Turkish Delight

Bandleader Sam Bivens brings six decades of jazz history to Turk's Supper Club.

Bivens is the only one to wear a "gig suit," a fact he laments. "I prefer classy people," he says. "Denver is much, much different from New York. In New York you pay $25 to get in the door, you do not want to look at some guy's dirty shoes. Here you can see the Denver Jazz Orchestra for free, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be an elegant event." Yet the bric-a-brac appearance of the orchestra -- which regularly plays hotels, parties, weddings, conventions and community events -- is more a result of the ongoing search for the very best local players (hence the transient nature of its members) than a collective lack of good taste.

Of the DJO's original players, only a handful remain, Rodriguez, Al Hermans, Cam Martin and singer Gloria Holliday among them. Players come and go, get hired elsewhere or move away. But there's rarely a chair empty for long. These days, Bivens says, he's even managed to find a player in the rare odd young person who takes the time to actually study music theory. "The younger people coming to DJO have good taste, and they want to be with the best, just like the other players," he says. "In the DJO, you'll find all types: There's a tremendous number of Ph.D.s, airline pilots -- there's an RTD boardmember. People who are musically inclined seek this out."

Play it again, and again, and again, Sam: Denver Jazz Orchestra bandleader  Sam Bivens.
James Bludworth
Play it again, and again, and again, Sam: Denver Jazz Orchestra bandleader Sam Bivens.

At the foot of it all is Bivens, conducting and even dancing a little, his mouth moving almost unconsciously, uttering words like "zap!" and "pop!" as the horns hit, as the melodies kick in. When Bivens smiles, the players smile back. They watch him like children inhaling the simple movements of their parents.

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