Otis Taylor 2.18.12
Dazzle Restaurant & Lounge
Words & Photos By J-man
Last Saturday night featured the Otis Taylor Band's album release party at Dazzle Restaurant & Lounge. Contraband tells tales of "love, loss, injustice, inequality, and war" according to blues musician, Otis Taylor. That February Denver evening brought two sold out shows to adoring fans and newcomers alike. I arrived at Dazzle around 6:30 pm where I was greeted by Music Director, Kevin Lee. I was shown to my seat near the front of the delightfully small venue. I sipped on a glass of Malbec as I awaited the arrival of my friend Bill, who turned me on to Otis' music and invited me out for the evening. Shortly before showtime, Bill arrived, drinks were ordered and The Otis Taylor band took the stage for the first of the evening's two performances.
The set began with fiddler Anne Harris, bass player Todd Edmunds and guitarist Jon Paul Johnson easing into the music. After a short jam, Otis took the stage and dawned a banjo. Going into the show, I knew little to nothing about Otis Taylor. That being said, I was surprised to not only see a banjo onstage, but I was shocked to see it being utilized from the start. The first couple of songs set the tone for the evening with dynamic range and a nod to roots music.
Early on in the performance Otis called a guest to the stage to join the band. The guest was young, yet reflected the skill, timing and execution of a player much older than his age. Following a slower song, the band launched into a couple of rock numbers. At one point Bill leaned over and pointed out their likeness in sound to Led Zeppelin and John Lee Hooker. One of the highlights of the show came with a cover of Hendrix's "Hey Joe" that included a ripping guitar solo from Jon. The hair stood on my arms as Otis sang a swanky version of the iconic song.
The music was powerful, the jams included so much depth and the band's stage presence was captivating. As the hour and a half set rounded out the band flexed their musical muscles a bit more with a call and response song, restarting the music after a pep talk with the crowd. The candle lit room sang, clapped and stood to dance as the energy in the room got higher and higher! One of the additional highlights of the set came with an Irish/Celtic fiddle arrangement from Anne as she danced passionately to the music. Otis announce one last segment of songs before passing around their final solos for the crowd and closing the set in order to prepare for the 9:00 pm show.
I came to Dazzle that night with an open mind and left with uplifted heart! I was overwhelmingly impressed with what I heard from Otis Taylor and his band. I am grateful not only for such amazing local talent, but that in a country where jazz is too often overlooked, we still have a place where we can go to enjoy the music we love.
J-man's Photo Gallery
*Thanks to Bill Mills for turning me on to Otis Taylor and a special thanks to Kevin Lee and Dazzle for having us out to cover the evening of music.