As a young trumpeter, Greg Gisbert learned about the importance of jamming and having mentors at El Chapultepec, where he says he practically lived in the early ‘80s. He had a lot of mentors that were decades older than him, like Ron Washington, who was ninety in 1980.
“He was playing an instrument before recorded music,” Gisbert says.
Armed with the chops he honed at the ‘Pec, Gisbert went on to record and perform with jazz greats like Woody Herman, Clark Terry, Horace Silver, Maynard Ferguson and Harry Connick Jr. While Gisbert is clearly a proficient trumpeter, he’s also worked as an educator at University of Miami, Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts, University of Denver, Manhattan School of Music and more recently in an Artist Faculty in Residence at the University of Northern Colorado.
Gisbert also shares his knowledge at Dazzle as part of the jazz venue’s weekly Thursday-night Dazzle Sessions, jams with a house band that includes bassist Jean-Luc Davis, pianist Jack Dunlevie and drummer Kevin Matthews. While they’re professional jam sessions, the group tries to be inclusive of newer players who might struggle to keep up.
“We’ll let them play but then sit down and explain what we’re trying to do and be empathetic,” Gisbert says. “If they want to learn to play, this is a good play to learn to play by listening and trying. And if they’re kind of unaware and they’re not necessarily willing to get better... I took the role of being the sonic doorman. We’ve had no problems. Not a single one.”
Dunlevie says plenty of great players come in wanting to push the envelope musically, which is better for the audience.
‘It’s more about learning to play together as a group,” Dunlevie says. “Jazz isn’t necessarily about playing harder more complex shit. It’s how well can you improvise together.”
Matthews says there’s a really healthy community of young players who are constantly practicing and getting better.
“This is the kind of place where everybody can come together and make music together,” Matthes says. “And then we all go back and practice and then come together, and we try to get better every time.”
While there are a few other local jazz jams, like at the Broadway Roxy on Tuesdays, Dunlevie says the biggest difference is that they have Gisbert.
“He’s a real mentor figure in the scene at large,” says Dunlevie. “Not for only us but the house band. We get to play with him and listen to him for free every week. For everyone who’s coming out and jamming, he takes a really active role in their development. And if you’re interested in getting better and really working on it, Greg is there to let you know when you’re really getting better at something and let you know if there’s something you need to work on.”
Dazzle Sessions take place at 10:30 p.m. Thursdays, at Dazzle, 1512 Curtis Street. For more information about these jams, go to Dazzle's website.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.