Jewell Tyme Music launched in the heart of east Denver in 2002, headed by rappers 800 the Jewell and F.O.E. But it wasn't until last year that the imprint caught the attention of the rest of the city with the Joe Thunder/Selector Sam mix tape Drama Kings, starring F.O.E. and B Blacc and featuring the entire Jewell Tyme roster and its affiliates. And that was just the beginning: The label plans to release over ten projects in 2008, including albums from F.O.E., 800 the Jewell, Duce Wyld, Meezly and Haven and more comps from Joe Thunder, Selector Sam and DJ K-Tone. This is the type of hip-hop that Public Enemy's Chuck D was referring to when he termed it "the Black CNN" — hip-hop that gives you real insight into what's happening on the streets.
DJs Low Key and Sounds Supreme (aka Justin Green and Nate Watters) originally started their weekly underground hip-hop parties in the basement of Shelter, with the goal of creating a night they'd want to attend themselves, one they could take pride in. Well, it looks like the duo has succeeded. Whether they're throwing tributes to some of their heroes — cats like J Dilla or Notorious B.I.G. — or just playing everything from old school to new school to soul, these fellas know how to get the party started and the crowd grooving. And now the dudes are moving up as well, going from Shelter's basement to the roof of the Funky Buddha Lounge every Thursday and becoming residents at Vinyl on Friday nights alongside DJ MU$A.
Because hip-hop is such a highly combustible medium, few collectives stay intact over the long haul. Yet Analog Suspect and Selecta Roswell, the artists behind Dojo, have been making compelling music together for years; their ability to work in harmony with a range of collaborators, including each other, is a big reason why. On Duality, their latest recording, they gain inspiration from such guests as DJ Trauma and Le Parasite, and it carries over into "Kali's Revenge" and a slew of other memorably deep cuts. The Dojo duo is a perfect match that no man should set asunder.
Taking in a show at Dwight Mark's charming home in Highland is more like attending a friend's dinner party than seeing a concert at a formal venue. Prior to the performance, folks nosh on light hors d'oeuvre and chat, then eventually make their way to the living room for intimate, one-of-a-kind performances by an array of engaging acts, from celebrated local talent to well-regarded imports. And while the idea of living-room concerts might alarm the neighbors, Mark is careful to keep the music at a reasonable level — so much so that when you're standing on the porch, you can only faintly hear the sounds coming from inside. Props to Mark for a unique experience.
Among the seven Star Power shows that inaugurated the new Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver last fall, David Altmejd is one of the few that are still open. A young Canadian artist, Altmejd covered the walls of the Family of Natasha Congdon Large Works Gallery with sheets of mirror, then created a series of anthropomorphic figures clad in mirrors as well. All that reflective material made the eponymous installation nothing short of an eye-dazzler. Selected by MCA curator and director Cydney Payton, this magical work was hands-down the best pick for the opening of the new building.
The finest instrumental rock outfits cut to the chase. No extraneous instrumentation is required, and no microphones, either: just hard grooves, galloping rhythms and a burglar's fondness for getting in and out quickly. Guitarists Adam Hester and Gil Romero, bassist Jeff Anton and drummer Rikki Styxx display all these attributes and more on their self-titled debut disc, which features the emblematic likes of "Phantom Surf Party" and "Backseat Rumble," a sonic tribute to rebels without a cause. Like their coffins, these players are ready for anything.
Meadowlark
Jon Solomon
Although it's a basement space, the Meadowlark features soft, tasteful lighting and a well-appointed interior that makes you forget you're belowground. The room is well-suited to singer-songwriters and acoustic acts who thrive in small places, where they can better connect with the audience. And with a recent run of regular bookings, the once obscure bar has become a nice, clean place to see indie-rock frontmen playing rare acoustic sets, as well as louder bands like Red Cloud and A Shoreline Dream.
So you're curious about whips and paddles, but you're a little gun-shy? Think you want to be bound and gagged, but worried about pulling a muscle? If so, get your kinky self down to the Friday Munch 'n' Mixers at the Enclave, one of Denver's private bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism clubs. The weekly social events are open to the public as long as you're 21 or older and cough up $15, and they offer a gentle (of sorts) introduction to S&M, with everything from technique clinics on single-tail whips to deviant doggie parties (you actually do bring your dog) to birthday potlucks (everyone with a birthday that month gets a spanking). There's no nudity allowed, and participation is limited, so there's no need to worry; it won't hurt a bit. That part comes later, when you become an official member.
Dazzle
Once again, the folks at Dazzle have shown they know what it takes to make a stellar club: first-rate music seven nights a week, great food (including the habit-forming $5 happy-hour menu) and two vibrant listening rooms. For more than a decade now, Dazzle has brought in a constant stream of outstanding, nationally renowned jazz talent like Donald Harrison, Red Holloway and John Fedchock, as well as younger up-and-comers like Ari Hoenig, Jonathan Kreisberg and the genre-bending Kneebody. And that's in addition to its packed calendar of local luminaries, including René Marie, Ron Miles and Dale Bruning. Dazzle is still an apt name for this dazzling club.
El Chapultepec Too
Anyone who's tried to play jazz knows that learning scales and modes is just part of the battle. To really understand the language of jazz, you have to perform with other people. At El Chapultepec Too, an outpost of the classic LoDo club, the Wednesday-night jazz-jam sessions serve as a proving ground for younger musicians who want to hone their chops in a live setting — whether horn players, bassists, pianists or drummers. Bassist Brian Wilson and veteran pianist Jeff Jenkins are usually holding down the fort, and when Greg Gisbert, one of Denver's finest trumpeters, isn't playing in New York, he'll sit in with the younger cats. It's hard not to get inspired when sharing the stage with guys like this.

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