The best jazz shows to see in Denver in October
Brian Culbertson headlines the Denver Jazz Fest.
The inaugural Denver Jazz Fest includes contemporary jazz stars like keyboardist Brian Culbertson, Hiroshima, who formed almost three decades ago, Horns of Plenty (featuring saxophonist Darren Rahn and flutist Althea Rene) as well as R&B singer Kenny Lattimore and the legendary Bay Area R&B, soul and funk act Tower of Power.
Kneebody has had many labels thrown at it, but none seem to fit. That said, the members of the transcontinental quintet (saxophonist Ben Wendel, keyboardist Adam Benjamin, drummer Nate Wood and Denver natives, trumpeter Shane Endsley and bassist Kaveh Rastegar) haven't exactly gone out of their way to make it easy for folks to pin down their shapeshifting sound, which is rooted in jazz, funk and rock. Thanks to a system of musical cues they've developed that allows each player to tweak nearly any element of any given song -- be it volume, orchestration, tempo or key -- the act's arrangements change constantly and zigzag through various vibes and moods.
While Eddie Gomez's eleven-year stint with legendary pianist Bill Evans was a milestone for virtuosic bassist, he's also had a chance to perform with other jazz luminaries like Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson and McCoy Tyner. Quite at home in the piano trio format, Gomez teamed up with Chick Corea and the late drummer Paul Motian on Further Explorations, which won a Latin Grammy last year from Best Instrumental album. For this pair of shows at Dazzle, Gomez is joined by pianist Stefan Karlsson, who has been performing with Gomez since 1996, and drummer Ed Soph.
Local trumpeter Ron Miles and former Denver native Bill Frisell have performed and recorded together on a number of occasions, but they've only teamed up with drummer Brian Blade a handful of times, including to record on Miles' latest disc, Quiver. One of the reasons this trio works so well is that its members share certain sensibilities, and here, their lyrical playing is beautifully understated. Their previous outings at Dazzle have been damn near magical. Word has it that the trio will be recording the follow-up to Quiver when Frisell and Blade are in town.
In the thirteen years since the Bad Plus has been together, the adventurous jazz trio has included cover songs on each of its recordings. Bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson and drummer David King have deconstructed and reimagined cuts by everyone from the Pixies and Nirvana to Bowie and Blondie. For All I Care, which featured vocalist Wendy Lewis, comprised mostly covers. But while the Bad Plus guys can turn other people's songs inside out and make them their own, they're each damn fine composers and virtuosic players in their own right -- as evidenced on earlier discs like These Are the Vistas, Give and Prog, but especially on 2010's Never Stop, the acts's first album made up entirely of original compositions. While Never Stop was a bold collection of ten originals that reflect the unit's fearless playing style, last year's Made Possible (also mainly originals) was equally as absorbing.
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