[JPL] Denver jazz scene article
arturo893 at qwest.net
Fri Apr 21 11:16:27 EDT 2006
Today, Friday April 24th is my 3rd anniversary at jazz89KUVO, I don't regret
a second of being here at the station or living in Denver. Here's a look at
part of the reasons I love living in Denver. Arturo Gómez
If you wish to see the story with pictures, here's is the link
Jazz jumps uptown, to the 'burbs with plenty of bop to go around
By Alex Neth, Rocky Mountain News
April 14, 2006
Imagine Denver. What springs to mind?
The stock show? Absolutely. Purple mountain majesties? Of course. Football,
the Denver boot, Elvis flying in for a fried peanut butter sandwich, the
brown cloud over the foothills.
But jazz? The wicked, hard bop of polluted geniuses like Miles Davis and
John Coltrane? Saxophone solos bouncing off the walls of tiny, smoky clubs,
hepcats nodding to an evil arpeggio - those are scenes from another city.
New York, perhaps, or Chicago. Denver - that's where the Broncos play,
It's time to re-imagine.
Jazz is on the upswing in these parts, a rebirth of the great old days in
the early half of the 20th century when Artie Shaw and Charlie Parker swung
at the Rossonian in Five Points, when Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady took in
bop gigs on their way out of town and into history. The proof is in the
numbers - as in, the growing numbers of jazz fans willing to spend their
dollars on the live experience, and the numbers of establishments, new and
old alike, rushing to accept them.
Jazz @ Jack's, the contemporary jazz club that had previously been hidden in
the bowels of Confluence Park has moved, Jeffersons-style, on up to a deluxe
new location on the third floor of the Denver Pavilions. Stalwarts like El
Chapultepec and Dazzle now face competition from The Robusto Room, a hopping
joint located in, of all places, a suburban mall. Crowds are packing rooms
on weeknights to experience artists like Fred Hess and The Greg Harris Vibe
Quintet. Local musicians are bending genres, finding that bop soul in rock,
blues and bluegrass. The city's longtime jazz radio station, KUVO-FM (89.3),
not only soldiers on; some think after two decades it has assumed a spot
among the nation's finest. No matter how you shake it - or rattle it, even
roll it - Denver is showing off its chops.
Dotsero's bold move uptown
Dave and Steve Watts, better known as the contemporary jazz duo Dotsero,
have tasted success outside the city limits - and then cashed it in for a
stronger foothold in their hometown.
The duo, who climbed to the top of Billboard's Contemporary Jazz chart with
the album Jubilee in 1991, parlayed their smooth, professional sound into an
ownership stake in Jazz @ Jack's in 1998. The spot in the Zang Building by
the South Platte River may have been a bit off the beaten path, but it
ensured their group a regular place to play in Denver.
While Jazz @ Jack's flourished for almost seven years, the brothers were
thinking it could be bigger and better - someplace with more tables and a
more visible location to draw more casual customers.
Those thoughts crystallized into actions when their lease ran out - and when
the Denver Pavilions offered to bring their club into that mall's flashy
"The Pavilions really knocked themselves out," Dave Watts said.
Not that they needed to. The location was everything the two had hoped for.
Not only would the adjacent 16th Street Mall offer some of the best walk-by
traffic in Denver, the club would be within a harmonica's bleat of several
high-rises packed with potential customers, folks who had been jonesing for
syncopation but didn't know where to look. Even college music majors like
the Watts brothers are sometimes thankful they took a few business courses.
"We had a teacher in college tell us, if you're gonna open a shoe store,
open a shoe store next to another shoe store," Dave Watts said. "Because it
brings in more people because of the competition. So we're gonna be right
there with Coyote Ugly, Lucky Strike, there's a lot of different diversity
up there. I can go bowling on the breaks."
The newfangled Jazz @ Jack's opened last weekend and the brothers plan to
continue the format that brought them this far: a combination of jazz and
blues augmented with an evening of comedy. They also plan to add a regular
blues night and bring in national acts such as saxophonist Eric Darius.
