Thrills for the week

Thursday
April 11
Freudian slip: Author Robert Boswell didn't graduate with a double major in psychology and creative writing for nothing. His finely etched portraits of human relationships, the backbone of novels such as Crooked Hearts and the bestselling Mystery Ride, owe something to both disciplines. Boswell, who now teaches at New Mexico State University and divides his time between Las Cruces and Telluride, displays the right stuff for a recipient of the Evil Companions Literary Award, given annually by the Tattered Cover Book Store and Colorado State University literary magazine the Colorado Review to writers of note with ties to the West. The award--so named for a group of gregarious Denver journalists who once made a habit of knocking some back together (and sometimes discussing the trade)--will be presented to Boswell tonight at 6 at the Oxford Hotel, 1600 17th St., in LoDo. A gala dinner, complete with an appropriately dark, bitter Evil Companions Ale brewed by the Wynkoop Brewing Company, costs $35 ($60 couple); proceeds benefit the Review, a subscription to which is included in the ticket price. For reservations call 1-970-491-5449.

Friday
April 12
Power to the people: The four-part documentary series Chicano! The History of the Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement chronicles the rise between 1965 and 1975 of a grassroots movement that not only gained national prominence but also got results. The first two episodes, airing tonight at 9, explore a 1967 battle to regain control of ancestral New Mexico territory, led at Tierra Amarilla by Reijes Tijerina, and the farmworker strikes and grape boycotts masterminded by Cesar Chavez; next Friday's installments will highlight 1968 student walkouts in Los Angeles and the formation of a new political party, La Raza Unida. Tune in to Chicano! on KRMA-TV/ Channel 6; the entire series will be repeated at 8 p.m. April 21 and 22 on KBDI-TV/ Channel 12.

Eight o'clock jump: Classic big-band music, composed and arranged by jazz geniuses Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and others, is the main focus of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, which prides itself on re-creating those tunes to perfection. Directed by the brilliant Pulitzer-wielding historian, author and musician Gunther Schuller, the orchestra will stroll into the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl., tonight at 8 for an evening of "to-the-T" musical performances. Tickets are $13.50 and $18.50; call 830-TIXS.

All that buzz: "It'll be on my tombstone," area musician Michael Stanwood says with a chuckle: "'Nobody knows how to describe what you do.'" He also says his influences include "katydids in Singapore, frogs in Thailand and whales in the Arctic." But Stanwood's Buzz Band, an aggregate of musical friends playing an unusual arsenal of humming, droning and vibrating instruments from around the world, is really its own best illustration. The group performs on tabla, didjeridoo, berimbau, mbira and the like tonight at the First Divine Science Church, 1400 Williams St., and tomorrow at Unity Church, 2855 Folsom St., Boulder. Tickets to either show, both beginning at 7:30, are $10 ($8 students and seniors); call 333-4579 for information.

Saturday
April 13
Bendering the rules: Every town has its unsung heroes, and one of Denver's--at least on the cultural plane--has to be Phil Bender, self-proclaimed "Famous Artist," founder of the Pirate cooperative gallery and a reckoning force in the city's alternative-art scene for as long as we can remember. Now Bender and his playful works, brightly visual compositions of found objects, will be duly honored with an exhibit opening today in the Close Range Gallery of the Denver Art Museum, 100 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy. The special installation, utilizing Benderian street paraphernalia such as hubcaps, mudflaps and gloves found flattened on the pavement, can be seen through June 9. For information call 640-4433.

Juggling act: And a whole lot more. Performer Peter Davison doesn't just toss balls; the facile movement artist, who says his boyhood idols were artist Alexander Calder (whom you may remember for his carefully balanced, brightly colored metal mobiles and acrobatic bent-wire circus figures) and Batman (the dark guy in the cape and tights), combines dance and spoken word with the vaudevillian trade of juggling, creating what is really a new entertainment. Davison, a Boulder resident and founding member of Airjazz, performs solo tonight at 8 and tomorrow at 7 at the Changing Scene, 1527 1/2 Champa St. Tickets are $6 to $7; for reservations call 893-5775.

Sunday
April 14
Strange Days: Comic Czechoslovakian magician/juggler/acrobat Tomas Kubinek calls himself a "Certified Lunatic and Master of the Impossible"--a sure sign that his Fellini-esque performances are going to be a barrel of fun. Inspired by old-time masters of the sight gag such as Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy, Kubinek turns somersaults while balancing glasses of water on his forehead, clucks like a chicken while strumming a ukulele and otherwise clowns around. See him today at 1 or 4:30 p.m. at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd.; for tickets, $10, call 431-3939.

Fiddle-dee-dee: No way you're going to be able to sit still for more than five minutes at the Celtic Fiddle Festival II, tonight at 7 at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax. Featuring toe-tapping instrumental pyrotechnics by Scottish bowsman Brian McNeill, six-time All Ireland Fiddle champion Martin Hayes and, from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, 23-year-old Natalie MacMaster (who is also a mean step-dancer), the concert promises to be a major hoedown, spotlighting three distinct styles of fiery folk fiddling. Admission to the show is $15 ($12 Swallow Hill Music Association members); call 1-800-444-SEAT for tickets or 777-1003 for details.

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