The title says it all: Fred Hess's new quartet CD on the Tapestry label, The Long and the Short of It, displays the entire breadth of the local saxophonist/composer's musical abilities, which draw simultaneously on the traditions and the broken rules of jazz. As Hess himself has said, "Gems are sparkling, waiting to receive some new polish." Wise words from someone whose influences range from Lester Young to Anthony Braxton. Hess is just the person to bring out that sheen. A music educator, prize-winning composer and veteran bandleader, he's the ultimate thinking man's player, a creative improviser with learned underpinnings. And he has a band to match helping out on the CD: The ensemble includes renowned Denver trumpeter Ron Miles, bassist Ken Filiano and former Either/Orchestra drummer Matt Wilson.
But there will be a slightly different lineup -- Miles, pianist Marc Sabatella, bassist Ken Walker and drummer Marc Dalio -- backing Hess when he performs the new set of self-penned tunes for a CD-release concert at the St. Cajetan's Center, Ninth and Lawrence streets, Auraria campus, this afternoon at 3 p.m. Admission is free, but the music will be freer; for information, call 303-556-3180 or log on to http://net.indra.com/~fhmusic/. -- Susan Froyd
The DCTC stages John Brown's Body
See poetry in motion tonight at the Denver Center Theatre Company's premiere performance of John Brown's Body, a theatrical adaptation of Stephen Vincent Benet's epic, Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War poem. "This is Laird Williamson's vision of what the poem would look like, and it's absolutely gorgeous," says Denver Center spokesman Chris Wiger. "As far as I know, it has never been done as a fully produced play before. There were certainly no scripts to work off of."
John Brown's Body opens tonight at 8 p.m. at the Stage Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex; a week of preview performances follows. The play officially opens on February 5 and runs through February 28.
"Over twenty actors will play or mention 239 characters, and it's set to music from the period," says Wiger. "I think that it's going to be especially interesting for history and Civil War buffs."
Ticket prices range from $16 to $43 and can be purchased online at www.denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100. -- Julie Dunn
Experiencing the Divine
Before Britney was even a bouncing baby, the '70s saw the Divine Miss M jiggling her jugs and cracking wise in cabarets. Once known as Bathhouse Betty (an homage to her start in New York bathhouses with a then-budding pianist named Barry Manilow), diva-esque Bette Midler has choreographed campy crass with songwriting class into a career spanning three decades. Midler has dusted off her award-winning ditties and is tiptoeing across North America in the Kiss My Brass Tour, which lands at the Pepsi Center, 1000 Chopper Circle, at 8 p.m. tonight. Audiences can expect Midler to go over the top with stage props, to boogie-woogie with Company B and to revive the comedic shmaltz of Delores Delargo, a mermaid in a motorized wheelchair. It's a sure Bette for a kick-in-the-sass good time. Tickets range from $43.50 to $154.00 and are available at all Ticketmaster outlets. Call 303-830-TIXS or visit www.cc.com. -- Kity Ironton