Denver’s jazz scene was treated to an unique experience last on Jan. 29 when renowned violinist Zach Brock and his Triptych Trio made a tour stop at the DazzleJazz club. The group’s performance made for a cerebral and entertaining low-key show, showcasing a fresh, rarely heard subgenre of music.
DazzleJazz, the group’s venue of choice, was dark, intimate and high-brow—everything one would expect from their mental image of a jazz club. Given its location in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver, with a pricey food menu and an older crowd, it’s a bit inaccessible for the typical Pioneer, but definitely worth the venture for anyone seeking a culturally adventurous night, or perhaps a classy date.
This would hold especially true on nights with music as interesting as Zach Brock’s. Comprised of only violin, bass and drums, his ensemble played a complex but engaging brand of modern jazz centered around the violin that defied categorization.
The first set opened with a pair of catchy, laid-back tunes that welcomed listeners in. The latter, called “15” and written in the bizarre time signature of 15/8 (“for all the music nerds out there”, as Brock said), was particularly fun.
Brock’s violin playing astounded the entire evening, with neither his technical mastery (he was originally classically trained) nor creativity in improvisation ever lacking. He created harmonically adventurous lines that confounded musical expectations, but were always punctuated by flashy techniques that led the audience to wonder what other sounds were possible on the violin. The group’s chemistry was remarkable as well—they seemed to feed off of each other’s energy and started, stopped and moved into solo sections with almost telepathic precision.
The music occasionally became too cerebral for the average listener, though. While jazz fans would have been consistently enthralled, those unfamiliar with the genre might have been put off by some of the more dissonant tunes and the frequent extended bass solos. Granted, this was likely to be expected given the stark, minimalistic and unconventional nature of the ensemble and it’s to their credit that the lack of a common rhythm instrument (piano, guitar, etc.) wasn’t much of a hindrance.
Brock and the trio were remarkably cordial afterwards. A quick interview revealed Brock’s connections to Denver—he has family in Fort Collins and is frequently in the area—as well as his passion and vision for his music.
“Musicians today are encouraged to be entrepreneurs,” said Brock. “But because of that, so many up-and-coming focused on their social media presence and making a perfect Twitter banner or whatever, when they should really just be focused on their music itself.”
He encouraged young musicians to learn how to play like those who inspire them and by pursuing creativity through keeping a journal.
“I’ll still go back to ideas in my notebook from years ago,” he said.
In fact, the damper on creativity induced by touring seemed to be the only negative emotion Brock expressed.
“Once you get out into the real world and start having shows and engagements, individual practice time gets so much harder to come by,” he said.
As if the artist couldn’t become more approachable, Brock even extended the offer of an informal jam session next time he came to town.
The night provided a unique insight into the music and personality of a pioneer in the art music world, and revealed the DazzleJazz club and the genre of jazz violin to be essentials for culture-savvy Pios to check out.