Where do we put all that jazz? | AspenTimes.com

Where do we put all that jazz?

Stewart Oksenhorn

Jazz Aspen Snowmass is on the road again.Jazz Aspen moved its June and Labor Day festivals this past summer to the Two Creeks area in Snowmass Village and the base of Buttermilk Mountain, respectively, due to reconstruction of the Snowmass Club golf course. Officials have announced that the organization is seeking approvals for new venues for next summer’s events.Jazz Aspen is planning to relocate the June Festival to Rio Grande Park in Aspen, and to return the Labor Day Festival to an expanded and reconfigured location in Snowmass Village.The 2003 June Festival is set for June 19-22, and the 2003 Labor Day Festival is scheduled for Aug. 29-Sept. 1.This summer’s Labor Day Festival at Buttermilk resulted in record crowds being drawn to a four-day bill that included Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Phil Lesh & Friends. While the venue worked well for the bigger crowds, Jazz Aspen executive producer Jim Horowitz said the Buttermilk venue was a one-time solution to the displacement caused by the golf course reconstruction.”It’s just not an option” to return to Buttermilk, said Horowitz. “The [Aspen Skiing Co.] deeded this land in Snowmass to make a permanent venue for us. The only reason they let us go to Buttermilk in the first place is because we were displaced by their work in Snowmass. It was only a one-year deal. They made that clear when we got Buttermilk.”The planned festival site in Snowmass will be enlarged to handle the growing audiences that Jazz Aspen has been experiencing for its Labor Day Festival.Two years ago, when a crowd of approximately 7,000 attended a Saturday concert featuring jam bands Blues Traveler and Big Head Todd & the Monsters, it resulted in what Horowitz called an “uncomfortable, wall-to-wall” situation.Thus, Jazz Aspen is planning to have the venue expanded by closing Brush Creek Road adjacent to the concert site, and incorporating the town park and soccer field across the road into the venue. Horowitz said the enlarged site would be roughly equivalent in size to the Buttermilk site, which easily handled the 8,500 concertgoers for the Bob Dylan performance.While the Labor Day Festival returns to familiar grounds, the June Festival will break new territorial grounds for Jazz Aspen. Rio Grande Park is a new venue for Jazz Aspen. And next summer’s concert there would mark the first time Jazz Aspen has held a festival near downtown Aspen since the earliest June Festivals were held in the Aspen Music Festival’s Music Tent a decade ago.Jazz Aspen is planning to use the same clear span tent in Rio Grande Park that it has used the past few years in Snowmass Village.The move to Rio Grande Park is, for the moment, a one-year solution. The June Festival had previously been held under a tent at the bottom of Snowmass Village, in roughly the same spot as the Labor Day Festival.With the reconstruction of the golf course expected to extend into June, Jazz Aspen needed an alternate location. Going back to the parking lot of the Two Creeks area was not an acceptable option.”We think Rio Grande Park is a better venue than Two Creeks, no doubt about that,” said Horowitz, citing the dust and concrete as drawbacks of last summer’s June Festival. “We think being on a piece of grass in Aspen is infinitely better than being on concrete in Snowmass.”While the Rio Grande plan is being looked at as a short-term solution, Jazz Aspen plans to make the most of the opportunity of staging a festival in downtown Aspen. Jazz Aspen hopes to present numerous JAS After Dark late-night performances around Aspen, and possibly even free afternoon concerts.Horowitz said he has not been too bothered by the festival shuffle. In fact, he has been encouraged to see attendance growing even as the venues have moved around the upper valley.”Unless you own land, it’s an occupational hazard. And this was a hiccup that we knew was coming. We knew there would be a few years of transition,” he said. “We feel good about the resilience of the organization. It gives us faith in this brand.”Still, Horowitz looks forward to the end of Jazz Aspen’s nomadic ways, which may be in sight.”This is the last year we’ll be dealing with any one-year decisions,” he said. “I hope.”Horowitz added that performers for next summer’s festivals will start being announced next month.