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Jazzy women in Aspen

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Jazz singer Dianne Reeves headlines the opening night of Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Festival on Thursday at Aspens Rio Grande Park. (Christian Lantry)
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ASPEN Those who are troubled by the way female pop stars the Britneys, Lindsays, and Simpson sisters can be sexed up and spit out by our society, might be comforted by a cultural counter-trend.For a decade or so, the realms of jazz, r&b and soul have been remarkably welcoming to female voices, at a time when their male counterparts are having a horrible time gaining a foothold with audiences. Virtually all of the women including Norah Jones, Queen Latifah, Madeleine Peyroux, Dianne Reeves, Nellie McKay, Shelby Lynne and others are selling something other than surface sexuality.They dont lead with it, said Jim Horowitz, the executive producer of Jazz Aspen Snowmass, whose 18th annual June Festival opens Thursday in Aspens Rio Grande Park. Its a more mature approach to sensuality. Its there, but its not overt. These are people who are digging up, and can convey a wider range of emotions.This years June Festival is placing the female voice at center stage. The festival opens Thursday with a pair of women singers: Bebel Gilberto, who modernizes the Brazilian bossa nova style originated by her father, Joo Gilberto; and Dianne Reeves, who earlier this decade became the first artist of any gender to earn the Grammy Awards for Jazz Vocal Performance for three consecutive releases, solidifying a claim as todays most successful traditional jazz singer.On Friday, r&b singer Anita Baker, who earned six Grammy Awards in the 1980s before making a successful comeback with 2004s My Everything, headlines in her local debut. Opening is the Manhattan Transfer, a multi-gender jazz vocal group whose most prominent member is Janis Siegel.Saturdays opening act is Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, a retro-soul group led by the 52-year-old singer Jones, a former corrections officer in the New York City prison system.Following the appearance by Jones, the sounds tilt toward the other side of the gender divide. The Brian Setzer Orchestra, a rockabilly/swing big band led by former Straycats singer-guitarist Setzer, headlines on Saturday. Sundays acts the Christian McBride Situation, and headliner Los Lonely Boys are both fronted by men, though the McBride Situation, a groove band led by bassist McBride, features female vocalist Maysa Leak.Jazz Aspen also presents jazz singer Patti Austin, backed by the Count Basie Orchestra, on Thursday, June 26. The concert, presented in partnership with the Aspen Music Festival, is set for the Benedict Music Tent.While many segments of the music industry remain dominated by men, in the area of pure vocalists, women are having their day.I dont know why. But its definitely happening. You can see it, but you cant explain it, said Horowitz. Its an era. Their sound resonates with people men and women; its not just women listening to them.And this festival has a bunch of them.

The Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Festival opens Thursday at at 6 p.m. with Bebel Gilberto and Dianne Reeves. It runs through Sunday, June 22 in the tent at Aspens Rio Grande Park. Go to http://www.jazzaspen.org/ for a full schedule and ticket information.stewart@aspentimes.com


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