Several Jazz Giants Are Playing This Week | Norman Provizer's Jazz Notes

Aug 10, 2017

Herbie Hancock
Credit Happy Video Network

It sounds like the musical lineup for a major jazz festival: the Herbie Hancock group, Chick Corea’s Elektric Band, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Bobby Watson’s All-Star Quartet and Kansas City Jump Band and Eliane Elias. Well, there is no festival in Denver this week, but all of these players are on tap here over the coming seven days.            

Watson is around for KUVO’s “Live at the Vineyards” signature event on Saturday. It’s a night filled with food, drink and swinging sounds at the Balistreri Vineyards, 1946 E. 66th Ave., 10-minutes north of downtown Denver. More than 20 restaurants will be serving up the tasty dishes, while Watson provides the sounds with his quartet (that has Stephen Scott on piano, Lewis Nash on drums and long-time playmate Curtis Lundy on bass) and his Kansas City Jump Band that adds saxophonist Dan Thomas, trumpeter Chalis O’Neal and singer Lisa Henry to the mix). 

A native of Lawrence, Kansas, Watson, who was born in 1953, got everyone’s attention during his time with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers from 1977 to 1981. In addition to that gig, Watson began releasing albums under his own name during this time and would afterwards have a long run with his band Horizon. His current CD is titled Made in America and it features the quartet that will be at the Vineyards. The festivities on Saturday begin at 6:30 p.m. (kuvo.org). 

The good thing is you can go Kansas City musically with Watson without ever leaving town. That means you can be here for a potent Jazz Masters lineup on Monday and Tuesday at the Denver Botanic Gardens. On Monday, pianist Herbie Hancock (named an National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2004) is at the summer concert series in the Gardens with his group that just performed at the Kennedy Center. The band has Lionel Loueke on guitar and vocals, Terrace Martin on saxophone and keyboards, James Genus on bass and Vinne Colaiuta on drums.

The 77-year old Hancock is one of the clear giants of modern jazz who also found an enormously popular way of combining his two majors at Grinnell College – music and electrical engineering (think “Chameleon” and “Rockit”). Starting out with trumpeter Donald Byrd, the piano prodigy began recording for Blue Note under his own name in the early 1960s (“Watermelon Man” was on his first Blue Note release, followed by such items as “Maiden Voyage” and “Cantaloupe Island”).

Halfway into the 1960s, Hancock was part of Miles Davis’ second great, and incredibly impactful quintet. Hancock has kept going in a variety of ways, winning the Grammy, for example, for album of the year on 2007 for his tribute to the music of Joni Mitchell. In the early 1970s, he truly plugged in with the Headhunters and that band has had its own reunions. This 6:30 p.m. concert is, not surprisingly, is sold out, but you can snoop around to see if anything is available (concerts.botanicgardens.org).

At the upcoming Monterey Jazz Festival, Hancock will revisit his piano duos with Chick Corea (named a National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master in 2006). And, on Tuesday, the night after Hancock’s appearance here, it’s Corea who is bringing his Elektric Band to Botanic Gardens. Born in Chelsea, Mass. in 1941. Armando Anthony Corea replaced Hancock in Davis’ group I 1968 and then left with bassist Dave Holland to go outside with the group Circle that had Anthony Braxton on saxophone. Into the 1970s, Corea created Return to Forever that evolved into one of the key jazz-rock bands on the scene. In the mid-1980s, he also launched his Elektric Band with John Patitucci on bass, Eric Marienthal on saxophone, Frank Gambale on guitar and Dave Weckl on drums.

That’s the lineup that will be at the Gardens at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The Elektric Band is on tour with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. And Fleck and company (Victor Wooten, Howard Levy and Roy  “Futureman” Wooten) will be at the Gardens as well. That’s a pretty potent double header for which you might be able to scout out tickets. Congratulations to Swallow Hill, the organization that books the music at the Botanic Gardens for bringing Hancock and Corea to town on consecutive nights.

On top of all this, Brazilian-born pianist and singer Eliane Elias is also in town this week. She and her quartet are at Dazzle, 1512 Curtis, on Wednesday at 6 and 8:30 p.m. (303-839-5102). Dance of Time, her current CD, celebrates her Brazilian roots and the reality is that she is not only a Brazilian master but also a superb jazz player.

Also at Dazzle, drummer Julian Archer has his going away party (he’s off to school in San Francisco) on Thursday at 6 p.m. That same night at 8 p.m., pianist Mikey Smith and his trio take the stage at Dazzle. Then, on Friday, Dazzle has Los Angeles-based drummer Sammy Miller and The Congregation sextet at 6:30 p.m. followed by Jeremy Mohney and His Big Four at 8:30 p.m. for dancing.   

On Saturday, Sista Soul has sold-out shows at Dazzle at 6:30 and 9 p.m., while the classical plus chamber group Grande Orquesta Navarre performs at club on Sunday at 5 and 7:30 p.m. And on Tuesday, it’s a “Keyboard Counterpointe” with Neil Bridge and Steve Denny plus a rhythm section at Dazzle at 6:30 p.m.

Additionally, on Saturday, the Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra plays “Basie 2.0” at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth in Arvada, at 7:30 p.m. (720-898-7200).  In the mountains, the 11-piece band Cubanismo! is at Jazz at Vail Square on Thursday at 6 p.m. And in the JAS (Jazz Aspen Snowmass) Club series at the Aspen Art Museum, Cyrille Aimee sings at 7 and 9:15 p.m. on Thursday. The band Cubanismo! plays at 7 and 9:15 p.m. on Friday in the Museum and Take Six does the same on Saturday.

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Eliane Elias
Credit Alagoinhas Hoje