[Dixielandjazz] Jazz Aspen Redux
G. William Oakley
Sun, 1 Sep 2002 10:50:08 -0600
Here is the Denver Post review of Jazz Aspen's Labor Day Festival. Several
citings of Jazz Aspen but nothing discernible re: Jazz.
With a lot on her mind, Gray moves Aspen
By Mark Harden
Denver Post Assistant Arts Editor
Sunday, September 01, 2002 - ASPEN - No matter that a stiff, cool mountain
breeze was ripping through the crowd when she took the stage. R&B fireball
Macy Gray had the audience sweating Saturday night at the Jazz Aspen
Snowmass Labor Day Festival.
Gray - who created a stir with her acclaimed first album in 1999, "On How
Life Is" - headlined the second night of the four-day festival.
The throaty-voiced, wild-haired singer pumps her sassy-but-sophisticated
draught of soul-funk from wells drilled by Prince and Sly & The Family
Stone, with nods to the '60s Stax/Volt sound, Aretha Franklin, Bette Midler
and Nina Simone.
Gray had a lot on her mind and her heart Saturday, but the crowd didn't
learn that until later.
First, the red-velvet-clad vocalist roared through "Relating to a
Psychopath" - the leadoff tune from her latest album, "The Id" - followed by
"Sex-O-Matic Venus Freak," a churning rave-up that had the crowd of several
thousand on its feet, and "Why Didn't You Call Me."
Between numbers she led the audience in X-rated chants, shouted in praise of
the male anatomy and urged her listeners to start taking off their clothes.
But then, at midset, she paused to note a lovely rainbow over the eastern
mountains before revealing that her father had died two days earlier.
"Things don't last forever, but people do," she told the hushed crowd. "He's
here with y'all."
Her slowed-down version of her hit "I Try" during her encore - with lines
like "my world crumbles when you're not here" - became a tribute of sorts.
But Gray, thanking her cheering audience for "making it easy" to perform
despite her sorrow, also offered such spirited tunes as "Sexual Revolution."
Bluesman Keb' Mo' preceded Gray on Saturday in his third appearance at the
Aspen festival since 1998, this time joined by a full band.
The 50-year-old singer-guitarist finds a pleasing middle ground between
down-home blues and modern pop-friendly rhythms.
He sells the mixture with one of the most natural blues voices in the
So when Keb' Mo' sang the loping "Henry," asking the audience to "remember
if you can when cotton was picked by hand," the crowd embraced the sentiment
even if the experience was foreign.
And if "Soon As I Get Paid," his bluesy tale of the perils of credit
over-extension, made some struggling dot-comers in the crowd uneasy, they
didn't show it.
Earlier, Philadelphia funk trio G. Love & Special Sauce unleashed a sweaty
set, with the horn section from New Orleans' Dirty Dozen Brass Band joining
in for G. Love's tune "Rock 'n' Roll." "This Ain't Living" from the trio's
recent greatest-hits CD had the crowd up and chanting along.
Friday, on the JAS festival's opening night, jam-rock ruled as legions of
noodle-dancing fans greeted Phil Lesh & Friends - fronted by the former
Grateful Dead bassist - and opening act Gov't $bc $ec Mule. Even the Aspen
scenesters in the fenced-off reserved-seating area got into the act, shaking
what their mamas or their plastic surgeons gave them.
Lesh & Friends' three-hour set consisted of a handful of marathon jams,
soaring through shifting rhythms and styles while occasionally descending
into a recognizable tune (including tunes from Lesh's new album, "There and
Back Again," plus several Dead classics).
Throughout, the 62-year-old Lesh's dancing bass lines held their own against
the fluid guitar leads of Warren Haynes and Jimmy Herring.
The 42-year-old Haynes was Friday's marathon hero. Before his set with Lesh,
the singer-guitarist led his own band, Gov't Mule, through a warm,
well-played 90-minute set.
Haynes can play with the jagged, slashing authority of a Neil Young but with
a sweeter tone. Dave Schools of Widespread Panic sat in for the late Gov't
Mule bassist Allen Woody.
This year's Labor Day festival marked the debut of Jazz Aspen at a new site
at the base of the Buttermilk ski area. The event's traditional setting at
the ballfields in Snowmass Village was unavailable because of golf course
The event continues tonight with a rare festival appearance by Bob Dylan.
The four-day festival concludes Monday with sets by Willie Nelson, the Nitty
Gritty Dirt Band and Nickel Creek.
Read Mark Harden's next review of the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival
in Monday's Denver Post and her on DenverPost.com.