Behind the Vital New Jazz Program at Metro State University in Denver

Categories: Interviews

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Courtesy of MSU Denver/Trevor Davis.
Ron Miles serves as director of jazz studies for MSU Denver's new program.
It's been a busy month for the Department of Music at Metropolitan State University. Its accreditation was renewed by the National Association of Schools of Music, and it added a new Jazz and American Improvised Music Performance concentration (also accredited). We interviewed Peter Schimpf, associate professor and chair of the Department of Music, and MSU music lecturer Dave Devine about the new emphasis and the importance of keeping jazz fresh.

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J. Roddy Walston on the Identity of the South

Categories: Interviews

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Courtesy of ATO Records
By Roy Kasten

Onstage -- his hair whipping like a battlefield banner, his piano splintering, his gnarled voice bellowing and his band crushing out something like rock, something like the blues -- J. Roddy Walston is surely a force, but not really a force of nature, as he is often deemed. His reckless music and wild delivery is the artful sum of the sounds he's always heard in his head: driving honky-tonk, Sun Records rockabilly, Stax singles and heavy classic rock. And he had to work at those sounds to translate them into music that struts off the stage and burns off a record.

Born and raised 30 miles east of Chattanooga in Cleveland, Tennessee (population 41,000), Walston is a son of the South and a son of a musical family, a songwriter's songwriter even if his lyrics are often no more discernible than the slurry phrasings of "Tumblin' Dice" and no less primal than major influences like Little Richard or Jerry Lee Lewis or, undeniably, Led Zeppelin. The stories in his songs are nothing if not meant to be felt in the music.

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Iceage Has Evolved Beyond its Knife Era

Categories: Interviews, Punk!

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Isabel Asha Penzlein
Iceage
Iceage (due this Sunday, October 26, at the Hi-Dive) from Copenhagen, Denmark made a splash when it first started playing in the U.S.A. over three years ago. Synthesizing the raw energy of hardcore with the moodiness of post-punk, Iceage was and still is an electrifying live act. Even then, though, the group courted controversy with the 'zines its members produced and the selling of knives as merchandise. It was claimed that the imagery in one of the old 'zines referenced the Ku Klux Klan, an allegation easily dismissed because the Klan really doesn't have foothold in a place like Denmark. And there weren't a spate of knifing injuries at the shows. Its then debut full-length, 2011's New Brigade, was one of the most exciting punk releases in years.

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Oko Tygra Is Proud to Represent Denver at CMJ in New York This Week

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Luca Venter
Oko Tygra
Oko Tygra is one of the Denver bands representing the Mile High City at this year's CMJ in New York City. The group is slated to play at Niagra on Wednesday, October 22. For a group that started in March 2014, getting selected for CMJ is certainly an achievement. For songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Joshua Novak, it's also a bit of a way for him to break with his past and establish a new musical identity as well. Recruiting a couple of old friends, bassist Tyler Rima and drummer Neil Robertson, as well as a gem of a Craigslist find in guitarist Russell Ault, Novak was able to realize a vision for starting the kind of band that had bright, hazy atmospheres and finely textured melodies.

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Naoko Yamano of Shonen Knife on Why Shows Start Earlier in Japan

Categories: Interviews

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Courtesy of Good Charamel Records
In the late 1980s, it was nearly unheard of for Japanese underground rock bands to play in the United States. But Shonen Knife, appearing at the Oriental Theater this Thursday, October 16, played a show in Los Angeles in 1989.

By then, the band's music had already spent several years circulating in the U.S., thanks to a 1983 visit to Japan by Beat Happening frontman and K Records founder Calvin Johnson. While overseas, Johnson found Shonen Knife's second album, Burning Farm, on cassette; he reissued the album the following year on his label. The group's original take on punk rock, and its surreal, straight-faced send-up of pop culture, struck a chord with artists in the English-speaking world, including Sonic Youth, Red Kross and, famously, Kurt Cobain, who invited Shonen Knife to open for Nirvana on the U.K. leg of its tour for Nevermind.

