While January had some stellar shows like Joe Lovano Us Five, February is poised to be an utterly fantastic month for jazz in the Mile High City, especially with shows like the Ron Miles Trio featuring Brian Blade and Bill Frisell at Dazzle, plus dates from Fred Hersch Trio, Kurt Elling, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Rudresh Mahanthappa, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and more. Keep reading for a full rundown of the ten best jazz shows in Denver this month.
10. BIG BAND BOOGIE @ MERCURY CAFE | SAT. 2/16 Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts is helping keep jazz alive by trying to grow new audiences, as well as train young jazz musicians. The organization's annual Big Band Boogie Bash is an effort to breathe new life into big band music. This year's event features more than 130 musicians performing in six college bands and three high school groups, including ensembles from Metro State University, Colorado State University, CCJA, University of Northern Colorado, DU Lamont School of Music, Kent Denver, CU Boulder and Fairview High School.
9. DALE BRUNING TRIO @ DAZZLE | SAT, 2/9/13 While Dale Bruning has more than four decades of teaching guitar (Bill Frisell was one his more famous students) under his belt, he's also a heck of jazz guitarist himself. With a fluid, lyrical approach that echoes that of Jim Hall, Bruning is a consummate improviser. His most recent effort, Just Between Us, features Frisell and bassist Michael Moore. Tonight he's joined by bassist Mark Simon and drummer Chris Lee.
8. JANINE SANTANA & RICHIE COLE @ LANNIE'S | TUES, 2/5/13 Since last fall, MaryLynn Gillaspie (former vocalist of Rare Silk) has been hosting a great jazz series at Lannie's on the first Sunday of the month. This month's show, which was moved to Tuesday because of the Super Bowl, features percussionist Janine Santana, who's equally deft at jazz, Afro-cuban and funk, and legendary jazz alto saxophonist Richie Cole. They'll be joined by trumpeter Gabe Mervine and timbale player Jose Madera (who's performed withTito Puente and Mambo Legends Orchesta), pianist Eric Gunnison and bassist Mark Diamond, and Gillaspie will join the group on vocals.
7. BILLY CHILDS JAZZ-CHAMBER ENSEMBLE @ NEWMAN CENTER | TUES, 2/5/13 Early on his career, Billy Childs got a chance to apprentice with jazz luminaries Freddie Hubbard and J.J. Johnson in the late '70s and early '80s. Over the last two decades, the Grammy-winning pianist and composer has released a number of his own albums under his name. While he's an outstanding jazz pianist, he's also fused jazz and classical music on 2006's Lyric, Vol. 1, as well as 2010's Autumn: In Moving Pictures, Vol. 2. Expect some gorgeous tonal colors from this ten-piece ensemble.
6. PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND @ BOETTCHER | SAT, 2/9/13 Preservation Hall is one of the few pillars of old-school New Orleans-style jazz left in the world. The band, which was founded over five decades ago, has a style that's bouncy and upbeat, borrowing from Caribbean rhythms. At Boettcher, the band, which usually includes traditional Mardi Gras songs and old standards in its sets, is slated to team up with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.
5. KURT ELLING QUINTET @ DAZZLE | TUES & WEDS, 2/12-2/13 With a number of Grammys under his belt, as well as being named "Male Singer of the Year" by the Jazz Journalists Association eight times in the last decade, Kurt Elling is one of the world's top jazz vocalists. The guy's got skills: In addition to stretching his warm baritone over four octaves, he's a mad scatter who's deft in vocalese. On his most recent effort 1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project, he interprets songs that were part of that legendary building's sound, cuts like "On Broadway," "Come Fly With Me" and "A House is Not a Home."
Steve J. Sherman
4. FRED HERSCH TRIO @ DAZZLE | THURS & FRI, 2/7-2/8 Early on in his career, pianist Fred Hersch played as a sideman to jazz legends like Joe Henderson, Art Farmer and Stan Getz in the late '70s. Since then, he's gone on to release a number of albums under his own name, while also proving that he's a masterful improviser. On his most recent effort, the two-disc Alive at the Vanguard, released last September on Palmetto, the five-time Grammy nominated pianist is in superb form running through new original compositions, as well as tunes by Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins and Cole Porter.
3. KURT ROSENWINKEL QUARTET @ DAZZLE | SAT & SUN, 2/23-2/24 Guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel is a damn fine improviser, and his attack on the notes is strong; he makes each note ring through. Whether he's running through fluid Allan Holdsworth-inspired legato lines or laying down his own unique riffs, Rosenwinkel has a tone that's as distinctive as his phrasing. He also has a unique approach in which he uses a lapel mike to ghost notes with his voice, which he says gives a human quality to the sound, not just the guitar. His latest two-disc effort, Star of Jupiter, is possibly his most daring recording of his two-decade long career.
2. RUDRESH MAHANTHAPPA @ DAZZLE | TUES & WEDS, 2/26-2/27 Growing up in Boulder, Rudresh Mahanthappa got an early start on the saxophone and studied with Mark Harris, who opened him to a wide variety of music, before heading to Berklee College of Music and DePaul University to study music. Since moving to New York in 1997, the innovative Mahanthappa has gone on to release a number of recordings, either collaborating with others or under his own name, including his brand new album, Gamak, where he melds Indian and Middle Eastern styles while there are still jazz undertones. At Dazzle, he'll be joined by guitarist David Fiuczynski, bassist François Moutin and drummer Dan Weiss, who all appear on Gamak. Expect some intricate and fiery improvisations.
1. RON MILES TRIO @ DAZZLE | FRI & SAT, 2/15-2/16 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.
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