To their way of thinking, the move represents a sea change not just for
Dotsero and Jazz @ Jack's but for the growth of jazz in Denver as a whole.
"It seemed to me like, back when we started, there were places you wanted to
play," Steve Watts said, "like The Bay Wolf, and those were the only places.
It was always a weekend town. A lot of the guys back then were pounding it
and pounding it in order to make a big enough name to leave Denver.
"This expansion is not only going to help Dotsero and the jazz scene, it's
going to help numbers of jazz musicians that we have work for now."
Bringing bop to the 'burbs
Peter Roth doesn't just love jazz. He made it his business. In his mid-20s,
Roth left his office job and, along with his wife Sara, parlayed his twin
passions - hard-eyed, pure jazz and fine cigars - into a new life. The two
opened their first business, a cigar kiosk called Stogies & Bogeys, in the
Park Meadows Mall in 2001; then, last year, the two took the mailing list
and customer base they had developed and added walls and a horn section. The
Robusto Room, a straight-jazz club with the new Stogies & Bogeys attached,
opened in December, an oasis of urbanity in a decidedly suburban setting.
Roth doesn't subscribe to the Watts brothers' shoe store analogy. Just the
"The location was by design," Roth said of his club, nestled in a portion of
the old Avalon nightclub space in the Park Meadows Shopping Center, next to
the United Artists Theatre and a few chain restaurants. "A lot of people
don't want to drive downtown just for one night of jazz, risk getting a DUI
even though they've had only one drink. Down here, we're only three, four,
five blocks away. And it's the same quality of music as you'd get at any
downtown jazz club."
A recent Saturday night at The Robusto Room seemed to validate Roth's
instincts. While the black-clad players in The Peter Sommer Quartet might
have traveled through time from New York circa 1943, the crowd at hand was
quite plainly representative of Lone Tree, 2006. Adult couples in Avalanche
sweatshirts and khaki shorts shared drinking space with polished,
high-heeled club regulars. A young teenage boy sat next to his guardian
transfixed, wordlessly mimicking Sommer's saxophone fingering, jazzbo in
A group of three adolescent lads, discharged from some explosion-laden film
at the theater next door, stood on the sidewalk behind the club's glass
picture windows and played air guitar for what they could only hopefully
assume were the amused patrons inside. Their mugging went largely
unappreciated. The senses of those within were otherwise occupied.
Eric Nesbitt had been trying to find some jazz around these parts. Despite
living in Highlands Ranch, the Chicago native had been trekking downtown to
get his fix - until he came across The Robusto Room after a movie and found
"There's not too many places out here," Nesbitt said from his catbird seat
at the bar's long, central table, only a few feet from the musicians. "This
place is a big bonus, having it nearby. I love the music . . . This place is
gonna be my Cheers."
With the success of The Robusto Room, Roth has found license to dream, and
dream big. The idea of further expansion is already percolating; another
club, another suburban area, another untapped market of jazz fans
uninterested in downtown crowds.
Dazzling the competition
The Capitol Hill jazz hang Dazzle has, over the past several years, built a
solid reputation via consistency: consistently strong jazz, a consistently
happening and diverse crowd and, of course, consistently strong cocktails.
The spit-shined young professionals lounging in the bar beneath feathered
globelights are as much a part of the ambience as the handsome staffers and
clever, old-school drink menus printed on used album covers. But it takes a
step behind the curtain separating the dreamily-lit bar from the darkened
stage area to really understand what owner Donald Rossa means to bring to
town at 930 Lincoln St.
"I wanted a place where it all comes together - good food, good service,
good music and art," Rossa said. "That old era of supper clubs. You grow up
watching TV, you saw Lucille Ball, Ricky directing the band, that style.
It's just a cool scene."