See also: Why DIY Venues Are Vital Are Vital to the Health of the Entire Music Scene

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For Josh Ritter, Literature Is a Bigger Influence on His Songwriting Than Music

Categories: Interviews

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Laura Wilson
Josh Ritter

Josh Ritter (due Saturday, October 11, at the Paramount Theater as part of Swallow Hill's 35th Anniversary) is a gifted songwriter who has earned a bit of an international following for his imaginatively literate lyrics and simple yet sophisticated observational wisdom. In 2001, Ritter got a big break when he met Glen Hansard of the Irish band the Frames while playing an open mike down the street from where Hansard had a gig. Subsequently, Ritter was invited to play a month of shows in Ireland, where, instead of one or two songs at open mikes, he was playing half-hour sets every night. This helped him hone his craft as both a songwriter and a performer. Several albums and EPs later, Ritter has become one of today's most beloved and respected songwriters.

See also: Josh Ritter, Brett Dennen and More Will Play Swallow Hill's 35th Anniversary Show

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James Felice of the Felice Brothers: "We Work For a Living"

Categories: Interviews

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You wouldn't know, listening to the Felice Brothers' latest LP, Favorite Waitress, that the record marks the first time they've recorded in a proper studio, abandoning the chicken coops and high-school auditoriums of their previous albums. Characteristically unhinged and scruffy without ever feeling unprofessional, the record has the warmth and approachability that scores of other "roots rockers" struggle to project. When Ian Felice's voice breaks into the slightest laugh as he sings, "In this violent world that spins, I've been so afraid to live by the lights of comets," there's something unfakeable that elevates the song beyond the efforts of his peers.

By Derek Askey

See also: I Made Friends With Everyone at the Jason Isbell Show

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New Pornographers' A.C. Newman on Making the Band's Best Album and Wikipedia Lies

Categories: Interviews

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Photo by Chris Buck
A.C. Newman, foreground, and the rest of the New Pornographers. More photos and videos below.
Not many veteran bands make their best album more than a decade down the line. But the New Pornographers, who'll appear Saturday, October 11, at the Gothic Theatre, have beaten the odds with the driving, melodic, pop-tastic Brill Bruisers despite an extremely high degree of difficulty. After all, the band's members, including singer-songwriter Neko Case and Destroyer's Dan Bejar, aren't exactly wanting for other things to do.

How'd they do it? Frontman A.C. Newman, who also has an active solo career (and just penned the soundtrack to the Daniel Radcliffe rom-com What If), explains in a wide-ranging conversation that goes into detail about a slew of specific tunes, new and old, as well as the challenges of getting what's become a supergroup together and his memorable Funny or Die clip, on view below. And that's not to mention his hilarious beef with Wikipedia, which thinks it knows the New Pornographers better than he does....

See also: Sharon Van Etten on Confidence, Ghosts and Being the Worst (or Maybe Best) Stoner Ever

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Calling Denver Rappers of All Stripes to the Third Rap-A-Thon

Categories: Interviews

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Welcome to the D.O.P.E. Game
Creators Lizzy Brodie and Ru Johnson are ready to see all the MCs rock.
Tonight, the Savoy Events Center will once again be filled wall-to-wall with people from all walks of life who came for one reason: Rocking the mic. MCs from across Colorado will come together for the second Rap-A-Thon, which will feature art, fashion and hours of rhyming.

See also: The "Controversy" 32-Bar Challenge Is Igniting Denver's Hip-Hop Scene

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Mark Turner: "The World Is Magical and There's No Reason to Ever Be Bored"

Categories: Interviews

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Paolo Soriani
Mark Turner is a dynamic and lucid jazz tenor saxophonist who's been part of Billy Hart's Quartet for a decade. He's also been a member of Fly, the collaborative trio with the skilled bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard. But Turner, who will be at Dazzle on Saturday, September 27, also considers himself a fairly avid science fiction reader, with Ursula K. Le Guin being one of his favorite authors, and Turner's brand new ECM album, Lathe of Heaven, borrows its name from her 1971 novel.

See also: The Ten Best Jazz Drummers

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