. Also performing will be the five bands from Summer Sessions. The event includes a gourmet buffet, open bars, a dance tent, a listening lounge and a silent auction. Proceeds from JASummerNight Swing go to Jazz Aspen’s educational programs, including the JAS Academy, JAS in Schools, Stuff for Students, JAS Local Education Initiatives and Tickets for Teachers.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail is stewart@aspentimes.com

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