What you need to know about the revamped Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Experience
IF YOU GO …
What: Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Experience
When: Thursday, June 20 to Sunday, June 23 (plus a bonus concert June 29)
How much: $70-$85 for single-day passes; $175 four-day general admission; $1,000 four-day VIP
Tickets & more info: jazzaspensnowmass.org
Junefest is the longest-running festival on Jazz Aspen Snowmass’s books, but for 2019 it’s also brand new.
The annual music festival, which traces its roots to 1991, has gotten a complete makeover. This year’s rendition, running Thursday, June 20, through Sunday, June 23, has left its longtime home in the Benedict Music Tent for a half-dozen main venues downtown. Gone are the bold-faced-name pop stars on the bill, replaced with more than 12 artists — a mix of veterans and up-and-comers from the worlds of jazz, blues, funk and soul.
There are living legends on the bill, like bluesman Taj Mahal (Saturday, June 22, at Belly Up), Stax Records hitmaker Booker T. Jones (Friday, June 21, at Belly Up) and vocalist Patti Austin (Friday and Saturday at the St. Regis). There are some of the hottest names in jazz, like Jacob Collier (Friday at the Aspen Art Museum) and Richard Bona (Saturday at the Aspen Art Museum). And there are artists who’ve wowed in sets at the JAS Café in recent years, like Bria Skonberg, Etienne Charles, Jose James, Jamison Ross and Wycliffe Gordon.
The festival opens Thursday night with the New Orleans funk and Mardi Gras Indian band Cha Wa at the Aspen Art Museum.
Most artists are playing multiple sets, many are playing multiple nights. So Jazz Aspen founder Jim Horowitz is hoping audiences will spend the night bouncing from venue to venue to see familiar acts and catch some new ones.
“The whole point is being in town,” he said. “The fact that everything is so close opens up options for people.”
Anybody who has attended a big multi-stage festival knows the game of studying the cubes on a big schedule and planning out your day. That’s the idea here. So on Saturday, for instance, you could catch the chilled-out guitar duo Hispanica at Skye Gallery at 6 p.m., then have the option to see Richard Bona, Patti Austin or Taj Mahal in the primetime hours, followed by Jose James’ Bill Withers Tribute at 9:30 p.m. and close down the night with Jamison Ross’s late-night show at Victoria’s.
Think about the discovery-centric, multi-venue experience of SXSW, or the wealth of walkable options at the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans. Add some altitude and you have the new Jazz Aspen June Experience. The new structure, new locations and the choose-your-own adventure format is a bid for the festival to bring a new vitality to a festival that had lost young audiences in recent years and been stifled by the staid environment of the Benedict.
“This format might bring young people back into the fold for June,” Horowitz said. “Sitting down in the tent is not the way that young people consume music.”
In addition to the nightly run of 10-plus concerts, the festival is hosting a lunch and panel discussion of artists in the Silver Circle tent Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and hosting a New Orleans-style jazz brunch there, led by the vaunted trombonist Wycliffe Gordon on Sunday at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
Single tickets are available for those events ($55 and $65, respectively). But otherwise, there are no single-show tickets available. Day passes grant you access to all the day’s shows on Friday or Saturday ($85) or Sunday ($70) and there are options for a four-day general admission pass ($175) and four-day VIP pass ($1,000), which grants you access to the bar and meals in the VIP tent at Silver Circle Ice Rink.
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