One of Denver's weirdest pop auteurs has dissolved at least one of his various projects: Yuzo Nieto and the Hand that Rocks the Dreidel played its final show this week. The band, led by the eponymous saxophonist Nieto, has been for some years now trafficking in sounds that spanned from cracked flamenco to lo-fi electronica to a silly country-ish cover of "Baby got Back."
Nieto originally founded the band with members of Josephine and the Mousepeople out of a random jam at Bar Bar. Since then, The Hand that Rocks the Dreidel has featured a rotating cast of musicians that has included weirdo-visionaries like Doo Crowder (frontman of now-defunct Pee Pee) and jacks-of-all-trades like Andy Wild (of Snake Mountain, Qui Quegs and sometimes A. Tom Collins, just to name a few). But when core members Danny Shyman and Avi Sherbill left, Nieto says, "It just wasn't the same vision anymore. And also, you know, songs just get old, I guess."
Nieto is also pursuing a masters in educational psychology and teaching elementary school, which leaves him with limited time, but the main thing, he says, is that he wants to focus on Pink Hawks, his other -- and now main -- project.
He will bring a few songs from the Hand that Rocks the Dreidel to Pink Hawks, but mostly newer ones that haven't been recorded yet -- and those songs will get a different treatment in Pink Hawks -- which, he notes, is also changing. "We're doing more heavy arrangements. More dancibility. I've been getting way into West African grooves, more Mexican rhythms. So I guess we're playing world music now."
Between The Hand that Rocks the Dreidel and Pink Hawks, the latter has always been the more avant-garde of the two acts, but Nieto implied that Hawks will be moving into a more controlled sound, partly as a result of a lineup expansion to about ten people, one of whom is Jason Fox of Oblio's Arrow, on lap steel.
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Nevertheless, the band won't sacrifice its central tenet: A persistent aesthetic of weirdness. "It's still really improvisational," he reveals.