Fans of “Sons of Anarchy,” the TV series about an outlaw motorcycle gang, will recognize Curtis Stigers’ distinctive voice in the opening credits of the violent show. It’s an unlikely place to find a jazz musician.
But Boise, Idaho, is an unlikely place to raise one, too.
Stigers has a lot of mold-breaking characteristics, including the label of jazz musician itself.
“Fans of music are much more open to different styles of music and blurring the lines across genres than critics, publicists and record companies,” says Stigers. “Those groups want to put it into a box. … And that’s been the blessing and curse of my career, because I don’t fit into a box. I do make music that moves me and that works for me.”
That’s most obvious on his 2012 release “Let’s Go Out Tonight,” a 10-song album featuring the works of Bob Dylan, Eddie Floyd, Richard Thompson, Jeff Tweedy and Hayes Carl, among more. It’s the first album he’s put out since 2003 which doesn’t include any originals, yet he calls it his “most autobiographical” compilation.
Last year, Stigers went through a “painful divorce,” and this album reflects that.
“All of these songs tell a story and say what I was trying to say, yet I didn’t write one of them,” he says. “It makes sense because they’re all songs I’ve known and loved for a long time. When that happens, those songs almost becomes more of your song than the person who wrote it. It almost becomes their music. … It was a very personal thing and more of a tribute to finding a thread that connected them.”
This new chapter in his life adds another layer to his live show. Audience members who saw Stigers perform at the JAS Cafe last winter will remember a lively, fun and diverse show with moments of somberness counterbalanced with a sexy, playful side.
The material may have changed, but the man hasn’t.
“I hate to give away one of the best lines of the show,” he says, “but I usually say that the songs I sing are either really sad, or they are about sex.”
Spanning from folk to rock and pop to traditional jazz, Stigers is an appealing and approachable musician, who’s comfortable as a vocalist, songwriter, saxophonist and guitarist.
He was raised in Boise, Idaho, where he now resides with his son, after developing his career in New York for many years. Boise screams jazz like barbecue pairs with arugula. But, luckily legendary musician Gene Harris picked the unsuspecting town for retirement, and Stigers had the privilege of growing up under his hand.
On Tuesday nights, the Idanha Hotel hosted open jam sessions and Stigers often found himself playing alongside, and learning from, Harris. Years later, it would come full circle when they ended up on the same record label.
“So I grew up playing and learning from this master of jazz in one of the most unlikely places, a cow town,” he says. “He was a huge influence.”
Stigers also continues that tradition of jazz in Boise, playing a benefit show for the high school music department Feb. 22 before heading to Europe. Along with Harris, he attributes his success to a strong music program in the schools, where he learned to the play the saxophone.
Last year, when he played in Aspen he was just testing out a few of the songs from his new album during soundcheck.
For this weekend’s three-night, six-show run in Aspen, he returns with an album that “most closely reflects who I am as a musician and a person.” Another unlikely story.
Presented by Jazz Aspen Snowmass
JAS Cafe downstairs at the Nell
7 & 9 p.m.