Jazz: Colorado native Aakash Mittal returns; Herbie Hancock at Ellie Caulkins and more

I hadn’t spoken with Aakash Mittal, the composer, bandleader and alto saxophonist, in more than a decade. There had been reports of various gigs, though, and the occasional recording would come my way. I’d heard he’d moved to India to pursue some musical traditions in Kolkata. It turns out he spent about a year and a half there, absorbing everything around him, including street sounds, some of which he recorded on his phone, and appear on his new album, “Nocturne.”

Mittal, who grew up in Loveland and attended the University of Colorado in Boulder, has since settled in Brooklyn, N.Y. The opportunities to perform are more plentiful there, but he’s still thinking about Colorado.

“The scene, musicians, the mentors I had in Colorado, so much of my education as an artist, there’s a piece of the Colorado sound that will be in my music forever,” Mittal said. “Playing with Ron Miles, Ken Walker, Matt Fuller … all of these people really impacted me as a person and as a musician.

“Nocturne,” which will be celebrated with a live performance release party at Denver’s Dazzle at Baur’s on Sept. 17, is Mittal’s most accomplished work yet. His alto, simultaneously delicate and forward, interacts with Miles Okazaki’s electric guitar and Rajna Swaminathan’s mrudangam and kanjira on an intimate level. It’s music that expresses freedom in a contemplative way, and it’s the work of a mature artist who’s taken a lot in since his time in Northern Colorado.

“I listened to the city around me,” Mittal said of Kolkata. “I realized there was a low drone sound from machinery, continuous horn honking (the metro area of the city contains a population of more than 14 million) and a wash of human sound. There was the high-pitched chattering of birds — the city itself is like an orchestra. I wanted the music to reflect that. I wanted to capture these moments of the three of us improvising within a certain realm of space.”

Mittal has succeeded at taking in all of the life force that surrounded him and translating it into a uniquely beautiful and challenging record.

(Akash Mittal’s Awaz Trio Album Release takes place at 7 p.m. on Sept. 17 at Dazzle at Baur’s, 1512 Curtis St. Tickets range from $10-20. dazzledenver.com.)


Keyboard legend Herbie Hancock doesn’t appear in Colorado often enough, and he’s bringing his piano (along with guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist James Genus, flautist Elena Pinderhughes and drummer Justin Tyson) to Denver’s Ellie Caulkins Opera House on Sept. 17 and The Lincoln Center in Fort Collins Sept. 18. The octogenarian innovator has done it all, from holding the piano chair in Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet of the ‘60s to creating some of the most innovative electronic sounds to be associated with jazz (his 1973 synth-drenched “Sextant” album remains a personal favorite.) See him live while you can.


And more jazz: The crowd-pleasing Pink Martini appears at Levitt Pavilion on Sept. 8 and the Lone Tree Arts Center Sept. 10. … Guitarist Larry Carlton plays the Soiled Dove Underground Sept. 11. … It’s Neil Bridge’s Quintessence at Café Sole on Sept. 18. … The Delfeayo Marsalis Quintet performs two sets at Dazzle Sept. 20. … Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio will play some soul-jazz at Cervantes’ Other Side on Sept. 25 and Boulder’s Fox Theatre Sept. 26.

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