Best Jazz Club 2007 | Dazzle | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Mark Payler
Going strong for a decade now, Dazzle has become synonymous with jazz in the Mile High City. Whether the club is spotlighting dynamic local talent like weekly residents Ralph Sharon, Rehka Ohal and Pat Bianchi or showcasing internationally renowned artists such as Slide Hampton, Richie Cole and Bob Dorough, the club is bursting at the seams every night of the week. Owner Donald Rossa has worked tirelessly to create what has consistently been recognized as the ultimate destination for jazz lovers -- not just by Westword, but by Downbeat magazine, which has once again hailed Dazzle as one of the 100 best jazz clubs in the world. Anyone who's been there can tell you that the accolades are well-deserved. Plus, Dazzle has a great menu and a killer happy hour. Best jazz club in Denver? This one's a no-brainer.
Evan Semón
Joshua Trinidad has a handle on jazz. As host of the Thursday-night Jazz Odyssey show on KUVO, the guy regularly gives spins to cats like David Murray, Matthew Shipp and the Bad Plus. The inventive trumpeter and his Sputter bandmate, drummer David Kurtz, have teamed up as Cougar Legs to host Monday-night jam sessions at the Meadowlark, in which like-minded players come down to improvise together. Monk and Dizzy once turned Minton's Playhouse on New York's 52nd Street into a bebop laboratory, and the Meadowlark just might be the Denver equivalent. It's the type of place where cats who've never met can vibe off each other in an exploratory setting. The jam has grown by word of mouth over the past few months, even attracting non-jazz-centric players.
As if musicians needed another reason not to make it into work. The Tantrums Jam, hosted each Wednesday night at Kokopelli's by Tempa Singer and her Tantrums bandmates, has become the mid-week gathering place for local players to get loaded and get down. While guitarists currently make up a majority of the jammers, a fair share of drummers, bassists and singers also make it out for the impromptu performances. So whether you're itchin' to unleash your pipes on jump-blues cuts like "Caldonia" or jonesin' to shred on tunes like "The Sky Is Crying," there's bound to be someone who's willing to throw down. And if that weren't enough to entice you, catching an eyeful (and earful) of the fiery Singer should seal the deal. The stunning homegrown diva has shared the stage with legends like B.B. King and Jeff Beck -- and she might share it with you, if you've got the chops.
The drummer is the backbone of a band, holding everything together, and the Denver Drum Collective wants to make that spine stronger. Think of it as a chiropractic session for any drummer interested in sharing ideas and gaining new skills. The DDC has already brought legends Stanton Moore and Zoro to the Walnut Room for clinics, and future events are in the works. DDC also welcomes bass players, guitarists and anyone else to stop by and feel the beat.
Hard to believe, but as recently as nineteen years ago, very few of the ski bums negotiating the slopes of Aspen and Telluride gave a damn about Phish. Hence, some of the mountain-town club gigs documented on Colorado '88, a three-CD set available at, were attended by fewer than ten people, as is obvious by the paucity of clapping at the conclusion of epic jams like "The Curtain With" and "You Enjoy Myself." Despite the small crowds, though, Trey Anastasio and his fellows exhibit so much youthful exuberance that even Phish haters may find themselves grudgingly giving props. Throughout, the sound is much better than typical '80s bootleg quality, and the liner notes, complete with a shot of the players mugging beside the rustic road sign that marks the state's border, will spur instant nostalgia among local fans -- not to mention regret that they missed these shows the first time around.
In punk-rock years, 8 Houses Down is like a dinosaur. The recording studio, headed by engineers Jeff Merkel and Matt Van Leuvan, has been a staple in the underground scene for over a decade. Its client list reads like the index to a scenester yearbook, with such alumni as Planes Mistaken for Stars, Pinhead Circus, the Gamits and a long, long list of others. Just about every notable punk/hardcore band that has ever called the Mile High City home has banged out a couple of tracks at the 8 Houses studio at one time or another. With a recent move from its longtime digs in Five Points to a shiny new space on Walnut Street, 8 Houses shows no signs of going extinct anytime in the near future.
Needlepoint Records is less of a label than a collective of bands and friends working together to produce top-notch rock and roll. Based in Denver, the little label that could has chugged out a number of stellar local discs by acts as varied as Everything Absent or Distorted, Rabbit Is a Sphere and Cat-A-Tac. Employing the basic principles of a utopian communist regime, every bandmember acts as an owner, operator and financer of the label. On its MySpace page, Needlepoint sums up its musical objectives in one concise sentence: "Art should never be about competition." Damn straight.
For the past five years, a local indie label has been quietly filling its mantel with Grammy awards for its Native American recordings. Last year, Boulder-based Silver Wave Records took home a Grammy for its compilation Sacred Ground -- A Tribute to Mother Earth, while this year, the multi-talented Mary Youngblood picked up a statue in the category of Best Native American Music Album for Dance With the Wind. Founded two decades ago, Silver Wave has carved out a niche with its Native American music, issuing recordings by artists such as Peter Kater, R. Carlos Nakai, Joanne Shenandoah and Robert Mirabal, among others. And while those recordings remain its bread and butter, the imprint also offers a number of world-music and new-age recordings.
Although Born in the Flood's debut full-length was one of the most hotly anticipated local discs in years, few expected the quartet to top the watermark it had already reached with The Fear That We May Not Be. The act had all but cemented its renown by delivering
transcendent live shows with stunning regularity, and most listeners predicted that Flood had peaked. If This Thing Should Spill, released this past February on Morning After Records, proved them wrong by being the band's finest work to date -- fit to be included in the pantheon of all-time greatest local albums. Yeah, it's that good. Spill's guitars careen and caress with equal abandon, and together with the robust bass lines, dynamic drums and vibrant keys, they form a solid and captivating foundation for Nathaniel Rateliff's enthralling, emotive vocals to reach skyward. These days, "brilliant" is a word that gets thrown around indiscriminately -- but in this case, the term couldn't be more apt.
It wasn't that long ago that the idea of an all-local bill filling a venue as large as the Gothic seemed outrageous. Nowadays, it happens pretty frequently. Still, few shows over the years have reached the excitement level that surrounded this four-band superbill. Each of the acts slated to perform that night -- Meese, Nathan & Stephen, the Photo Atlas and Born in the Flood -- are bona fide headliners in their own right, which accounted for much anticipation in the days leading up to the show. That chilly February evening, the Gothic was brimming with local luminaries -- and though the performances weren't completely flawless, they were inspiring. Billed as a dual CD-release party, the show felt more like a coming-out party for Morning After Records, the imprint responsible for three of the four outfits, and Denver's indie-rock scene.

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