Dazzle Jazz celebrates its’ 15th anniversary this week, no small feat for any restaurant or entertainment venue. Owner Donald Rossa has been at the helm for 12 years; his lifetime career in the restaurant industry prepared him well for the nuts and bolts of running the business, but it’s his passion for community that has made Dazzle so successful. He relates a story of visiting his mother’s relatives in rural Slovenia and seeing people coming together around music and food. Rossa says, “It was the richest thing I’ve ever seen or experienced. I wanted to re-create that in my community”. And so, the restaurant became a jazz club, a place to “celebrate the musician and the music”.
Rossa is very quick to give credit to others for his jazz music education. First would be Miles Snyder, Dazzle’s original owner and Rossa’s partner for the first few years he was in the business. Described by Donald as a huge jazz fan with an enormous music collection, Miles was recording discs from his record collection and playing them in the restaurant. From this sprang the idea, “Let’s be a jazz club.”
And then he talks about his musical directors over the years: Ryan Estes, Tyler Gilmore, Steve Denny and Kevin Lee. It’s not by accident that he’s hired musicians to fill the role of music director. “When they interact with our performers, it’s musician to musician. They speak the same language”. And, Rossa adds, “These are four talented musicians, each with a passion for the music. They each did their job, but they also had to be willing to teach me.”
Apparently, the education was successful. Dazzle was awarded Westword’s Best Jazz Club in 2003, and every year between 2005 and 2011. DownBeat magazine has named Dazzle one of the best 100 jazz clubs in the world. The appeal lies, of course, in the musicians who display their talents so passionately. But there’s also the draw of this urban club with a diverse clientele coming together over those very factors that so entranced Donald Rossa during his visit to Slovenia: music and food.
What does the future hold for Donald Rossa and Dazzle? He says,”I hate rumors”, acknowledging that there are plenty of them around about Dazzle and its’ future. In the end, he’ll just say “We’ll continue to do the best we can in the environment we have to work in. I hope to continue to support the people, the culture and the music”.
The celebration party is Tuesday, January 15 from 6:30pm-10:30pm; it’s a benefit for the Gift of Jazz, supporting the past, present, and future of Jazz in the Rocky Mountain Region. Bob Montgomery, the first jazzman to play Dazzle, will be in the house with The Bob Montgomery / Pete Olstad Big Band and a Dazzle Recordings Session with The Funky Fresh Trio and guests. Fine jazz photography unveiling by Susan Gatschet Reese. Food will presented by Chefs Duncan Smith and Benjamin Erickson, dessert display by Karen Storck, beer by Trumer Pils and wine by Barefoot Wine.