If you look at the annual DownBeat “Critics Poll” over the past decade, you know why Guitar Magazine was right when it said that Otis Taylor, who appears at Dazzle on Saturday and Sunday, “is arguably the most relevant blues artist of our time.” Consider this, in the last 10 editions of the “Critics Poll,” the Colorado bluesman captured the number one slot in the best-blues-album category five times. On four other occasions, one of his releases was among the top half-dozen discs jazz listed as the best blues album. That’s quite a record and one that supports jazz writer Frank-John Hadley’s conclusion that Taylor “may well be the most distinctive storyteller out there today.”
Though he was born in Chicago, Taylor moved to Denver at a young age where he raised with the sound of jazz players. Living a mile high, he connected with the Denver Folklore Center where he purchased his first instrument – a banjo. By his mid-teens, Taylor had a blues band in town and then spent time in London near the end of the 1960s. After that, he was back in the USA where he had a group with Tommy Bolin. But, in 1977, Taylor dropped out of music and had a career as an antiques dealer and the coach of a successful bicycle team. Then, 18 years after leaving music, Taylor returned, performing at a small club in Boulder. Two years later, his first recording came out. And by 2003, he was on the Telarc label that has issued his last nine discs – the most recent of which is My World Is Gone.
Taylor’s strength goes beyond his instrumental and vocal talents. He has been able to put his very own stamp of trance-like sounds on an old and noble musical tradition. To put it simply, he has established his own voice in every sense of the term. And that voice has a clear affinity for jazz. Trumpeter Ron Miles has appeared on a number of Taylor’s CDs, including Pentatonic Wars and Love Stories that also features Jason Moran’s piano. You can catch the Taylor-made fever at Dazzle, 930 Lincoln, on Saturday at 7 and 9 p.m. and on Sunday at 6 and 8 p.m. ($22, 303-839-5100).
Before Taylor casts his spell at Dazzle, the Ben Markley-Clint Ashlock Quintet is at the club on Lincoln on Thursday at 7 and 9 p.m. ($10). Saxophonist Josh Quinlan, bassist Matt Smiley and drummer Ed Breazeale round out the group. Pianist Markley has twice won ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Awards and his most recent CD as a leader is Second Introduction that features trumpeter Greg Gisbert. Among the things Gisbert is involved with, there’s the group Convergence that pays its monthly visit to Dazzle on Friday. The sextet that also features John Gunther, Mark Patterson, Eric Gunnison, Mark Simon and Paul Romaine is a potent aggregation and is on stage at 7 and 9 p.m. ($15).
Rounding out the week at Dazzle, the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra continues its high school series on Monday at 7 p.m. ($15), while the Chance Trio with guitarist Thomas Chester Murray is at the club on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ($10) and the Polite Jazz Quartet is there on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ($12/$7 seniors). The Django swing group Swing Je T’aime is also in the KUVO studio on Friday at 5 p.m. On Friday evening, the Brazilian group Choro Das 3 has a concert at 7 p.m. in the Mennonite Church, 3910 Table Mesa Drive in Boulder, that will help support the Colorado Brazilian Festival ($15).
And keep in mind, the Westminster Jazz and Art Festival on June 14th at the athletic field of Hidden Lake High School, 72nd and Lowell Blvd. in Westminster. The free event runs from noon until 8 p.m. with Janine Santana, Brad Goode, Lionel Young, Annie Booth and Dotsero. Unfortunately, the appearance by the Dave Douglas group on June 13-14 at Dazzle has been cancelled. Also remember, the KUVO Live at the Vineyards party on August 9 with saxophonist Donald Harrison along with Henry Butler and Leo Nocentelli. It’s more than a touch of New Orleans way above sea level (303-446-7612).