There are few things better than being called a Jazz Town.As we sit here following the first night of Jazz Aspen Snowmass and a pair of performances featuring Jazz legend Herbie Hancock and the very talented Madeline Peyroux, one can truly say that Aspen is a Jazz Town. With capitals.Yes, we may be a ski town and a climbing town and a rugby town and a classical-music town. We may be all of those things and more, but thanks to the efforts of Jim Horowitz, this place ranks with others that support and love the sounds of America’s purest art form, jazz.Jim had a dream and, in 1991, he founded the festival in an effort to bring to this community the spirit and excitement that he had fallen in love with in Marciac, France, where he attended festivals in the past. Since that time, Jazz Aspen Snowmass has become a critical summer event here in Aspen, one that not only nurtures our souls but the coffers of the community as well.For that contribution, I consider Jim to be underpaid. Both papers over the last two weeks have published his salary as part of stories about nonprofits in this town. While it is fair game to do so, the repetition of the reports immediately before his busiest week of the year is, in my opinion, gratuitous. His salary is slightly above the national average for nonprofits, but there is an apples to oranges comparison in effect. Kind of like comparing the cost of living in Aspen to the rest of the country.Enough of the rant.Jazz Aspen Snowmass has grown to be so much more than just the concerts in the park. The JAS Academy, the winter performances, the local education initiatives – all of these help to preserve the future of jazz while, at the same time, enriching our valley.It takes more than a festival, however, to make a Jazz Town. We have a legacy. Looking back at the days when Freddie Fisher, yes, “The Fixer,” left his Schnickelfritz Band to come live in Aspen, we have had a connection to America’s music. Fisher used to gather a group of musicians to play in the old Red Onion, kind of like the way Steve Johnson and Sandy Munro gather their Celtic and bluegrass buddies today to play the Double Dog.And thanks to KJAX, we have jazz seven days a week on our local airwaves, including my personal favorite, Stu Huck, who has been spinning vinyl by the likes of Coltrane, Miles and Michel Legrand for years. There’s nothing like picking him up out of the sky on a tiny radio while camped out under the stars on a summer Thursday night.A festival, a history and an ongoing nightly broadcast. Those things all help to make Aspen a Jazz Town.
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