Perhaps more than any other Denver jazz club, Dazzle exemplifies the local
scene's maturation. Far from the tiny, weathered environs of the famous El
Chapultepec - Denver's longstanding downtown jazz haven that doesn't just
resist change, it boots it out the front door - Dazzle represents a
conscious effort to celebrate the music's hardcore spirit without any
attendant seediness. Twice-nightly sets are tied to dinner service, in true
supper club style, so hepcats and kittens can munch balsamic mustard salmon
or grilled hanger steak while getting their bop on. And bop it is; Dazzle,
like The Robusto Room, focuses on "pure," or straight-ahead hard jazz,
experimental, intellectual and unpredictable.
Given his establishment's idiosyncratic formula, Rossa doesn't feel
particularly concerned about the advancing competition. With the exception
of a recent remodeling - "polishing the apple," as he said - he plans to
steer the ship as before, offering grownups a nice dinner and intricate
performances courtesy of pros like Hugh Ragin, Renee Marie and Ron Miles.
Rossa also takes advantage of the plentiful talent available in nearby high
schools and colleges.
"One thing is, each of the (local) universities has a tremendous jazz
school," Rossa said, "with great students, great instructors, people like
Lynn Baker and Eric Gunnison. All these terrific people didn't have anywhere
Rossa gave them such a place. That same spirit of giving includes providing
financial support for the Colorado Conservatory of Jazz Arts and The Denver
School of the Arts, in service to a European sense of artistic integration
within a community. He hopes to express that sense through Dazzle, a
holistic cultural contribution wrapped in alto saxophone and snare drum.
"It becomes more of a concept of community - people coming together," he
said. "I provide the canvas, you provide the art. I believe that's my
responsibility. And jazz happens to be a part of it."
Those within the scene appreciate the new venues and the fans who fill them,
but it's not as if all this jazz has leaped, fully-formed, from a desolate
musical landscape. After all, Denver has a history of producing fine
jazzbos - Dianne Reeves and Paul Taylor, to pick two. Our state hosts
several well-known festivals, from Telluride to the Sangre de Cristos to
City Park, and a number of other venues, like the Mount Vernon Country Club
and Boulder Theater, have long sponsored regular jazz series. And for 20
years we've been able to get our jazz fix on the radio thanks to KUVO, the
city's unrelenting voice for playing, promoting and generally advocating the
Local jazz bassist - and former mayoral mouthpiece for Wellington Webb -
Andrew Hudson considers it without peer.
"It is one of this community's greatest treasures," Hudson said. "I travel
all over the country, and the first thing I do in my rental car is find a
jazz station. I have yet to find one that ever compares."
To Hudson's mind, the notion of a bop-deprived Denver is a mirage.
"I tell you," he said. "There are very few places that support jazz like
All that jazz
Eleven other spots to hear the music
1730 Wynkoop St., 303-293-2887
Eclectic jazz Mondays-Saturdays.
Herb's Jazz & Blues
2057 Larimer St. 303-299-9555
Jazz nights Mondays and Tuesdays
1962 Market St. 303-295-9126
Hard jazz every night of the week
Dulcinea's 100th Monkey
717 E. Colfax Ave., 303-832-3601
Acid jazz and DJ sets nightly
Fourth Story at Tattered Cover Cherry Creek
2955 E. First Ave., 303-322-7727
Jazz sets during Sunday brunch and Monday evenings
Sambuca Jazz Cafe
1320 15th St. 303-629-5299
Eclectic jazz, usually Sunday-Thursday
The Boulder Broker Inn
555 30th St., Boulder. 303-444-3330
Pure bop with faculty members from the University of Colorado Jazz
department every Friday evening
The D Note 7519 Grandview Ave., Olde Town Arvada, 303-463-6683
Jazz on Tuesdays with the Amy Kay Combo and occasional jazz bands from local
The Back Room Corner of 17th and Vine. 303-399-1700
Jazz with the Dave Corbus Quartet every Friday and Saturday evening
The Hotel Boulderado
2115 13th St., Boulder. 303-440-2880
Jazz on the Mezzanine every Wednesday evening with the Diamond Weyl Showcase
JW Marriott Denver at Cherry Creek
150 Clayton Lane, 303-316-2700
Danny Wein impersonates Frank Sinatra on Thursdays, jazz standards on
Saturday nights with Teresa Carroll and her band
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