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Piano Fest dazzles Denver jazz club

Photo// Sarai Nissan

On March 1 and 2, CU Denver’s College of Arts & Media’s piano program displayed the talents of faculty, students, and alumni in a two-night piano festival. On March 1, DazzleJazz club—located in the heart of the Golden Triangle—hosted the CU Piano trios, directed by CU faculty Peter Stoltzman, Greg Garrison, and Todd Reid, with CU alumnus Kevin McHugh and his musical trio. Peter Stoltzman, the CU Piano Area Head, organizes the Piano Fest every year.

The performance was hosted in the listening room of the DazzleJazz club—the room awash with warm low light and drink menus, disguised as classic vinyl albums atop every table. By 7 p.m. the club was adequately attended by families, friends, and professors of the performers.

CU Denver executed several true-to-form jazz trios throughout the evening. A classic jazz trio refers to the specific usage and styling of a piano, drums, and bass in the ensemble. The first group featured Sentry writer Dylan Streight on piano, Caden Kramer on bass, and Dillon Best on drums. Each trio played a 30-minute set consisting of jazz classics, original compositions, plus a swath of pop covers. The second trio of CU Denver students included Jose Gutierrez on bass, a student nicknamed Flip on drums, and Luke Maxon on piano.

The first trio began with a gorgeous cacophony of piano, bass, and drum that abruptly eased into a harmonious arrangement of their respective instruments. Many times in musical compositions, especially among contemporary music, the bass riffs get sunk beneath the guitars and drums. In these particular arrangments, the bass held a refreshing  leading role. Among the classic jazz hits they performed, they featured Allman Brothers song “Nippers,” as well as their very own composition, which took a more modern and contemporary approach with a heavy bass beat and fast drums against the slow slink that classic jazz music adopts. In the student trios, all of the instruments accent each other: like in the second trio’s performance of Miles Davis’ “Nardis,” there was not a single instrument that burdened the other. Rather uncharastically, the second trio covered the 80s dark pop-classic “Everyone Wants to Rule the World” by Tears For Fears, which was an unexpected, but very entertaining rendition of the classic track.

The level of professionalism from the students was highly noticable. In all of the trios, not one performer read from sheet music, which certainly speaks to their talent and dedication to the craft of jazz music.

It was a dazzling night in the Golden Triangle neighborhood. Much of the music that was performed was jazz oriented, and a mixture of contemporary and classical temperaments created a lively, textured evening of music. Music certainly has its own language and that fluency was displayed by CU Denver’s very own.






Photo// Sarai Nissan

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