Listen closely: That sound is the future of jazz
Even Christian McBride, artistic director of Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ JAS Academy Summer Sessions, stumbles over just what to call the young musicians he oversees. He goes with “participants,” preferring that clumsy term over “students,” which seems entirely unfair for players on the cusp of professional careers.Accurately and artfully, we could refer to them as the future of jazz.The five groups, comprising 29 jazzers ranging in age from late teens to late 20s, are hand-picked by Jazz Aspen for 10 days of intensive study in Snowmass Village. The spirit of the sessions – master classes, group critiques, seminars – is something to see. The aspiring pros practically hang on the words of instructors like vocalist Nnenna Freelon, saxophonist and program director Loren Schoenberg, and bassist McBride. Those masters aren’t there just to teach about flatted fifths and diminished chords; the instructors represent where the younger players would like to be in a few short years. So talk about the music business, career moves and jazz culture make up a good bit of the exchange of information.The participants can also look at Summer Sessions past for inspiration. Pianist Jason Moran, one of the most exciting figures in jazz, attended the first Snowmass gathering, nine years ago. So did Ali Jackson, drummer for the Wynton Marsalis Quintet and an instructor this year.Listeners have several opportunities to hear for themselves that these are not students still learning their way around a fretboard or keyboard. The five combos – along with Los Angeles rap-funk band Ozomatli – are featured at tonight’s JASummerNight Swing event at Aspen Highlands, a benefit for Jazz Aspen’s educational programs. A more casual (and free) setting is Monday night’s Ribs & Jazz, at the Hickory House. The Sofia Koutsovitis Group, a Latin jazz octet led by Argentinean-born vocalist Koutsovitis, opens for New Orleans-based Los Hombres Calientes Wednesday at Belly Up.And if you happen to be strolling the Snowmass Village mall in the next few days, that music you hear from various corners and rooms is the next generation of jazz.
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