This past week in music, jazz fans here has a chance to hear the music of the Fred Hersch Trio, a group named as the top band around in the 2019 DownBeat “Critics Poll.” To hear Hersch in a small club environment, without travelling to New York, is a special treat, compelling, as the sold out audience at Dazzle discovered when it heard the pianist’s blend of beautiful, crystal clear lyricism with his sense of adventure.

This week, there is another chance for listeners to tune in to another special, though very different, treat when drummer Steve Gadd comes to town with his quintet. From his early relationship with the Mangione Brothers, and later with players on the order of Chick Corea, Gadd has established solid jazz credentials. His talent has also been recognized and utilized by artists in other genres – Eric Clapton, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, Steely Dan and many others. That talent made him a monster studio player, including regular appearances on CTI recordings.

Yet, many more people have heard Gadd on recordings with others than have heard him live with his own band. And on Tuesday and Wednesday, you have the chance to correct that when the drummer and his group (that won the Grammy for best contemporary album in 2019) come to Dazzle at Baur’s. The quintet has Kevin Hays on piano, Jimmy Johnson on bass, Michael Landau on guitar and Walt Fowler and trumpet and flugelhorn and is on stage at 6:30 and 9 p.m.

Hays is on numerous discs and his recording from Smalls in New York has Bill Stewart on drums. Stewart is another drummer somewhat in the Gadd mode and he too was at Dazzle recently. Trumpeter Fowler is one of the many sons of jazz educator William Fowler who has found a place connected to the music and he too should help keep the Gadd pot steaming. Father William also spent time teaching at the University of Denver.

On Saturday, a young saxophonist from here, Rico Jones who is currently in New York is at Dazzle at Baur’s with two major guests, pianist Dave Kikoski and drummer Ari Hoenig.

Kikoski has worked with John Scofield, Chris Potter, Dave Holland and, you may have guessed it, drummer Bill Stewart. Drummer Hoenig has been coming by Denver with some frequency and he is a player you will want to hear. Bassist Gabe Rupe completes the quartet that is on stage at 6:30 on Saturday.

Electric bassist Matt Skellenger displays his “vitality” at Dazzle at Baur’s on Friday with his group at 8:30 p.m. and, on Thursday at 6 p.m., Dazzle hosts small groups from the Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts in a free show starting at 6 p.m.

Next week we celebrate Neal Cassady’s Birthday Bash with David Amram and a look back at the “Beat Era” at Mercury Cafe. And currently, through Feb. 9, there’s a celebration of another “beat” with the musical Summer: The Donna Summer Musical at the Buell Theater in the Denver Performing Arts Center. You might think of a number of bad jokes when realize that Disco was born in Munich, Germany. But there’s nothing to joke about the autobiographical musical about the music’s “queen” on stage at Buell. There a new genre of musicals revolving around pop music stars and this is clearly one of the best with vocals by the three performers playing Donna at different ages all extremely top-shelf.

Norman Provizer
Jazz Notes 1-30-2020


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