We'll be getting to our usual repertoire of indie rock, rap and blues ramblings in a moment, but first I want to share some important news I learned while lurking among the jazz cognoscenti — Denver promoter Shyrel Hosseini, KRFC deejay Peter Poses, Independent Records co-founder Orville Lambert and local jazz aficionado Lenny Mazel — at last weekend's Steve Swallow show up in Denver.
The news is that Ricky Sweum, the bright young tenor player who's lit up our local jazz scene since relocating here five years ago to play with the Falconaires, is pulling up stakes and moving on. To Anchorage, Alaska, no less, where he's transferring to play with one of the nation's top-rated Air Force bands.
Sweum will also make a detour to New York City to record the follow-up to Pulling Your Own Strings, the phenomenal 2009 debut album that demonstrated his world-class talents as both a player and composer.
The good news is that, in May, Sweum will play a few last performances with his various ensembles at Motif, Cucuru and Rico's. There are also plans for a don't-miss farewell show June 3, featuring Sweum's first-ever performance with massively talented Denver saxman Keith Oxman. They'll be joined by local luminary Brad Eastin (yep, it's the three tenors) as well as pianist Jeff Jenkins, bassist Ken Walker and drummer Todd Reid. The concert will take place in the cafe of the City Auditorium, which is currently being remodeled and will hold 150 people. We'll let you know when tickets go on sale.
I should also mention that Swallow's Dazzle Jazz performance was pretty extraordinary, which will come as no surprise if you've heard any of the bassist's work with Carla Bley or other jazz luminaries. His trio, which featured saxophonist Ohad Talmor and amazingly kinetic drummer Adam Nussbaum, played a loose improvisatory first show, then followed up with a second set of more melodically complex compositions that were definitely worth staying for.
Also a pleasure to see Willie "Big Eyes" Smith tearing it up Friday night at the Crystola Roadhouse, where he played Chicago blues as they were meant to be heard. With harmonica playing inspired by Little Walter and an expressive vocal style that often echoed that of Muddy Waters — his bandmate of 15 years — Smith was as energetic, talented and witty as last week's interview suggested. Classy as ever, the 75-year-old bluesman was so impressed by John Stilwagen's opening set with Big Jim Adam that he invited the talented local keyboardist to sit in with his own band.
Meanwhile, if you haven't checked out the brand-new Black Pegasus track "Notorious BP," you're definitely due for a YouTube visit. (Find the video at youtu.be/STj1dX_i6pY.) An homage to Biggie Smalls, it takes the late artist's hit, "Juicy," in a distinctively Black P direction. And don't forget to catch the man himself Friday, May 6, when he headlines the Black Sheep.
Garage-rock devotees: If you've been feeling neglected up to this point, you can wipe those tears and bangs out of your eyes, because you've got a great new band to go see Wednesday, May 4. In yet another sign that Zodiac (haha, get it?) is a worthy successor to the Rocket Room, the venue will play host to the best thing out of Appleton, Wisc., since Houdini. Orange Iguanas are altogether entertaining in a lo-fi, hi-reverb, simple-but-not-especially-stupid garage-rock kinda way. Stream their six-song cassette (!) at orangeiguanas.com to hear for yourself.
I miss you, Lenny! My family and I thank you for all the special times…
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