Walk this way: The 2022 JAS June Experience returns to the Aspen core
What started as a spark of an idea to get people up and out of their seats led to a big change for the Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Experience in 2019.
Moving the lineup of shows from the Benedict Music Tent, where the event had been held for a decade, to a mountain-town-style take on the New Orleans’ French Quarter Festival resulted in “a complete reinvention of what JAS June meant for 29 years,” said founder, president and CEO Jim Horowitz.
It also meant inviting audiences to take what the JAS team referred to as “a soul stroll.”
This reimagined, street-festival-style format returns in full force — and capacity — since before the pandemic, kicking off Thursday, June 23 with VIP cocktails, dinner and show at the Aspen Art Museum (which is currently sold out).
General admission activities begin Friday, June 24. They occur over two days and in nearly a dozen venues around the Aspen downtown core. The closing event, a gospel brunch on Sunday, June 26, featuring Niki Haris and Wycliffe Gordon, is also sold out.
While donor passes are already spoken for, Horowitz said there’s still a great opportunity for ticket buyers to get their musical fill.“Every night as a general admission pass ticketholder, you have nine venues and 18 shows to choose from,” he said. “The beauty of it is the way that the performances are staggered.”
With performances beginning as early as 5:30 p.m. and ending at midnight, one goal was to encourage listeners to experience a wide variety of music over a condensed period of time, allowing them to set their schedules while still incorporating a little spontaneity.
JAS will return to one of its mainstay venues, Sterling Club Aspen, which acted as a previous home for the JAS Café when it housed the former Cooking School of Aspen.“It’s the perfect place for a small music experience,” he said.
Sterling will also be the spot to continue that New Orleans vibe, hosting the Low Down Brass Band, which he calls a “great party band.” The band performs two shows each on two consecutive nights.
In addition, this year’s event will be held across several never-before-used JAS venues, including Bad Harriet, Felix Coffee Roasters, Here House, the Limelight Hotel and the W Hotel.
Intended as a fully walkable event, attendees are encouraged to experiment and be open to bands or artists they may not have heard before.
“What it’s about is being on foot, following your nose, following your ears, following your heart,” Horowitz said.
It’s also about creating a personal playlist, of sorts. Choose between two Kamasi Washington shows at Belly Up, or a couple of rounds of Take 6, which first performed with JAS in 1992, at the Wheeler Opera House. Then check out a number of smaller, intimate venues and acts, mostly duos like The Baylor Project, which plays one night only at the Limelight, or trios like the Delvon Lamar Organ Trio, which last came to Aspen in 2020 and plays a single show at the JAS Café.
The aim was to stick to the JAS programming philosophy of inviting artists who have a long relationship with the organization and the community, as well as showcasing musicians that local audiences may have never seen performing live before, such as Jontavious Willis. The traditional blues soloist guitarist is well-suited for the “living room-style” space at Felix Coffee Roasters, Horowitz said.
If you’re looking to preview any artists in advance of plotting your aural agenda, you’ll find several acts’ bios highlighted on the JAS website. Many include online video samplings of performances, such as previous recordings of National Public Radio’s popular Tiny Desk Concerts.
But can you still get a ticket?
“Yes, you can,” Horowitz said. “This is hands-down the best deal of any general admission ticket we have. We went out of our way to keep these prices affordable and accessible and to encourage people to really discover unbelievable talent in an intimate setting.”
Ticket purchases support JAS’ programs, and tickets are cheaper than a flight to the Big Easy — and (almost) just as fun.
The annual Sardy House Christmas tree lighting was held on a snowy Sunday, Dec. 3. Locals and visitors alike drank hot chocolate and ate cookies as they awaited the holiday tradition.