Big bands in cow town: When it comes to booking sophisticated jazz acts, you just don't have to be a teeming metropolis anymore. The University of Northern Colorado at Greeley, known for its progressive music program, proves that point this weekend by hosting the UNC/Greeley Jazz Festival, a massive jazz-band powwow matching high-school and college musicians from around the state with some big names in the business, such as Lou Rawls, Bela Fleck and talented Gil Evans protegee Maria Schneider. Today through Saturday, daytime clinics and performances featuring some of those names--along with saxophonist David Liebman and others--will be free and open to the public. But they're saving the best for a trio of more formal evening performances, taking place at 7:30 nightly at Union Colony Civic Center, 701 10th Ave., Greeley. Rawls joins UNC's Et Cetera ensemble tonight; Fleck teams up with the school's Jazz Combo tomorrow; and Schneider and Liebman work with more budding UNC musicians, as well as the USAF Falconaires; tickets are $14 to $24 per show. For information, call 1-970-351-2577; to reserve tickets, call 1-800-315-ARTS.
Go, you girls: It's a small gesture that goes a long way in the right direction. Take Our Daughters to Work Day lasts only twenty-four hours and probably won't shake up the world, but it might plant a positive seed in some young girl's mind. Enough said. So take your daughter--or someone else's--to work. And really make a day of it by booking yourself and your ward some seats at a special luncheon hosted by the Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce in honor of the annual esteem-boosting event. The luncheon, from 11:30 to 1 at the Best Western Landmark Inn Hotel, 455 S. Colorado Blvd., is designed to encourage participation by all attendees and will feature young speakers, members of the Colorado Xplosion pro basketball team, entertainment and souvenirs. Admission is $15; call 235-2766 for reservations.
An open book: Discovering the joys of reading will be a family affair at the Rocky Mountain Children's Book Festival, taking place today and tomorrow at Currigan Exhibition Hall, 1324 Champa St. Sponsored by the Colorado Center for the Book, the fest works on several levels, addressing educators, parents and children alike. You'll find an extensive array of children's authors, costumed characters, storytellers and other performers, local celebrities and activities galore from 9 to 6 each day--all absolutely free. For more information, call 839-8320.
Dueling bazoukis: What's an akshambela? In the southern Balkans, it means "evening rowdiness"--and what better word to describe the spirited music made by a group called Akshambela? Performing on a variety of instruments, from bazouki to tapan (a two-sided drum native to the region), and featuring member Ruth Hunter's breathtaking vocals, the trio plays mysterious and danceable melodies from regions of Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania. They'll perform tonight at 8 at Cameron Church, 1600 S. Pearl St.; for tickets, $10 to $12, call 733-1120 or 442-3117.
Stand-up guy: Believe it or not, there's more to comedian Bill Maher's world than Politically Incorrect. Not that there's anything wrong with the underground talk-show hit--as host to one disparate chat gang after another, Maher is sharp-tongued, quick-thinking and on the money when it counts most (not to mention strangely gracious, even when ideological chaos encroaches). But when he's away from the P.I. set, Maher likes to kick back and maybe even forget about the issues. Instead, he concentrates on just being funny, and it works. Maher delivers his refreshing stand-up routine--live and by himself--tonight at 8:30 at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl. Admission ranges from $21 to $35; call 830-TIXS.
Heaven is in your mind: English fingerstyle and slide guitarist Martin Simpson could easily transport an audience directly to cloud nine. He's simply one of the best acoustic pickers in the world, blending blues and British musical traditions into a lovely, lyrical brew. But throw Simpson together with his Band of Angels--in this case, a multi-instrumental bunch that includes his songwriting wife, Jessica Ruby Simpson--and you'll swear you've heard Gabriel himself at the pearly gates. Look skyward: The heavenly combo performs tonight at the Oriental Theater, 4335 W. 44th Ave., as guests of the Swallow Hill Music Association; local favorite Washboard Chaz opens the show at 8. Tickets are $12 ($10 Swallow Hill members); call 1-800-444-SEAT.
Litter-perfect: Garbage, garbage everywhere...so what are you going to do about it? The annual Glad Bag-A-Thon, a nationwide community clean-up program held every spring, makes it easy to lend a hand: Today from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., folks will gather to clean up parks, neighborhoods, public areas and school grounds around town during a local event sponsored by Keep Denver Beautiful. To volunteer, call 640-2900.