Best Jazz Recording 2002 | ExposedFred Hess QuartetCreative Improvised Music Projects | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Exposed is about as pure a jazz CD as you're apt to find: Like all Creative Improvised Music Projects offerings, it was recorded directly onto a computer without compression, echo or any post-production tampering. As a result, listeners can hear every nuance in regularly enthralling performances by saxophonist Fred Hess and his worthy associates: trumpeter Paul Smoker, bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Damon Short.
Dotsero bassist Michael Friedman reaches beyond his usual smooth-jazz audience with Swingset Jazz, an album of adaptations of children's standards like "I've Been Working on the Railroad." Though the album is meant to be educational as well as fun, Friedman may be able to trick kids into thinking it's just the latter. Whimsical and high-spirited, Swingset Jazz adds another volume to the relatively small body of jazz works for children.
We all know the altitude is to blame for everything, from a cheap pop-up at Coors Field turning into a tape-measure home run to the somewhat sorry state of sushi. But since when did it cause locals to become hard of hearing? What else could explain the release of a disc as engaging as the Czars' The Ugly People vs. The Beautiful People receiving less local coverage than John Elway's latest post-retirement hobby? Much of Europe is already wise to this release, which has landed the Czars in the pages of cross-Atlantic publications from Time Out to Mojo. On the disc, lush, melancholy vocals beautifully color such stellar tracks as the lilting "Lullaby 6000" and the hypnotic "Drug." Hometown crowds should join the Beautiful People.
Former Jux County frontman and current Czar Andy Monley released Denver, his first solo CD, in January. A collection of songs Monley wrote in his downtime over a couple of years, the album features guest cameos from a fine group of local players, including guitarist Janet Feder, Mike Serviolo, Monkey Siren's Glenn Taylor and Mark Harris and the Czars' John Grant and Chris Pearson. Denver is melodic, moody and nearly perfect. We wish the whole city sounded this good.
Those who've resisted the charms of Dressy Bessy in the past complained that the four-piece's music was too cute, too sweet, too cuddly. But on Sound Go Round, too much feels just right. Each ditty here is an irresistible hook-o-rama whose allure is magnified by lead singer Tammy Ealom's winsome crooning and guitarist John Hill's unfussy production. Anyone who can listen to this disc without smiling has some issues in need of resolving.
Singer-songwriter/guitarist Marc Benning understands that power pop only succeeds when its two primary components are kept in perfect balance -- and on Stop, he achieves his aim more often than not. "Get Out Alive," "Caroline," "Smoke From a Funeral" and many other tracks here are compulsively hummable without seeming wimpy, and they rock with conviction that never degenerates into mere dopiness. This Satellite is flying high.
When the members of All relocated to Fort Collins, many observers of the scene didn't expect them to stay there for long -- but seven years later, they're still in place, and they've created quite a scene around their studio, the accurately named Blasting Room. Live Plus One, their latest effort, definitely provides bang for the buck. Its first disc is a relentless rendering of 22 songs recorded at Fort Collins's Starlight Lounge last year; its second finds punk demigods the Descendents (three current members of All plus original vocalist Milo Aukerman), blitzing through another 21, including classics such as "My Dad Sucks," during a gig at L.A.'s Whiskey A Go-Go in 1996. Punk rock lives!
Drag the River's Chad Price is the lead vocalist of All, and colleague Jon Snodgrass hails from Armchair Martian -- so Closed must be high-energy punk, right? Not even close. The album is filled with hard-drinking tales of life and loss accompanied by plenty of cohort Zach Boddicker's pedal-steel. It's not country, it's not rock, and it's not a combination of these genres that any of the Eagles could relate to. Instead, it's gutsy, sincere music straight from the heart -- and the bottom of a bottle.
During Five Iron Frenzy's years of existence, ska has gone in and out of style (and given the success of the No Doubt single "Hey Baby," it may be on the rise again). But the band has stayed steadily on course, developing a tight, exciting variation on the style. The membership's Christian beliefs sometimes surface overtly, as on "Far, Far Away," but tunes like "Pre-Ex-Girlfriend" ("She said she hated Kenny G/That girl is way too good for me") will hit the pleasure spot for listeners of every stripe.
The concert that singer-songwriter Rickie Lee Jones gave at Red Rocks on July 5, 1990, is brand-new all over again, thanks to Live at Red Rocks, Artemis Records' recent release. Although On Hold at Red Rocks might be a more accurate title, the CD is authentically enjoyable, a quick trip back to the late '80s, when Jones released her classic Flying Cowboys. Chuck E.'s in Love -- and so are a lot of other people who listen to this.

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