Lots of Live Jazz: FoCo Jazz Experience 2012

After enjoying 4 different live music shows in the past few days, I am just about satiated, enough that I am reverting to my old favorites, mostly Queen, which are so thoroughly ingrained in my psyche that I could almost sing back each drum beat and guitar sequence from memory, from each song, in album order, and in chronological order. Anything less familiar than that would be too much. Even Celtic Thunder’s first few albums, which I have practically memorized, are too much new information until I finish writing a few backlogged blog posts and can move on. How in the world do music professionals handle attending more than 4-7 different shows a week without being burned out every other week? (Though as it seems I am starting to shift more towards this sort of schedule, maybe I’ll figure out a few tricks to blog about later.)

I went to three shows on Saturday, which made for a long day, for sure, even though they were all in one place- The Fort Collins Jazz Experience, a newer local jazz festival well worth visiting next year. The Oak Street stage, where I started out, for the clarinet jazz band After Midnight, was not so well situated in terms of seating or sound. The train that came through town in the middle of one of their songs did not help out at all either. Clearly, while Fort Collins likes to think of itself as the state’s best town for local music, the street festival sites could use some improvements if the town expects to do this many festivals every year. Still, the music was all very good, and free, and I am sure the local businesses loved having so many people wandering around Old Town.

After Midnight

While sound check took forever and cut into their playing time a bit, and the train didn’t cooperate, this band was still very entertaining, and I am sure if there had been a better space for dancing, and more clearly delineated seating, this band would have had quite a few couples up dancing. The clarinetist, Roger Campbell, is one of those people who make clarinet sound seductively easy, and I am sure in an indoor setting or with a better start this man alone would be worth hearing play for a few hours or more. After Midnight has 5 albums available, 3 studio albums and 2 live recordings, all available on spotify and available on CD through CD Baby, and having listened to all of them since Saturday, I can recommend them as quite good swing style jazz with really nice instrumental solos. So far if I was planning a wedding reception or party this would be my band of choice, out of all the ones I have heard so far live this year.

The second band I saw at the jazz festival was on the other festival stage, and started playing half an hour before After Midnight finished their show. I had not expected to see Jababa, actually, but I managed to find a spot to stand in view of the stage eventually, and really enjoyed what I heard of this band’s music. Unlike most of the jazz we heard at the festival, this band’s songs include quite a few original songs. I like classic swing and jazz tunes, but I do love that people are still making good new music too. Jababa, out of Boulder, was playing in Fort Collins for their first time at this show, and I do hope they enjoyed their experience enough to return for more. They not only were here for the first time, but they were sporting three new horn players, all quite good. Actually, their new saxophonist, Mr. JD Little, is rather cute- no wonder Sugar always fell for saxophone players if they are all like that.

This group is very good at playing music live, and they are starting to evolve an entertaining stage personality which further enhances their show. Steve Morley (trumpet), Ryan Sargent (trombone) and JD Little (sax) look sharp enough lined up with their shiny horns, and while they aren’t yet swaying in time to the music, they seemed at least on the verge of it a few times throughout their show Saturday. The horns upstaged the rest of the band for most of the show, actually, along with Andy Fox, the bassist, who is very outgoing on stage and does some very interesting and creative things with his bass. Brad Huffman (guitar), Andrew Martin (keys), and Aaron Bagby (drums) all had their turns at the spotlight throughout the show, too. And, while the past few jazz bands I’ve seen had almost no one dancing, Jababa actually got quite a few people up and dancing, despite the crowds.

As Hazel Miller said when she was getting on stage for her show on the same stage, Jababa was really very, very good. Their new album, Octaphonic, was just released on itunes and spotify, and will be available on CD soon at their upoming shows and online. I had a first listen to this album a few nights back, and it is lovely. These guys will be performing lots more, including at the Telluride Jazz Festival, and should be quite popular by the end of the festival season.

Hazel Miller Band

I saw Hazel Miller last year at the New West Fest show here in Fort Collins. I had been hoping to see the headliner band on the main stage, and so of course it started pouring so that the rain was driving straight into the stage area and kept the headliner band from being able to start their show for quite a while. But, the jazz stage a block away was pointed away from the rain, and Hazel was happily singing under its roof as the crowd filtered in to see her instead. Even in the pouring rain she was amazing. So, this weekend she was back, and it was not raining, and I had a nice front row seat next to a very pleasant British man, less than 20ft from the stage.

I was tired and hungry and had run out of cold soda an hour earlier, but I had a grand time nonetheless. I sat in an awful spot for taking good pictures, so that there were all sorts of random lights in the way, and I am nowhere near good enough to figure out how to trick a camera into showing a dark-skinned woman in a red dress, when she is bathed in a red stage light. All my shots show her in a yellow dress, but her dress was bright red, really. And, none of my pictures could in any way come close to capturing this woman’s personality or music. If you get a chance to see her perform, go. She’s very very good, and we are very lucky to have her in Colorado so we can see her more often. Her band is also very good, especially the guitarist, Frank Selman. This guy is the sort of guitarist every amateur kid player wants to grow up to be, and with his snazzy hat he looks the part of the cool musician effortlessly coaxing Santana solos out of his instrument. I am not sure how to describe in words the difference between most guitar players and the really great ones, but this guy’s playing is noticeably better than the rest I have heard this year. (Maybe I just need to go to more shows?) In any case, this whole show was a treat, and as I said on facebook that night, any one who lives in Fort Collins, and was in town that night, really missed out if they missed this free concert.

There were lots of dancers up throughout Hazel’s show, including several who were a huge treat to watch. I wish I had taken a few pictures of them, but at the time I was tired enough to not want to raise any eyebrows taking shots of random strangers. Two young men in particular, both rather skinny ordinary-looking guys otherwise, seemed to melt into something else entirely as soon as they started dancing. Not only did they have all the footwork in place, but they had the grace and relaxed style that made ordinary people like Fred Astaire look sexy. I am sure Hazel was thoroughly enjoying watching them dance as she sang, and there were several pretty college girls in the audience near me who were looking on longingly, trying in vain to get the guys they were with to try to join them for some dancing. Those guys may not have lost their chances to hook up with their lady companions, but those ladies were far more impressed with the dancing strangers than they were with their own men that night.

So, Guys- learn to dance. If you can move like that, not only do you look sexy, but you make every woman you dance with look and feel sexy too. It may not be very macho, but while the macho men are standing around looking bored, you can be up dancing with all the ladies and making all those macho men secretly very jealous.

About Ravenmount

Independent science nerd/writer/music blogger/arts enthusiast/theorist currently in Colorado.
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