A 2019 movie that gathered a good amount of attention is simply called Harriet, telling the tale of Harriet Tubman and her role in the Underground Railroad that transported slaves to the North and a chance for freedom. Interestingly, the film has several musical connections, including one that is directly tied to this week in live jazz right here in Denver.

On Friday and Saturday at Dazzle, the band on stage is named for the former slave named Harriet Tubman and it is a group noted for its own explorations of freedom. The group is called Harriet Tubman and it was formed back in 1998. The trio that came together under Tubman’s name was and still is made up of guitarist Brandon Ross, bassist Melvin Gibbs and drummer J.T. Lewis. Each member of the trio has played with noted progressive jazz artists such as Archie Shepp, Don Byron, Sonny Sharrock, Ronald Shannon Jackson and Don Pullen to singers ranging from Cassandra Wilson to Tina Turner, Whitney Houston and Lou Reed. The list also includes people like Herbie Hancock, Bill Frisell, David Sanborn and Stanley Jordan. Clearly no single label captures the soul of this trio.

The band recorded its first album, I Am a Man, in 1998 and followed up in 2000 with Prototype. Then, due to several factors, its next release came in 2011 with Ascension that was actually recorded at the Knitting Factory in New York in 2000. That disc had Denver’s Ron Miles as a special guest on trumpet. And keeping the circle unbroken, the trumpeter’s superb 2017 disc is titled I Am a Man.

Additionally, the movie Harriet features the gospel infused song “Stand Up” sung by the film’s star Cynthia Erivo and a soundtrack composed by trumpeter Terence Blanchard. On both Friday 1/17,  and Saturday 1/18, Harriet Tubman plays at Dazzle at 6:30 and 9 p.m. Free yourself from the musical boxes you might find yourself in and catch this trio if you can.

Along with Harriet Tubman, the week also offers trumpeter Bob Montgomery’s Little Big Band. Montgomery has decided to focus more on the jazz-education side of his talents than his playing that has been on display here, as well as places like Australia for decades. So it’s always great to see him on stage, especially in the small big-band format that first caught my attention when baritone saxophonist launched his Concert Jazz Band at the start of the 1960s.

Trumpeters Greg Gisbert and Pete Olstad are part of Montgomery’s Big Little Band and remember that Montgomery was part of trumpeter Clark Terry’s Big Bad Band. Montgomery and friends take the stage at Dazzle at 6:30 p.m. tonight, Thursday 1/16.

On Sunday, Dazzle has the three pianos of Annie Booth, Carmen Sandim and Dawn Clement in the spotlight on Sunday 1/19, at 6:30 and 8 p.m. That will give you a taste of the talent residing here. The same can be said of bassist Gonzalo Teppa (originally from Venezuela) who celebrates his album Away from Home at Dazzle at 6:30 p.m.

Lastly, New York singer/guitarist Allan Harris is at the Lone Tree Arts Center with Cross That River on Saturday 1/18, at 8 p.m. And you can catch a taste of that on KUVO in a live broadcast at noon to 1 p.m. on Friday.

Norman Provizer
Jazz Notes 1-16-2020

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