Stuck inside of Aspen with the autumn blues again?
Fall is when the local stars come out and shine – in the Aspen Art Museum’s Roaring Fork Open, in Aspen Community Theatre’s fall musical, in the Roaring Fork Jazz Party, and in various smaller venues and galleries.This year, however, the locals share the stage with some bigger names. The Belly Up’s autumn is practically a continuation of its eight-month existence to date, filled with high-profile shows. In Carbondale, Steve’s Guitars is likewise upping the ante. Aspen Filmfest sprinkles some genuine movie stars in with the indie flicks, stimulating documentaries and foreign films.And the strongest voice of the last 50 years of culture, Bob Dylan, is sure to get the valley – and the world – talking this month. Just in case last year’s memoir “Chronicles,” his appearance on “60 Minutes,” and the aptly named Never-Ending Tour were not enough, Dylan hits the small screen again with Martin Scorsese’s “No Direction Home.”
Wheeler Film Seriesthrough offseason, Wheeler Opera HouseWith the Wheeler Opera House given over to, of all things, opera all summer, local movie fanatics spend the fall playing catch-up on sub-blockbuster fare. So praise be to the Wheeler Film Series’ fall calendar, the antidote to another summer of mostly brain-free activity at the multiplex.September closes with a run of typical offbeat fare. “The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” a profile of a French hoodlum/concert pianist, shows Sunday and Monday, Sept. 18-19. The Academy Award-nominated “Kontroll,” a creepy comedy set entirely in Budapest’s subways, is set for Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 20-21. “My Summer of Love,” a suspenseful English, lesbian romance by Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski, closes the month Sunday and Monday, Sept. 25-26.Look for plenty more titles in October and November.Pierre Bensusan, Tuesday, Sept. 20Kelly Joe Phelps, Oct. 7Steve’s Guitars, CarbondaleTwo of the world’s hottest acoustic guitar pickers find their way to Steve Standiford’s jewel box of a music venue this fall. Stylistically, French artist Pierre Bensusan and Kelly Joe Phelps, a Pacific Northwest product, could hardly be more different. Bensusan is a finger-style instrumentalist whose music – as on his new CD, “Altiplanos,” – is sleek as marble. Phelps, who specializes in lap slide and sings as well, has the rawness of the Mississippi Delta, plus the spirit of a John Coltrane.Other dates of note at Steve’s: Milwaukee-born singer-songwriter – and another fine guitarist – Willy Porter (Oct. 13); and Canadian acoustic rock quintet the Clumsy Lovers (Oct. 16).
The MeetingThursday through Sunday, Sept. 22-25, Wheeler and Belly UpIt may be early to get fully psyched for ski season. Or maybe not. The Meeting, a new event, brings four nights of ski/snowboard films to the Wheeler and Belly Up, with filmmakers and downhill pros in attendance. The films come from the newer crop of production outfits: Poor Boyz (“War” and “Pop Yer Bottlez!”), The Bigger Picture (co-producers of “Pop Yer Bottlez!”), Standard Films (“Paradox”), Teton Gravity Research (“The Tangerine Dream”), 1242 Productions & the Community (“The Community Project”), and Level 1 (“Shanghai Six”).Burning Spear, Sunday, Sept. 25John Scofield, The Music of Ray Charles, Sept. 26Belly UpHere is how far Aspen’s music scene has come in 12 months: Last year, there was virtually no spot for late-night music; now we have back-to-back, late-September, top-quality shows – on a Sunday and Monday, no less.
With no theatrics, just a mesmerizing, spiritual presence, Burning Spear manages to be one of reggae’s most compelling figures. Born Winston Rodney in the same Jamaican village, St. Ann’s Bay, that produced Bob Marley, Spear draws his inspiration from Marcus Garvey, the Afrocentric early 20th-century black activist. At 57, the Spear is burning bright with a new album, “Our Music.”Jazz guitarist John Scofield seems determined to make himself welcome in every segment of the music world. He came to prominence with Miles Davis’ pop-flavored mid-’80s band, and won over the jam-band crowd with “A Go Go,” a groove album recorded with Medeski, Martin & Wood. His June trio show at Belly Up proved his credentials as a traditional jazzer. And Scofield’s recent CD “That’s What I Say,” a tribute to Ray Charles, is a superb mix of r & b vocals – by Aaron Neville, Dr. John, Warren Haynes and more – and powerhouse jazz. Handling vocals for the Ray Charles show is Meyer Statham, a Boston singer and trombonist.Other nights of note at Belly Up: very old-school soul band Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings (Wednesday, Sept. 21); San Francisco jam band New Monsoon (Oct. 5); blues-rock trio North Mississippi Allstars, touring behind their new CD, “Electric Blue Watermelon” (Oct. 6); New York groove trio Soulive, touring behind their new “Break Out” (Oct. 8); and electronic combo Crystal Method (Oct. 28).Expect many additions, and expect some of those to be last-minute.”No Direction Home” Sunday and Monday, Sept. 26-27, PBSFor its many merits, Dylan’s first-ever memoir “Chronicles” was idiosyncratic to say the least, focusing on such dusty corners of Bobology as the making of 1989’s “Oh Mercy.” “No Direction Home” promises even more: the two-part documentary focuses tightly on the years 1961-66, spanning Dylan’s move from Minnesota to New York, his defining appearances at the Newport Folk Festival, and the recording of “Bringing It All Back Home” and “Blonde on Blonde.” Promotional materials promise Dylan talking “openly and extensively” about this critical period, and previously unseen concert film. And for those scratching their head about the involvement of Martin Scorsese, recall that his films include “The Last Waltz,” with the Band (and a Dylan guest spot) and “Woodstock,” on which he served as assistant director.
