THRILLS

Wednesday June 21 Horn of plenty: The Creative Music Works wraps up its swell jazz and improvisation series at Vartan Jazz in appropriate style. Trumpet player Leslie Drayton, who's been heard out in the real world working with everyone from Marvin Gaye to Nancy Wilson to Earth, Wind and Fire, will bring his eclecticism with him, scattering jazz, R&B and even some hip-hop into the mix, tonight at 8. Admission is $5 ($4 CMW members); call Vartan Jazz, 231 Milwaukee St., at 399-1111 for information.

Thursday June 22 Show your colors: Tonight's the night for multicultural fare, both entertaining and edible. The ListenUp town concert series, brought to you by the same folks who book the Denver Botanic Gardens, kicks off tonight at 7:30 with Zaire's Papa Wembe, who will offer a mixture of rock, blues and danceable African soukous music at an exciting new outdoor venue in downtown Denver--the Open Air Common, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. Call 777-7372 for tickets; they're $15. At the Chautauqua Auditorium, 900 Baseline Rd., Boulder, the Armenian Little Singers--a spirited choir interpreting folk music, classical pieces and hymns in celebration of the United Nations' fiftieth anniversary--sing at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $10 to $15; call 440-7666 or 830-TIXS. Closer to home, a unique cultural exchange of African-American and Jewish traditions, Liberty and Justice for All, takes place at 7:30 at the Houston Fine Arts Center, Montview and Quebec. Where else can you hear a rousing gospel choir and a Jewish cantor in the same room at the same time? The night will be rounded out with storytelling, poetry and more music; for tickets, $10 ($5 students and seniors, $25 patrons), call 871-3795. And remember we mentioned the possibility of food? You'll encounter some of the best open-air eats around at the annual Greek Festival, beginning at 4 this afternoon and continuing through Sunday at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 4610 E. Alameda Ave. Once there, you can wander through a Greek bazaar, clap your hands along with the Kleftes folk dancers and polish off your gyros, dolmas and baklava to the tune of some sizzlin' bazoukis. Admission is a buck. Or three bucks after 9 p.m., when the retsina flows and the dancing gets hotter.

Friday June 23 The magic busk: Climb aboard! The 16th Street Mall will be busking out all over again when the Denver International Buskerfest returns today, bigger than ever, for its third year. A veritable street circus, the fest attracts a global menagerie of clowns, jugglers, acrobats, magicians, fire-eaters, giant puppets and every sort of novelty performer imaginable, who all do their thing at any of several stage areas, called BuskerStops, parked along the mall's expanse. In addition, folks can refresh themselves at the Busker Alley beer garden (kiddie beverages will also be available) at Arapahoe St., and children can camp out at the MEDIA PLAYground, new to the Buskerfest this year and located between Champa and Curtis streets. Events take place between 11 and 8 today and tomorrow, and 11 and 6 Sunday; nonstop performances begin at 11:30 daily. The best thing about it? It's free. Call 571-8200.

Nashville cat: In Nashville, you could do worse than to take your cues from the country-rock smarts of Dwight Yoakam. And Orbison-voiced Texan George Ducas has it down--his intelligent blend of old and new influences, from Buck Owens to the Rolling Stones, not only manages to please the public, it pleases the discerning critics, as well. And to think this guitar-strumming Vanderbilt grad might have ended up in bank management instead of a ten-gallon hat! Ducas appears tonight at 8:30 at the Grizzly Rose, 5450 N. Valley Hwy.; to reserve tickets in advance, call 295-1941.

She's no angel: Harp virtuoso Deborah Henson-Conant will get off of her cloud tonight at 8 at the Swallow Hill Music Hall, 1905 S. Pearl St. And when she does, she won't be winging it: Henson-Conant's eclectic repertoire swings comfortably from jazz to folk to boogie to classical, performed wittily--and with extreme gusto--on harps of all sizes. One listen and you'll leave all your pretensions about harp playing right at the door. Admission is $10 ($8 members); call 777-1003 for information.

Saturday June 24 Out and about: Singer-songwriter Janis Ian began her career at an age when most of us are still eating cotton candy at the mall--she wrote her interracial-love lament, "Society's Child," which became a huge mid-Sixties hit, when she was a wee fourteen years old. The pressures of business and early sophistication took their toll, however, and over the years Ian seesawed between seclusion and the public eye, picking up a couple of Grammys and coming out of the closet along the way. She'll be joined by fellow singer Holly Near, a consummate performer unafraid to raise her voice for political causes, tonight at 8 at Chautauqua Auditorium, 900 Baseline Rd., Boulder. Tickets range from $16 to $21; call 440-7666 or 830-TIXS.

Too much fun: You won't be able to walk the streets of Vail this weekend without laughing. More than fifty comedians will be taking the floor during the Vail Comedy Festival, which began Thursday night with several new-faces showcases. The talent thickens today and tomorrow, though, when Garton's Saloon hosts one headliner after another (noon-7:45 today, noon-11:30 tomorrow), goofy golfers--including Soupy Sales, Dick Gregory and Stephen Wright--tee up for a Legends of Laughter Celebrity Golf Classic (today through Monday), and Bad Girls of Comedy, a gala all-girl capper with Judy Tenuta, Pam Stone and Simply Marvalous, hits the Ford Theater stage (tonight at 8). Tickets for most events--available by calling Garton's, 1-970-479-0607--are $5 (an exception is tomorrow night's Gay/Straight Debate, $7). Admission to the Bad Girls event is $12 or $18; call 830-TIXS.

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