Jasper Edward Attlee — better known by his DJ name, berlioz — made his Denver debut at the Marquis Theater on Friday. With a line wrapping around the building — and no other artist slated to play – there was a clear sense of anticipation growing through the night. Once inside, the air was thick with the scent of fresh pizza and fans were occupying every conceivable space, spilling over railings, a madhouse to say it simply.
As fans finally settled — beverages acquired and vinyls of berlioz’s newest EP, “jazz is for ordinary people,” tucked beneath their arms — passing conversations drifted over some chill jazz pouring from the speakers, creating a vibe akin to what a New York cafe in the 1940s might have felt like. This ambient period didn’t last long as berlioz quickly hit the stage, sending a hush rippling through the crowd.
Atlee stood at a DJ booth wearing an infectious smile, surrounded by a powerhouse band featuring Grammy-nominee Sharay Reed on bass, Grammy-winner Rc Williams on keys and saxophone virtuoso Matt Carrillo. They formed an unconventional jazz quartet that gave a performance that showcased each musician’s prowess, seamlessly interweaving solos to create a captivating whirlwind of sounds. Atlee, soft-spoken – talking only twice with few words said – let his music conduct the vibe in the room, allowing the melodies to speak louder than words.
The blend of rich jazz instrumentation with the innovative sounds of new wave house was captivating, sweeping the audience into a smooth groove. Mystical, airy textures coupled with the classic house four-on-the-floor beats rocked the room. Reed’s bass provided a rhythmic swing, while Williams’s key inversions made your hair stand up. Occasional whoops and hollers for the musicians enhanced the playful performance. However, Carillo on the sax was the real stand-out, adorning the songs with warm lines pouring from his instrument like sunlight rising over a misty morning. The combination of his tone, phrasing and reverberated microphone made for a beautiful sonic experience.
Describing his sound as “if Matisse made house music,” berlioz presented tracks from “jazz is for ordinary people,” which embodies the colorful and flowing qualities of a Matisse painting. The tracks, composed with life and joy, offered a versatile listening experience. Songs like “deep in it” exuded a smokey, noir detective sound, while “la danse” delivered a mellow and floaty experience with chill dance breaks. berlioz effortlessly intertwined classic house and jazz elements, showcasing his love for both genres.
The diverse audience at the Marquis Theater demonstrated that jazz is thriving and open to innovative fusions. berlioz’s willingness to explore new wave jazz/house fusion resonates with a younger audience, bridging the gap between traditional and contemporary jazz enthusiasts. He’s opening up the world of jazz to someone who might not have tapped in otherwise. One day berlioz, the next Charlie Parker. So, rest easy, old heads. The genre is in good hands.
You can tell he is an artist who is passionate about the music he’s making and that passion translates to the live show. The energy in the room never lies and the phrase “These cats are cooking” was being thrown around left and right. For those looking to dip their toes into the realms of house or jazz, berlioz’s music and live performance offer an accessible and delightful starting point.