The best jazz shows in December

SUN | MILE HIGH SPIRITS JAZZ FEST at MILE HIGH SPIRITS | 12/8/13 Mile High Spirits and the Gift of Jazz have teamed up to put on this free daylong festival, which kicks off at 3:30 p.m. and runs until 10: 30 p.m. Each of the six local acts on the bill will be paying tribute to other artists: A Denver School of the Arts Combo tribute to Jackie McLean and Dexter Gordon, along with a Matt Smiley Masada tribute, a Greg Harris Quartet tribute to the Modern Jazz Quartet, a Josh Quinlan Quartet John Coltrane tribute and Patrick Lee Trio tribute to Daft Punk.

See also: All upcoming concerts in our constantly updated concert calendar

SAT | BRAD LEALI QUARTET at DAZZLE | 12/28-12/29 Brad Leali grew up in Denver, studied with the local legend Neil Bridge and went on to be lead alto saxophonist for the Harry Connick, Jr. Orchestra, as well serving as its musical director for four years. Now based in New York, Leali has played with jazz heavies Freddie Hubbard, Clark Terry, Joe Williams and Jimmy Cobb. If seeing Leali's deft playing, which recalls Cannonball Adderley, isn't already reason enough to come check out him out, pianist Cyrus Chestnut, who's also a hell of an improviser, is also on board for these four sets over two nights.

SUN | TURTLE ISLAND STRING QUARTET at MACKY AUDITORIUM | 12/15/13 The string quartet has traditionally been a vehicle for classical music, but for close to three decades, the Turtle Island String Quartet has taken the form to a completely different place. The group frequently improvises when delving into the jazz realm, as evidenced on 2007's outstanding A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane. The quartet has also rendered songs by Dizzy Gillespie, Oliver Nelson and Dave Brubeck. Here the act teams up with sublime jazz vocalist Tierney Sutton for "A Solstice Celebration," which is slated to be a night of jazz, classical, world and pop.

HOLLY HOFMANN/MIKE WOFFORD QUINTET at DAZZLE | 12/5-12/6 While San Diego based flutist Holly Hofmann and pianist Mike Wofford, a musical director for Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, have been longtime collaborators, they also recruited trumpet ace Terell Stafford to play on their latest Turn Signal, which was released in January of last year on the Colorado-based Capri label. On the disc, they offer up some fine renderings of Bobby Watson's "Karita" and Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse's "Pure Imagination," as well as some Hofmann and Wofford originals. Local bassist Ken Walker and drummer Todd Reid will play these two nights.

SUN | DALE BRUNING, JUDE HIBLER & NEIL BRIDGE at DAZZLE | 12/15/13 Last June, guitar great Johnny Smith passed away in Colorado Springs, where he had lived for decades. Smith wrote "Walk, Don't Run," which was made famous by the Ventures, and he was also an exceptional guitarist, as evidenced on albums like Moonlight in Vermont, which featured saxophonist Stan Getz. At Dazzle, Longmont-based Dale Bruning, also a brilliant guitarist, teams up with Neil Bridge, who was in Smith's Colorado quartet for many years, for a night of songs by Smith and songs that were associated with him like, "Moonlight in Vermont" and "On Green Dolphin Street."

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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon