Best Jazz Incubator 2004 | Dazzle Restaurant & Lounge | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Mark Payler

Over the past half-dozen years, Dazzle Restaurant & Lounge has bloomed into one of the most vibrant rooms in town, with live music seven nights a week and a schedule that moves deftly across the jazz strata and features many of the region's most accomplished players. But Dazzle has also become a breeding ground for the next generation of horn-blowers, time-keepers and bass-thumpers: The weekly Jazz Teen Idol is a showcase of up-and-coming artists with more musical talent than Kelly, Ruben and Clay combined. And Dazzle has even made beautiful music with non-profit groups, including the Wishing Well, which helps those with mental disabilities get back on their feet. An elegant, modern variation on the supper club, with a fine menu and cocktails a-go-go, Dazzle sparkles.

Since last October, a cozy nook on West Colfax called Angie's Place has featured top-notch local jazz performers such as singer Teresa Carroll, pianist/vocalist Ellyn Rucker and tenor saxophonist Max Wagner. The music, showcased on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, attracts a largely Lakewood crowd, and no one performs much past 11 p.m. But this unassuming little boîte has nice acoustics and a welcoming atmosphere, as befits a place that offers cappuccinos, lattes and pastries alongside its surprisingly wide-ranging dinner menu. Owner Angie Feighart doesn't go for glitz, and she doesn't book big names, but her homey outpost scores high for good cheer and good music.
The primary artist on the Aurora-based Mobstyle label is self-styled gangsta Don Blas, whose latest platter, The Modus, is one of the best-sounding rap CDs to come out of the Denver area in forever. As Don goes, so goes Mobstyle, and the quality of the company's first effort, which has received spins on KS-107.5 and other major commercial radio stations, bodes well for a bangin' future.
Since the late '70s, London-based Recommended Records, founded by eccentric musician Chris Cutler, has been the place that true connoisseurs of progressive rock turn for the latest and weirdest examples of this willfully edgy form. Prog continues to survive on the distant fringes of the music industry, and drummer Dave Kerman aims to give it a boost with ReR USA, the new American branch of Recommended Records, which he launched in Denver earlier this year.
At first Sci-Fidelity's website was principally a venue for the String Cheese Incident, Colorado's most extravagant gift to the neo-hippie crowd. No more. The success of the band has allowed the label to expand its roster to include Incident-related acts such as Comotion (a side project) and DJ Harry, as well as the jam-friendly collective Karl Denson's Tiny Universe and the Yonder Mountain String Band, a Colorado combo that builds upon bluegrass without burying it. Next up: A disc by Grammy winner Steve Winwood. That's big news -- and Sci-Fidelity is bound to get bigger.
Boulder's Tom Steenland has been putting out challenging avant-garde sounds on his Starkland imprint for over ten years now, and by keeping his product list modest in size, he's able to maintain high-quality music and packaging. Take Mystery Dances, by Robert Een, who uses voice and cello to create striking music that's occasionally reminiscent of jazz or world music, but is more often impossible to pigeonhole. Just like most other products that proudly bear the Starkland brand.
Headquartered in Bailey, the Capri and Tapestry imprints are the brain-children of Tom Burns, a jazz lover who's devoted himself to getting some of Colorado's finest musicians heard beyond the state's borders. His catalogue features material by saxophonist Fred Hess and trumpeter Ron Miles, both of whom appear on a bracing new Tapestry release, The Long and Short of It, credited to the Fred Hess Quartet. But Burns has also ventured beyond the neighborhood, making available platters by the likes of Louie Bellson and Lee Konitz, whose One Day With Lee was recorded in 2002.
Produced and distributed monthly by "your favorite muthafuckin' white boys," this CD, available free with a purchase at Independent Records, is the hottest mix disc available anywhere in Mootown. DJ Petey and Bedz -- both KS-107.5 mixmasters and members of the DJ collective Radio Bumz -- oversee nights at Bash, Avalon and several other clubs, and they make it their business to know what's hot in hip-hop and R&B. Follow the solid white lines.
For more than a decade, etown, taped each week at the Boulder Theater, has been a staple of better National Public Radio affiliates and commercial stations from coast to coast. (In these parts, it's heard Sunday evenings on KGNU, KBCO and KUNC.) The show, hosted by Nick Forster, of Hot Rize fame, and his wife, Helen, combines environmental talk with live performances by many of the nation's finest acoustic and Americana performers. Bluegrass Roots culls excellent samples of the title genre heard by etown listeners over the years, with several cameos by area favorites. Forster pairs with Nickel Creek's Chris Thile for "Woodchopper's Reel," joins Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, David Grisman and Tony Rice on "Train 45," and spends a "Blue Night" with Hot Rize; elsewhere, fellow Hot Rizer Tim O'Brien offers a fast-fingered take on "Hey Joe," assisted by string man extraordinaire Jerry Douglas. Ralph Stanley, Del McCoury, Sam Bush, Ricky Skaggs and others demonstrate their pluck as well, making the disc a first-rate edition to the growing etown catalogue.
That Blusom even exists is something of a fluke. Vocalist Mike Behrenhausen (who also drums with Maraco 5-0) and electronic specialist Jme (aka Jamie White, formerly of the late, lamented Acrobat Down) recorded the material that makes up their debut CD more as a creative exercise than a commercial venture. Fortunately, the folks at Kansas City's Second Nature Recordings recognized it for the original and invigorating music that it is. Cuts such as "On Glass" and "X-Photo" combine acoustic and synthetic instrumentation in a manner that's high-tech yet wonderfully human. This rare combination demonstrates how wise the members of Blusom were to Go Slowly All the Way Round the Outside.

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