Thankfully, music-savvy Denverites have a handy happy-hour substitute at their disposal with the fun and festive new game "Six Degrees of the Denver Gentlemen." The game is based on a band that had humble beginnings in the late '80s at the hands of songwriter Jeffrey-Paul -- and that eventually enlisted more recruits than the Star Trek club at MIT. Allow me to explain how it works.
Let's begin with Boulder's Slavic stalwarts, DeVotchKa, whose singer/trumpeter Nicholas Urata played for a time in Munly de Har He with Jayson Munly Thompson (aka Munly), who currently plays in Slim Cessna's Auto Club with former Gent Slim Cessna and whose self-titled solo project often features guest violinist Rebecca Vera (who appears on the forthcoming Slim Cessna record and the new CD from the Cherry Bomb Club, which features former Foreskin 500 members Dave Moore and Erica Brown, who, incidentally, also fronts the Erica Brown Band) and who serves as one-half of the sensual electronic duo Hoitoitoi alongside Jeffrey-Paul, who -- you will, of course, remember -- started the Denver Gentlemen before hooking up with David Eugene Edwards and 16 Horsepower.
Fun, huh? Go on, try it. (Helpful hint: Try starting with Bob Ferbrache -- who occasionally played pedal-steel guitar for 16 Horsepower during its days with Jeffrey-Paul -- for an easy route to the Gents, as Big Bad Bob has recorded nearly every quality band in the Rocky Mountain empire.)
Whether you begin with Thinking Plague (whose frontman, Mike Johnson, also plays in Hamster Theater with David Willey, former accordionist for you-know-who), Marty Jones and the Pork Boilin' Poor Boys (whose self-titled CD was recorded by banjoist John Rumley, who plays with Slim Cessna and its many DG alumni) or the Kalamath Brothers (who enlist original 16 Horsepower bassist Keven Soll and whose spiritual leader, Frank Hauser Jr., was in the first incarnation of Slim Cessna and is himself a closet Gent), many musical roads lead back to the Denver Gentlemen, a group that disbanded in late 1996 when Jeffrey-Paul took up with 16 Horsepower. Since then, the band has lived on in a kind of infamy normally afforded only to assassinated cult leaders and through the mounting success of the bands it has spawned.
Which is part of the reason that Todd Brown of the Toronto-based indie label Absalom Recordings has decided to release a long-lost Denver Gentlemen studio recording that has been languishing, unheard and unloved, for more than three years. Tentatively slated for distribution as a CD- and limited-vinyl release in early fall, the as-yet-untitled project features the Gentlemen's final lineup, just before its dissolution: Jeffrey-Paul, David Willey, Valerie Terrie, Mark McCoin and John Stubbs. Brown, who describes his small label as a grassroots, artist- and audience-friendly company, was motivated to release the forsaken recording by his longtime interest in Gent-related local acts and a general fondness for Denver-based bands like the Apples and Hamster Theater. While Brown works with Jeffrey-Paul to hammer out the details of distribution, he says the project itself has come off with relative ease. "We believe strongly in empowering the artists we work with rather than taking their rights away," he says. "All recordings and publishing rights will remain the sole property of the artists we work with." Considering the splinter effect at work with the Gents, however, Brown's real challenge may be properly crediting everyone who somehow contributed to the finished project.
Brown's timing really couldn't be better. The Denver Gentlemen release coincides nicely with new recordings from both 16 Horsepower (Secret South on Razor & Tie) and Slim Cessna's Auto Club (Always Say Please and Thank You, on Alternative Tentacles), due on Tuesday, September 12 and 19, respectively. And though it's unlikely that the recording will result in any reunion tours, it'll serve as a fine reminder of where some of the area's more successful bands first cut their teeth and laid some sonic foundation for what might be loosely described as the Denver musical aesthetic. As well as the cosmic web of life -- or some shit like that. (Check absalomrecording.com for more details.)
A couple of marathon concerts this week should help us all muster up some of that Olympic spirit (sitting on the couch watching gymnastics can really take it out of you if you approach the activity unprepared): David Fox presents another showcase of local talent in support of LiveDenverComp, a compilation of artists recorded at the Alley Studios during Fox's Studio X series that was originally released in March. On the bill for Thursday, August 31, at the Soiled Dove are Spiv, the Hornbuckle Brothers, Emilio Emilio, Rainbow Sugar and the Blast-Off Heads (whose excellent new self-titled disc makes a compelling argument for heading to this show). And the finalized lineup for the Rock Out Aids benefit on Friday, September 1 (also at the Dove), goes something like this: Liz Clark, Trainwreckers, Colemesis, Dear Marsha, Bad Rufus, Tinker's Punishment, Yo, Flaco!, Carolyn's Mother and Opie Gone Bad. Sounds like the Dove cleaning crew will need a benefit concert of its own afterward.
On a closing note, Backwash is sad to report the passing of Bob DeGasperis, sax player for the local blues outfit Homebrew, whose new CD, Last One Standing, recently received a favorable review in these pages ("Time of the Season," August 17), due in part to DeGasperis's gritty and expressive playing. According to Homebrew's Mark Turner, DeGasperis died after a six-month battle with cancer. "Bob played with a lot of bands around town, including jazz gigs," Turner writes, "so it's a big loss to the local music community." Indeed.