Aspen FilmfestSept. 28-Oct. 2, events in Aspen, Carbondale and Glenwood SpringsAspen Filmfest is the town’s biggest offseason attraction. Still, going into its 27th year, Filmfest remains cozy, manageable and aimed at giving the townsfolk a taste of cinematic artistry.At center stage is director Rob Reiner, whose surprisingly impressive filmography – “Stand By Me,” “The Princess Bride,” “This Is Spinal Tap,” “When Harry Met Sally” – has earned him Filmfest’s Independent By Nature Award. Reiner will be honored at the Wheeler Sept. 30; the event includes an interview by actress Kathy Bates, who earned an Oscar in Reiner’s thriller “Misery.”Aspenite Bob Rafelson will present a conversation, Confessions of a Filmmaker, drawing on his experiences as groundbreaking director (“Five Easy Pieces,” “Mountain of the Moon”) and producer (“Easy Rider,” “The Last Picture Show”).On-screen highlights include “Capote,” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as writer Truman Capote researching the true-crime book “In Cold Blood”; documentaries about a revolutionary dance company (“Ballets Russes”) and the oppression of Tibet (“What Remains of Us”); “Transamerica,” starring Aspen product Felicity Huffman as a preoperative transsexual; and “Bee Season,” with Richard Gere and Juliette Binoche as a struggling couple.
Roaring Fork Jazz PartySept. 29, Silvertree Hotel, Snowmass VillageThe Roaring Fork Jazz Party has been swinging for 30 years, and this year’s event could hit a high point. The party joins forces with the Valley Jazz Concert Series, whose founder Maury Allen died this year. Among those paying tribute are Harry Allen, Maury’s son and a noted saxophonist, and cornetist Warren Vache. As it has for three decades, the Jazz Party is led by local pianist Walt Smith, whose band includes vocalist Kathy Morrow, trombonist Clark Gault, guitarist Ed Stevens, bassist Mark Grey and drummer Bert Dahlander. The daylong celebration of straight-ahead jazz includes an afternoon jam, cocktails, dinner, dancing … and more music.Musical Tribute to John DenverOct. 7-8, WheelerEight years in, and the producers of the Music Tribute to John Denver concerts are still finding new voices to celebrate the late Aspenite’s legacy. The Chad Mitchell Trio, the group with which Denver first came to fame, is featured Oct. 8 only. The trio is also celebrating its 40-year anniversary. Mike Taylor, who co-wrote “Sunshine on My Shoulders” and “Rocky Mountain High,” will appear both nights. Joining them will be the usual cast of Denver bandmates, co-writers and friends.
Michael Raaum, “String Dimensions” Opening Oct. 7, CMC Gallery, Glenwood SpringsBasalt painter Michael Raaum gets the spotlight in a solo exhibit of 23 new works. “String Dimensions” are a group of mixed-media, nature-based abstract paintings, loosely based on string theory concepts. The show runs through Nov. 28.Raaum is included in the current CMC Aspen group show; he will also be featured in an exhibit at Carbondale’s Alpine Bank, Oct. 3-14, and an accompanying auction, benefiting the Aspen and Carbondale Community Schools, Oct. 14 at the Roaring Fork Club. Raaum’s 2004 acrylic painting, “Three Part Harmony,” was selected for the poster image announcing CMC’s Callaway Honors Series of performances.Roaring Fork OpenOpening Oct. 13, Aspen Art MuseumThe pool of local artists get a boost this year from the Aspen Art Museum’s new director, Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson. Jacobson will meet with any interested participants to review three pieces of art and select one for inclusion in the Roaring Fork Open. Jacobson says the purpose is for her to get to know the local talent, but it can’t hurt the show to have her curatorial eyes survey the work beforehand.The Art Museum is also instituting its series of artists’ breakfasts during the Open. The first, on Oct. 24, Jacobson likens to an open-mike, with artists presenting slides of their work to peers and museum staff. The second, on Nov. 7, is a Show & Tell, with Jacobson and new assistant curator Matthew Thompson presenting slides of select art they’ve seen in recent months.
“Mélange”Oct. 14-15, Wheeler”Mélange,” presented by the local Hudson Reed Ensemble, is a trip back to the days of Vaudeville – but with several twists. For one, there’s no emcee. Instead, acts flow one into another, like the opening Latin number that segues into pianist Susan Nicholson’s theatrical take on “Moonlight Sonata.” Sure to be a highlight is Heather Morrow flying a 4-foot kite to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.””Scapin” Oct. 21-23 and 27-29, New Space Theatre, CMC Spring Valley campusTom Cochran directs CMC Theatre’s production of “Scapin,” adapted by Bill Irwin and Mark O’Donnell from the Molière’s comedy about a scheming servant and miserly parents.
“Pippin” Nov. 3-6 and 10-13, Aspen District TheatreAspen Community Theatre is bringing down the fourth wall with its production of “Pippin.” Mimicking the early ’70s musical’s element of a traveling performance troupe, the production will be staged as though a band of players has come to Aspen to put on a show. Thus, jugglers and the like will roam through the house before the story – about the son of Charlemagne, and his quest for ideal happiness – gets started. The music in “Pippin” is by Stephen Schwartz, recently acclaimed for “Wicked”; the original, thrust-heavy choreography by Bob Fosse is being toned down by ACT.The production is a complete blend of familiar faces and new blood. The behind-the-scenes crew, from director Wendy Moore to set designer Tom Ward to producers Rita Hunter and Jody Hecht, are all ACT veterans. Virtually all the principal players, including Paul Dankers as Pippin, are new to the company.Sunday performances, Nov. 6 and 13, are 2 p.m. matinees.Alasdair FraserNov. 10, WheelerFraser, regarded as perhaps the best of his generation of Scottish fiddlers, joins forces with young American cellist Natalie Haas for an evening of string explorations.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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