Denver’s jazs scene gets guitarists David Torn and Al Di Meloa this month

Those seeking mind-expanding sounds will find much to immerse themselves in, live and on record, in March.

Two prominent guitarists with distinct sounds and styles will take to the stages of Denver and Boulder. David Torn, a respected stylist with an affection for surprising flurries of glorious noise, will appear as part of a trio at Denver’s Dazzle on March 20 and 21. Torn has supported rock luminaries like David Bowie and Tori Amos; he’s also contributed his exciting sonics to various film soundtracks. But the preferred way to experience the guitarist is onstage, where he can surprise the most jaded audience with his willingness to head off into uncharted territory.

For the Dazzle gigs, he’ll be joined by drummer Scott Amendola and bassist Michael Manring, two more guys who like to employ electronic effects alongside their accomplished playing, for each “Trees Move Air: A Night of Improvised Music” performance. Doors open for the March 20 show at 6 p.m. then 7 p.m. for the following night. Get tickets at

Just about anyone familiar with the state of the guitar in jazz since the ‘70s has some level of familiarity with Al Di Meola. Since he made his impactful debut on the world stage as a member of the late keyboardist Chick Corea’s Return To Forever group at the age of 19, Di Meola has proven himself to be one of the slickest, speediest players ever committed to record. His virtuoso performances in the ensuing decades have always proven to be crowd-pleasing, no matter his current stylistic turn.

Di Meola’s most recent recording presented imaginative versions of The Beatles’ songbook. Whatever he decides to play at the Boulder Theater on March 29, his music will undoubtedly make the audience’s collective jaw drop. Find out more at


In celebration of the 70th anniversary of the historic Contemporary Records label, there are several reissues of interest being made available, including new online compilations of such West Coast influencers as pianist Hampton Hawes and drummer Shelly Manne. Some physical product is making its way to record store shelves as well, including an overview of saxophone royalty Ornette Coleman’s short time at the label, “Genesis of Genius: The Contemporary Albums,” available March 25.

More than 60 years on, it’s hard for 21st-century ears to hear these sessions as radical, avant-garde music, as it was often received at the time of its release. However, it sounds delightful, playful and energized with a sense of adventure. Coleman’s alto tears through songs that would be future classics like “The Sphinx” and the blues-structured “Turnaround,” a number he’d play live for the rest of his life.

While many will have these recordings in some form, an A/B comparison indicates these 24-bit remasters (I won’t pretend to know what that means) really leap out of the speakers of my Sony boombox, particularly the frontline voices of Coleman and trumpeter Don Cherry, who deserves to be celebrated every day for his own contributions to music.

Coleman would go on to Atlantic Records (with Cherry) in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, and those recordings are rightfully appreciated as major additions to the jazz canon. However, these early albums are also teeming with irrefutable brilliance. There was only one Ornette, and it’s nice to see this music given such loving treatment.


And more jazz: Carmen Sandim (piano) and Bill Kopper (guitar) perform duets of Brazilian standards at Dazzle on March 10. … The Lao Tizer Quartet appears at the Lakewood Cultural Center on March 12. … Pianist Dawn Clement and her trio are slated for Nocturne on March 13. … The Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra presents the trio 2B3 (Jeff Jenkins, Mike Abbott and Mike Marlier) at The Schoolhouse Theater in Parker on March 18. … And the Matt Skellenger Group plays Swallow Hill Music on March 19.

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