Taj Mahal hopes you will groove to his blues on Saturday.
Mahal, speaking in general terms, said that the “most frustrating” part about performing is doing so at a venue that lacks space for patrons to move to the music.
“I just think that that’s really crazy, because that’s a lot of energy to keep people not moving,” Mahal said in an interview this week. “That’s why I often times wear dark glasses or close my eyes while playing, because at least I can see people dancing in my head.”
Fortunately for Mahal and his fans, the quartet — headlining Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ June Experience that runs through Sunday — will perform with plenty of space for dancing at Belly Up on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
With a completely redesigned, multi-venue format, JAS’ June Experience is a major change for the 28-year-old nonprofit. For the full lineup of talented artists, local venues and times, visit jazzaspensnowmass.org.
“This is actually like a festival, not just one day or night,” Jazz Aspen Snowmass founder and president Jim Horowitz said. “It’s a festival, so on any given night, there really are 10 shows. If you wanted to taste everything, you could see 10 shows between 5 p.m. and midnight. You can do it; you just have to keep moving.”
The success of JAS’ more intimate café series coupled with patrons’ evolving interests in part fueled the June revamp.
Taj Mahal may play an old guitar, but his grooves are as fresh as any band out there playing…
“People like to go into town, it’s pretty simple, and what they like to do when they go to town, it’s not just one thing,” Horowitz said. Aspenites meet friends for drinks, attend a lecture, sit down for dinner, then see a show.
“It’s juggle, juggle, juggle, and this format is tailor-made for that,” he said.
Horowitz also looked to the HBO Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, which folded in 2007, as something of a model for JAS’ new three-day, four-night June Experience.
“It’s a real change for us. And what we discovered is that people really have been digging it,” Horowitz said, adding shortly after, “We want people to experience the fun of what I call mixing it up.”
With a celebrated, 57-year-musical career that crosses multiple genres and features scores of collaborations, Mahal knows how to mix it up.
Perhaps one way Mahal continues to keep things fresh is by constantly striving to surround himself with people who challenge and inspire him.
“If you’re in a room, and you’re the smartest person in the room, you know what you’re supposed to do, right?” Mahal posed. “Leave. You always want to be in the room with people who are smarter than you are.”
Mahal continued: “Musicians generally tend to be that way; that’s the way we are, outside of the money, fame, all of that stuff. You want to be around people who really inspire you. That’s what we’re excited by.”
Saturday marks at least five decades of serenading Aspen for Mahal, who first performed in the valley as a solo musician in the 1970s.
Asked what’s next, the Grammy-award-winning artist didn’t miss a beat: “More music.”