Dazzle Restaurant and Lounge is celebrating its fifteenth anniversary tomorrow. To commemorate the occasion, the club is throwing a party with the Bob Montgomery/Pete Olstad Big Band and the Funky Fresh Trio benefiting the Gift of Jazz, an organization supporting the past, present and future of jazz in the Rocky Mountain Region -- and representing the focus of Dazzle in the future, on education and jazz preservation on all levels: "It is why we have invested heavily into the Gift of Jazz," notes Dazzle owner Donald Rossa. "Through the Gift of Jazz, we have provided educational opportunities with our partnership with Denver Public Schools, Saturday afternoon adult education, house parties called the 'Blind Tiger.'
"Through Dazzle Recordings," he adds, "we have been able to support the local musician in the preservation of their music. It is all about awareness and creating community around a great American art form -- jazz! I just feel like the contributions of Dazzle in the future [will be] to continue to present quality jazz on as many stages as we can."
We caught up with Rossa and the club's music managers, past and present, and asked them to share their favorite shows at Dazzle. Rossa started by offering praise to those who oversaw programming at the club over the past fifteen years:
"I have had the greatest fortune to have been surrounded by four extraordinary musicians and teachers that are the heart and soul of the music program at Dazzle," says Rossa of former music directors Ryan Estes, Tyler Gilmore and Steven Denny, and current music director, Kevin Lee. "Because of their understanding and passion of this art form called jazz, Dazzle is a success," Rosa concludes. "Together with the musicians they have presented, it then became my job to build a community of patrons and a great supporting staff."
Read about Rossa and company's favorite shows below, and then feel free to weigh in with some of your own favorite memories.
Marco Benevento: Monstrous, energizing, loved the remakes of familiar tunes.
Future Jazz Project: Dameion Hines, Casey Sidwell, Aaron Holstein, Andrew Diamond, JonJon Gardner, Ben Hadwen, DJ Dijon. Then later joined by Venus Cruz, Greg Harris, Greg Raymond... First group of young musicians that we gave residency to. Lots of improvisation, a mix of everything. They performed a sound that so many people gravitated to.
Ken Walker Sextet: Denver's best straight ahead jazz group. - Rossa, Lee and Denny
Robert Glasper: The best concert I've ever seen.
Oscar Brown Jr: Mr. Brown was perhaps my favorite performer. The way he stalked the stage, the crowd work, his songs -- the guy was magic. Off stage he was demure and polite, and on stage he was electric. I've yet to see a more naturally charismatic performer.
Kurt Rosenwinkel Standards Trio: Was great to hear such an amazing musician go back to the classics.
Kneebody: Any of their many shows. They always felt like a partially hometown band.
Ron Miles/Brian Blade/Bill Frisell: This was on everyone's list. This was their first rendezvous as a trio and it was obvious from the beginning how well their musical styles fit together.
Rene Marie: Rene is an otherworldly performer. She sings every note as if it's her last and her quartet is truly a great band with plenty of interplay while still allowing Rene to take center stage.
Taylor Eigsti Trio: Long before my Dazzle career, I witnessed Taylor completely shred the tiny Kawai that used to be on the main stage (he even broke a string).
Christian McBride and Inside Straight: The scariest amalgam of musicians I've seen. They had an utter mastery of their instruments yet they played selflessly and swung their asses off!
Art Lande: He made just about everybody's list whether it was solo piano, with Nguyên Lê or as a duet with Fred Hersch: one of the first shows I saw when I started working at Dazzle. Art was in an unusually straight-ahead mood and extemporaneously played standards that sounded as if he'd worked his whole life arranging them. Very few pianists can do what he does.
Convergence: Either on their own or paired with Rene Marie, Chris Potter, Roberta Gambarini, or Christian McBride. Sometimes it's easy to take for granted the incredible local musicians in Denver until you see them interacting with a master improviser. More astounding than Chris Potter was watching the Convergence boys upping their game and hanging with him the whole time.
Tomasz Stańko Quintet: Very emotional, powerful playing. (The Polish president was killed that morning).
Jim Hall Quartet: I'm a geek for Jim's playing. He's one of the best improvisers, regardless of instrument.
Nels Cline Singers: Loud. Brash. Beautiful.