Review and Photos by Derek Miles
Jazz is one of the more difficult genres of music for most listeners to access and appreciate. However, you would be hard pressed to find another form of music in which people are more reverently engaged in listening and absorbing the music. This was exactly the type that filled the Dazzle showroom on Saturday night for the Matt Skellenger Group’s CD release. Eager listeners sat in anticipation of the new sounds that were to transpire from such an eclectic mix of musicians. One might have been caught scratching their head if they walked into to Dazzle on Saturday not knowing what to expect.
With Matt Skellenger on electric bass, his brother Andy Skellenger on assorted percussion (including traditional Indian tablas and udu) and Dave Miller on drums and percussion, the group yields an incredibly dynamic rhythm section. On top of that are Denver jazz icon Ron Miles on trumpet, Adam Bartczak on trombone and Glenn Taylor on pedal steel guitar. The instrumentation alone presents a wonderful pastiche of different musical culture. And sure enough, the group delivered.
With a venue that conjures up the anecdote ‘quiet enough to hear a pin drop,’ the Dazzle showroom is an ideal place to listen to music. The set began with a calming tune titled “Makeda.” The eastern influences in the song prepared the audience for the evening with its gentle lilt and sense of journey. Next up was a tune from the new album The Owls Are Not What They Seem entitled “Dusk.” This was another somber piece, yet it retained an uplifting quality. In fact, most of the night’s music fell into a similar spirit; an expression of subtlety and feelings abstract. Each song lent character to an atmospheric state, both reflective and contemplative. This is the type of music that unearths the subtle moods in one that may not have been felt otherwise.
After playing some of the new material, the group dipped into some of Skellenger’s older songs. “Simple Life” was one of the highlights early in the set. This tune featured a relaxing groove with a tasty solo from Ron Miles. The piece entitled “Storm” was also a treat (another tune from Skellenger’s previous album Parentheticals). This song really showcased the group’s dynamics and their ability to paint a mental picture with music. Equally impressive was the group’s talent on their respective instruments. The Skellenger’s were nothing short of phenomenal.
Matt’s style is easily among the best bass playing in Colorado. He employs a technique similar to a pianist, using both left and right hands to play notes on the fret board; a challenging approach to the bass guitar that offers a unique sound. Andy’s percussion work was also incredibly skilled. He played the tablas with such grace and finesse that some only wish to achieve in a lifetime of eastern rhythm study. Needless to say, it was both an honor and a pleasure to watch such masters at work.
As the last of the ethereal sounds had emanated from the stage, it was hard to accept that the show was over. However, all good things must pass. As soon as the audience had arrived, the impending departure had commenced. The important part is that no one left that room unsatisfied with what they had heard. Regardless if there were a few outliers or not, the musicians knew that their performance had been wholly appreciated. Matt even stated at the end of the night that there is almost no other venue he has played that fosters such respectful reception more than Dazzle. He thanked the crowd and bid us goodnight.