Music Showcase, Take Three

Nominated in Blues/R&B
7 p.m. McCormick's Fish House & Bar

As a member of the Elephant 6 collective, singer/guitarist Martyn Leaper, pop-rock-loving leader of the Minders, has had to learn that the organization moves at its own pace--and there's nothing much he can do about it. "Robert [Schneider, of the Apples] is producing a CD for us, but they're all so busy. We've finished up a demo on four-track, but when the whole thing is going to be done is anyone's guess." Fortunately for Leaper and his bandmates (bassist Mark Willhite, lead guitarist Jeff Almond and drummer Rebecca Cole-Leaper, who married Martyn last December), a sizable audience eagerly awaits the next Minders product. By virtue of two vinyl singles on Elephant 6, the most recent of which is called Paper Plane, the act has followings in locations as distant as Japan. (Rocket 58, a three-song vinyl EP, is due out on 100 GM, a Japanese imprint, by year's end.) Moreover, a just-completed tour of the West Coast turned out to be rewarding both musically and spiritually: "It felt like a vacation," says Leaper, a Brit who became an American citizen this year. The act hasn't played much in Denver lately in order to concentrate on a busy rehearsal schedule that, in Leaper's mind, has already started to pay dividends. "I would say we're growing and learning as musicians. We've been working very hard, mostly on harmonies, because I don't see too many bands doing that. Actually, harmonies have become the main focus of the band--and when that's executed in a successful fashion, it can become a very, very beautiful thing."

Nominated in Alternative
11:15 p.m. The Sports Column

"When I first came to Denver, I used to play the jazz clubs a lot," says Manuel Molina. "I'd play Latin jazz, because the Latino community wasn't that big then. But it got bigger, and when it did, I saw the chance to do other things." Today, Molina, who moved from his native Peru to Colorado in the Seventies, appears before the public under a number of guises. On occasion, he plays concerts accompanied by nothing other than his guitar. At other times, he delivers Latin jazz in the company of a quintet or a septet. And for special concerts, he trots out the Manuel Molina Orchestra, a jumbo-sized gathering whose swinging sounds appeal to audiences of every description. "We get Europeans, Latinos, black people, everyone," he points out. "It's wonderful to see everyone having fun together." For the past six years the orchestra has been the top attraction at March carnivals, and, as in the past, Molina promises that a significant part of the proceeds from Carnival '98 will be donated to Presbyterian/St. Luke's hospital, where Molina received a lifesaving kidney transplant in the late Eighties. He is in demand overseas, generally hitting hot spots in the Mediterranean and beyond on an annual basis, but he always enjoys coming back to Colorado. "I love Denver very much. This is my home."

Nominated in Latin/Tejano

Since their Eighties founding, the Jinns have been associated with country, roots-rock and rockabilly, and that's not likely to change anytime soon. But pianist/singer Pete Nalty, the man who makes the Jinns run, says that his latest batch of compositions are suffused with another important element that's frequently overlooked. "There's the typical Jinns signature guitar riff backed with a melody that's related to the signature riff, but a lot of it is leaning toward the Allen Touissant/New Orleans style. That's an influence that I think has always been there, because I've always liked listening to people like Professor Longhair and Dr. John. It's just more noticeable on the slow songs, and I've been into those lately." Nalty and fellow Jinns Gary Englund (lead guitar), Brad Lillard (guitar and vocals), Mike Mobley (bass) and Tim Molinaro (drums) will begin recording these compositions following what Nalty gingerly refers to as "a financial waiting period"; spring is targeted for their release. In the meantime, Nalty marvels at the robustness of the local roots-rock scene that, in many ways, the Jinns helped bring to life. "There are a lot of great bands. It's very consistent, and I think it's always going to be there. It's not going to go away--so if you don't like it, tough."

Nominated in Rockabilly/Roots
7:15 p.m. The Sports Column

Those who wandered into what was then called Flat Pennies during last year's Westword Music Awards Showcase and caught Nueva Imagen on stage received an earful of Mexican regional music, cumbia and romantic show-stoppers capable of thawing even the most frigid disposition. But eyes were filled, too. Charismatic, diminutive vocalist/bandleader Martin Bencomo, keyboardist/vocalist Mario Vega, bassist Alfonso Garcia, drummer Gabriel Camarena and guitarist/vocalist Jesus Ramos wore matching suits so flashy it was a wonder that the entire crowd was not blinded, and their moves were as flamboyant as the tiny stage would allow. With a CD (La Ultima Rosa [The Last Rose]) and numerous local television appearances to its credit, Greeley-based Nueva Imagen remains a live act to be reckoned with.

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