On Saturday night, vocalist Gregory Porter and his signature hat hit the stage at the University of Denver’s Newman Center, 2344 E. Iliff. Since 2010, Porter has exploded on the scene with two early discs on Motéma and several more on Blue Note. Those albums that so well captured the Los Angeles, California-born singer’s deep and engaging voice which also captured two Grammys® for Porter, who surrounds himself with strong players.
Interestingly enough, in 2004, before he became a household name (at least in jazz households), Porter held the premier of his play Nat “King” Cole and Me here in Denver at the Stage Theatre in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. And Nat “King” Cole and Me just happens to be the title of his just released CD (with a large ensemble) on Blue Note. Cole is part of Porter’s musical personality, as is Marvin Gaye and Bill Withers.
Porter performs at 7:30 p.m. and while is on stage he will receive an award from the Jazz Journalists Association as best male vocalist of 2017. Before the performance, there is a pre-show discussion of Porter and his music at 6:30 p.m. (303-871-7720). After Porter’s appearance, the Newman Center’s season continues with a number of jazz acts. There’s the Spanish Harlem Orchestra on December 7, singer Tierney Sutton on January 11, drummer Antonio Sánchez doing the music from Birdman on February 22 and Terence Blanchard and the E-Collective on May 3.
In addition to Porter, the week also finds the knockout, Steel House (not to be confused with Brick House) Trio at Dazzle, 1512 Curtis, on Tuesday and Wednesday. Steel House is made up of bassist Scott Colley, drummer Brian Blade and Venezuelan-pianist Edward Simon, who, after coming to the USA, worked and/or recorded with saxophonist Greg Osby (who was at Nocture this past week), saxophonist Bobby Watson and trumpeter Terence Blanchard. Blade, who has been here in several contexts, is about as good as it gets on the drums. Also, Blade and bassist Colley are the rhythm section for the group Still Dreaming with Joshua Redman on saxophone and Denver’s Ron Miles on Cornet that made its debut at Dazzle. The mighty trio plays at 6 and 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday and 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday (303-839-5100).
Another visitor is saxophonist Dave Liebman who will be joining area-based saxophonist Keith Oxman’s quartet on Thursday at Dazzle at 6 and 8:30 p.m. Liebman, recognized as a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2011, has played with everyone from Miles Davis and Elvin Jones to Chick Corea and John McLaughlin along with leading his own groups. And when it comes to Jazz Masters, saxophonist Oxman has received praise from several of them such as Benny Golson and Curtis Fuller. The quartet plus plays at 6 and 8:30 p.m.
The following night, Friday, one more visitor comes to Dazzle. That’s guitarist Frank Potenza, who spent a number of years in pianist Gene Harris’ quartet. Potenza records for the Colorado-based Capri Records (as does Keith Oxman) and his latest disc is for his mentor Joe Pass and is titled simply For Joe. Potenza plays at 6:30 p.m. At 8:30 p.m. on Friday, there’s free swing dance lessons with La Pompe Jazz.
On Saturday, the group Images holds a reunion with members from different editions of the popular crossover-oriented group on hand. Pianist Lee Bartley, bassist Rich Salle, saxophonists Joe Anderies and Bob Rebholz, drummer Mike Marlier and guitarist Randy Chavez all share the stage at 6:30 and 9 p.m. Along with all of this, Dazzle is also hosting two fundraising events. On Friday starting at 2:30 p.m., there is an ugly sweater party for the women’s vocal ensemble Safonia. On Sunday, there is also one for the People House funding affordable-housing counseling starting at 4:30 p.m. with six bands on stage.
And if you are looking for a mass event, Caffe Sole in Boulder, 637R S. Broadway, is presenting a “Celebration of Colorado’s Women of Jazz” on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. Hosted by MaryLynn Gillaspie and Suter Du Bose, the event brings 25 of Colorado’s notable women of jazz from newer players on the scene to long established ones in what should be a memorable mix (303-499-2985).
Over at Nocturne, 1330 27th St., pianist Dana Landy’s trio salutes the music of Ahmad Jamal on Thursdays at 7 p.m., bassist Matt Smiley’s quartet does the same with the sounds of Charles Mingus while guitarist Mike Abbott and friends celebrate John McLaughlin on Saturdays at 7 p.m. (303-295-3333). And at La Cour, 1643 S. Broadway, saxophonist Mark Fox brings the Mark Fox Synesthesia to the stage this Friday at 7 p.m. The band with guitarist Felix Ayodele , bassist Troy Robey and drummer Tom Tilton are part of this collaboration with mixed media artist Christine Meyer (303-777-5000).
This week it’s Gregory Porter and next week it will be Cécile McLorin Salvant, two of the best singers on the jazz scene. More on Ms. Salvant in the next column.
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