Best Jazz Club 2008 | Dazzle | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Mark Payler
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.
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.
Creating the ideal jukebox is like making the ideal mix tape for someone: Part of the process is picking songs you like, and the rest is finding tunes the other person will dig. The Continental Club's jukebox includes a collection of mix CDs, which run the gamut from punk to garage, surf, jazz, soul, lounge and country, with a few obscure nuggets thrown in. But it also has a fine selection of complete albums. Bottom line: Everyone should be able to find something they like on this juke, whether it's Minor Threat, Merle Haggard, Frank Sinatra, Helmet, Ministry or Esquivel. You'll probably even uncover stuff you've never seen on any other jukebox.
Everyone knows why karaoke is always a good time: It's fun to make a fool of yourself (and your friends) in front of an audience. But there comes a time in every karaoke fanatic's "career" when he truly tries to nail "Total Eclipse of the Heart" or seriously channel Elvis. These moments have to be seen to be believed — unless you were at Cosmic YouTube Karaoke, in which case the entire performance was captured on film, complete with 3D-laser-show action, to be posted on YouTube and shared with the world. And with the Electric Cowboy's drink specials — $2 longnecks, $1 well drinks, $3 Jägermeister shots and $5 Jäger Bombs — you might need the YouTube footage just to remember what you sang that evening.
Every scene needs a Zachary Vora. In the second issue of FM (Fucking Mountains), Vora took the Denver music scene and all its sacred cows to task, essentially asserting that while some acts are a big deal here, the rest of the country could give two shits — and so we should stop being so goddamn self-congratulatory about the whole thing. He's partially right, of course; at times, we risk dislocating our shoulders as we pat ourselves on the back. Just the same, we've got it good here, and we don't need validation from people who live elsewhere to take pride in that fact. Every scene needs an agitator to keep things grounded, and Monsieur Vora — whoever he may be — is ours.
There are plenty of literary bloggers in Colorado, but most tend to divert their attention toward the coasts as the default harbingers of lit life. Not so at the New West website, which has a thread devoted to books and writers in the Rocky Mountain region. Boulder-based writer Jenny Shank offers almost-daily updates on local readings, publishing gossip and reviews of books penned by real, live Colorado authors; the blog also features in-depth interviews with such authors as Kent Haruf and Nick Arvin. Yes, Denver does have a lively literary scene — and you can find it right here.
D.biddle is basically the brainchild of frontman Duncan Barlow, a member of the semi-legendary hardcore band Endpoint in the '90s and thus no stranger to musical catharsis. When he started performing with this band, he focused on quieter but no less intense songwriting. The result has always been good, but the current incarnation of d.biddle has proved the best vehicle for Barlow's thoughtful, incisive songwriting. In years past, a d.biddle show could be a contemplative affair, but you always got the sense that Barlow was ready to bring back a touch of the raw emotionalism he was so good at summoning. It's there today, and the outfit's mixture of brooding atmosphere and fiery emotions makes for one of the scene's most impressive and inspiring performances.
It's impossible to think of a show in the past year that made us happier to be Denverites. Slowly but surely, Ian Cooke has become one of the most vital artists in this region, and he proved it this night; with his honeydew voice and looped cello, he made songs that seemed to come out of the ground organically and fill the room with pure sound. Then came headliner and transplant Eric Bachmann in full-on troubadour mode. Initially accompanied by only a nylon-string guitar, his songs swung back and forth like the drunken louts they referenced. But when Elin Palmer joined the mix, followed by Cooke, the songs moved beyond downtrodden to something far more affirming. On this same night, we also witnessed a grown man passed out against a water cooler, nose pointing to the heaven. Awesome.
For nearly two decades, Carmen Allgood has been an ardent supporter of local music. The original host of Mountain Homegrown, she's also sat on the board of the Colorado Music Association. And through her nationally syndicated weekly radio show, The Colorado Wave, currently carried on over a hundred stations, Allgood's continuing to do her bit to expose the rest of the country to all Colorado has to offer.
CU Art Museum director Lisa Tamiris Becker is committed to showcasing the accomplishments of the university's distinguished art faculty. Last year, after the death of teacher and feminist conceptual artist Antonette Rosato, Becker had Rosato's students mount one of her last pieces, a poignant installation called "Pattern That Connects." The wall-hung piece, made up of fallen leaves that have been sewn into scores of little gauzy slipcovers, highlights the idea of fragility.

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