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Snarky Puppy plays Boulder, Antonio Sanchez at DU — The Know from The Denver Post

It’s been somewhat quiet on the live jazz performance scene in the Denver area this year. (But audiences are appreciative: I watched a crowd enthusiastically take in a sold-out set with saxophonist Nelson Rangell and his band at Dazzle Jazz earlier this month.)

In February and March, things will pick up considerably:

The massive collective known as Snarky Puppy will play at the Boulder Theater on Feb. 20. The Brooklyn-based group has helped to bring a lot of millennials to the music, even though the band doesn’t brand itself as jazz as much as an improvising pop unit. Bassist and leader Michael League immerses Snarky Puppy in up-to-the-minute elements of jazz-fusion and world music that reminds me of 1970s projects like Weather Report. Who knows how many of their fans are familiar with that group, or the music of its founders, Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul? Snarky Puppy’s members are obviously aware of what came before them, and if everyone is having a good time, what’s the difference? Expect this one to sell out. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. show are $35, and can be found through bouldertheater.com.

Antonio Sanchez is a dynamic drummer and bandleader, and his status rose considerably when he provided the soundtrack to the 2014 Oscar-winning film “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).” I would argue that his dramatic improvisations were the most engaging thing about the movie, and you can decide for yourself when Sanchez supplies the soundtrack to a “Birdman” screening live at DU’s Newman Center on Feb. 22. Since Sanchez was a one-(bird)-man band on the soundtrack, it should be arresting to see and hear him think along to the film. This is also an opportune time to mention his recent album of drums and electronic musings, “Bad Hombre,” which should have received more recognition in 2017. It’s worth seeking out. Tickets range from $25 to $47 for this unique performance, at newmancenterpresents.com.

Dr. Lonnie Smith isn’t a “real’ doctor, per se, but the name has stuck, and he is an NEA Jazz Master. The turban-wielding organist has been mesmerizing audiences since the ’60s, and in recent years he’s celebrated a triumphant return to the Blue Note record label, where he first recorded as a sideman for saxophonist Lou Donaldson more than 50 years ago. His new album, “All In My Mind” is a blistering live date with guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg, who will join Smith on his return to Colorado for two nights at Dazzle, March 2-3. Drummer Colin Stranahan, who grew up in Denver but has been making a name for himself on the national stage, will join the trio. Tickets are $20-40, with sets at 6 and 8:30 p.m. both nights. Get them at dazzledenver.com.

More shows: The above-mentioned Rangell will bring his saxophone to Nissi’s in Lafayette on Jan. 31. Freddy Rodriguez appears at the historic El Chapultepec on Feb. 1. Trombone Shorty plays Aspen’s Wheeler Opera House on Feb. 2 and Washington’s in Fort Collins the following night. … Annie Booth plays the music of The Beatles at Nocturne on Feb. 9.

Bret Saunders (bretsaunders@kbco.com) can be heard from 5 to 10 a.m.weekdays at KBCO 97.3 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @Bretontheradio

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