The five best jazz shows in Denver this month

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There's another great month of jazz on tap for December. Legendary trumpeter Tom Harrell kicks off a three-night stint Dazzle this evening, while John Scofield teams up with Medeski, Martin & Wood for two shows in the area later this week. Then, later in the month, Denver native Brad Leali performs with pianist Cyrus Chesnut, and tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin is due for two nights. Keep reading for a full rundown of the five best jazz shows this month.

See also: - The five best concerts this week: December 3-7 - Ten essential jazz albums if you know squat about jazz - A Medeski, Martin & Wood member branches out

5. AN EVENING OF SOLO PIANO @ DAZZLE | SUN, 12/23 While Art Lande plays around the area in various formats, it's always a treat to hear the brilliant pianist in the solo setting. Lande, as well as other local pianists Billy Wallace, Jeff Jenkins and Justin Adams, will each play half-hour solo sets. The "battling order" of the pianists will be chosen by audience members pulling names from a hat.

4. BRAD LEALI QUARTET with CYRUS CHESNUT @ DAZZLE | 12/27-12-28 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 Chesnut, who's also a hell of an improviser, is also on board for these four sets over two nights.

3. DONNY MCCASLIN QUARTET @ DAZZLE | SAT & SUN, 12/8-12/9 Donny McCaslin has released a number of acoustic jazz albums since 1998, but over the past few years, the New York-based tenor saxophonist has been exploring different genres, incorporating more alternative, groove-oriented electronic elements into his playing, a la Robert Glasper and Esperanza Spalding, revealing an variety of influences from Boards of Canada to Aphex Twin. McCaslin's latest effort, Casting for Gravity, is his most daring yet. With keyboardist extraordinaire Jason Lindner, bassist Tim Lefebvre and drummer Nate Smith on hand for this two-night stand, there's bound to be some exciting playing.

2. TOM HARRELL QUINTET @ DAZZLE | TUES-THURS, 12/4-12/6 Tom Harrell has had a storied career that spans four decades, beginning in the late '60s and early '70s with Stan Kenton, Woody Herman and Horace Silver that led to later stints with the Lee Konitz Nonet and the Phil Woods Quintet. Since 1976's Aurora/Total, Harrell has released a number of album under his own name, including this year's excellent Number Five, featuring tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, keyboardist Danny Grissett, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Johnathan Blake, all of whom will be part of the veteran trumpeter's three-night stint at Dazzle.

1. Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood - Friday, December 7 at the Ogden Theatre, Saturday, December 8 at the Boulder Theater

1. MEDESKI, SCOFIELD, MARTIN & WOOD @ OGDEN | FRI, 12/7 With 1998's A Go Go, guitarist John Scofield tapped into a whole new demographic by enlisting Medeski, Martin & Wood to play on the disc. While Scofield, who played with Miles Davis, was a respected jazzer and had delved into fusion, with A Go Go he fully embraced the jazz-funk idiom. When he teamed up with MMW, it proved to be a successful collaboration on both ends, and the players went on to record 2009's Out Louder and last year's live album In Case The World Changes Its Mind. Expect some mind-blowing improvisations from these four gentlemen. (Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood are also due at the Boulder Theater on Saturday, December 8.)

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Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


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