Four years ago, local guitarist Dave Devine was set to play his first set of music from Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti Western soundtracks at Dazzle jazz club. The Good, the Bad and the Dazzle show was something that he and Kevin Lee, a fellow guitarist who was the venue’s music manager at the time, came up with to coincide with the conclusion of the National Western Stock Show.
Devine says his first instinct was to show the parts of the films they were playing music from, whether it be Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West. But because of an equipment malfunction, Devine had to scrap the projections.
But it might have been for the better. A woman approached Devine after the first set and told him, “Do you know how nice it is to not have to look at anything and just listen to this music? I saw everything in my head if I needed to.”
Devine thought the music was strong enough to stand on its own. And, the woman added, “This music is never performed in this way.”
While Devine is an excellent jazz player (who we also named one of the best guitarists in Denver), his background in classical guitar as well as surf and twang, which his father played, made him appreciate Morricone’s spaghetti Western scores even more and have an immediate connection with them when he first heard the music. Like a jazz player learning a solo, Devine says he transcribed the songs by ear and just wrote parts out. Since he and his group play Morricone fairly straight, there’s not much room for improvisation.
“There’s no fancy stuff,” he says. “You have to just nail this. As someone who mostly improvises, it’s really fun to not have to do that, and it’s challenging in a different way.”
When Devine and Lee originally talked about the The Good, the Bad and the Dazzle project, Lee came up with the idea of doing it with a limited number of pieces that have the twang guitar, the whistling and the trumpet.
Over the last few years, these shows have become an annual tradition while also bringing in an entirely new crowd that Devine had never seen before.
“It was great, because they’re film buffs and Morricone heads,” Devine says. “They come back year after year, and it’s kind of a really fun thing. One couple has been to all of them, and he gets the tickets for Christmas every year from his wife. It’s the sweetest thing. It’s like we’ve created this nice little event that happens once a year. It keeps it kind of special that it doesn’t go on at any other point.”
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While keyboardist Patrick Lee and singer Tania Katz have performed the last three times with Devine, the guitarist will also be joined by Kneebody trumpeter Shane Endsley, who also performed last year, as well as three members of DeVotchKa: drummer and trumpeter Shawn King, bassist Jeanie Schroder and violinist and accordionist Tom Hagerman.
Devine worked with DeVotchKa on last year’s production of Sweeney Todd, and he says some members of DeVotchKa started asking him about his project and which songs he performed. “Careful,” Devine told them, “you’re going to end up in this thing.” And it turned out, he says, they played the instruments he was looking for, and “they love the music, and they’re just some of my favorite people.”
Hear the Good, the Bad and the Dazzle at 7 and 9 p.m. on Saturday, January 21, and at 6 p.m. on Sunday, January 22. Tickets are $15.