Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dazzle Scouts New Talent

Dazzle, Denver’s top jazz club, makes some interesting booking decisions. They are not always perfect (no need to mention Friday’s vocalist), but Saturday they featured pianist Harold O’Neal, best known probably for his work as a sideman with Greg Osby, on the recommendation of Andrew Hill.

Like Jason Moran playing at the Standard this week, Hill clearly had a tremendous influence on O’Neal. KUVO interviewers asked him about the famous musicians he has played with (including Kenny Garrett, Bobby Watson, and Paquito D’Rivera), but it was clear from his answers that Hill was first among equals.

One can hear Hill in his playing, but you can also hear some of the down-home Kansas City as well (Kansas City, Kansas in O’Neal’s case). He is also a talented composer, playing almost entirely originals, aside from one Kenny Kirkland tune, “Mr. J.C.” Despite the surprising number of rude patrons (cell phones, loud talking) O’Neal’s playing held the real listeners captivated, particularly on a solo original leading into the Kirkland. It’s not hard to hear why Osby enlisted him for St. Louis Shoes, which was the altoist’s first standards set and tribute to his hometown, but wholly consistent with his advanced conceptions.

Sat. he was well backed by two Denver musicians, Bijoux Barbosa on bass and Mike Marlier on drums, as well as the guitar from his forthcoming recording, Charles Suite, Rick Gibbins. (Give the Dazzle regulars credit, they have always acquitted themselves well when backing up out-of-town musicians.) O’Neal has return engagements booked at Dazzle in the coming month, so check him out if you are in Denver.