High Points: The sounds of summer at JAS Labor Day Experience

Paul E. Anna
High Points
Sting performs on Sept. 1, 2019, at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience in Snowmass Village.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

We are still a week away from the moment that St. Paul & The Broken Bones take the stage to kick off the 2022 iteration of the JAS Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience in Snowmass Town Park.

The Donor/VIP passes are already sold out … of course, they are. And, for good reason, as the JAS Aspen Snowmass team — headed by local legend Jim Horowitz — has once again put together a solid, three-night lineup of stellar performers. It is a given that the final, grand event of the summer season will once again feature great artists in an incomparable setting. There are likely (as of this writing) general-admission ducats still available, but I wouldn’t wait long. 

It was back in 1989 that Horowitz went to the Jazz Festival in the tiny village of Marciac, France, and thought that Aspen might be a good place to replicate the experience. He came home, and, in June 1991 — that’s over three decades ago, people — he hosted the first Jazz Aspen event in the Benedict Music Tent — the old Benedict Music Tent — welcoming jazz icons the Ramsey Lewis Trio. 

The first years saw an emphasis on jazz, but the lineup became more inclusive and eclectic over the summers with big names becoming the standard rather than the exception. Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt, Wynton Marsalis (six times!), Dianna Reeves (eight times!), Sting, Neil Young, Steely Dan … the list is a who’s who of the last 30 years of great musicians who have all graced the stages of either the June or the Labor Day shows. 

And yet, the beauty of JAS Aspen Snowmass often transcends the performances. It is truly about the experience of listening to live music in one of the most magnificent mountain settings for any summer musical event. People buy their tickets in advance and book their travel every year before they even know who will be headlining because they do know that just being there is the thing. The venue and the shows are impeccable, and, if you’ve been, you made a lifetime memory. 

This year will see evening shows headlined by Leon Bridges, Chris Stapleton and Stevie Nicks, who was scheduled to perform in Snowmass last year but cancelled her 2021 tour over Covid concerns. Parrotheads didn’t mind as Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band filled in the Fleetwood Mac-er in a concert that saw the return to Snowmass of the Experience after a one-year hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic. The silver lining on that cancellation was it that it reminded us just how important JAS Aspen Snowmass is to the community. The major concert events bookend the summer, and, over the years, the addition of the JAS Café series and the summer JAS Academy educational programs have enhanced the opportunities for locals and visitors alike to supplement their summers with outstanding music. 

Courtesy image

Everybody has their favorites, but I’m looking forward to the return of Birmingham, Alabama’s St. Paul & The Broken Bones, who are filling in for a late scratch by the Austin, Texas-based Black Pumas. The Pumas cancelled their entire tour earlier this month, giving the Bones an opening slot next Friday night at 6. It has been five years since St. Paul & The Broken Bones took the JAS Aspen Snowmass stage, but the eight-piece, southern-soul ensemble will have a moment in the sun at what should be another epic JAS Aspen Snowmass gathering. 

Get your tickets, and have a good time.


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