What: Max Wagner
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Cuvée Wine Bar, 947 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-447-0475
The jazz scene in and around Boulder is populated by regulars. Their names are all over concert calendars, whether they’re playing solo or in endless combinations of duos, trios and quartets. One of them is Max Wagner, a tenor and soprano saxophone player and jazz vocalist. The born-and-raised Colorado musician is always playing in the area, so we caught up with him to see what he’s up to.
So how long have you been playing in Boulder?
Well I grew up in Estes Park, it’s my hometown.
That’s great that you’ve stuck around all these years.
I spent many years in road-traveling bands and got to see a lot of the country up close, which was really fun, and that is a great way [to do it] actually. Especially in those days, a lot of the bookings were a week long, so you’d be in St. Louis for a week … I love traveling and playing music.
What keeps you coming back to this area?
You know, it’s just a wonderful place. There’s so much to offer and the people are just truly friendly and supportive of the arts. The generosity is incredible and the enthusiasm is unparalleled, no matter where else you go. The people in Colorado just love this … and the people do just show up and support. I love the diversity of Boulder and the amazing conversations you can have with almost anybody you meet in Boulder. It’s definitely a thinking man’s town and, you know, the wide range of people from so many parts of the world and the country — it’s always a gas going down there. And Cuvée is great too … I got a great pianist who plays with me there, Steven Denny, a young and upcoming cat.
You’re definitely a regular around here. Tell me about some of your repeating gigs.
The only place I’m regularly playing right now is Cuvée in Boulder, then up in Niwot at Treppeda’s, which is fun. He’s one of those truly Italian hosts. He’s always convinced you’re not getting enough to eat. He’s like a jewish grandmother.
Do you tend to favor particular jazz styles?
That’s so hard because words describing categories of music — I mean, the phrase “avant-garde jazz” came into usage in the late ’50s and the ’60s. It’s so hard to use the phrasing. I play what I call modern, mainstream jazz. I hope that means something to somebody — I mean, the main stem of the mainstream of straight-ahead jazz. It’s an acoustic approach and very informed by the music of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane.
Was your last album really in 2006?
That’s right. I got a new one coming up and it’s about half done. All the music is played but then there’s all the other stuff.
Did you collaborate with anyone, or is it solo?
That’s with the same group as the 2006 album, with Jeff Jenkins on piano, Ken Walker on bass and Todd Reid playing drums.
What’s going to be on the album?
This one’s going to have four originals and one of them is a song that has [original] lyrics as well. One of them has original vocals and scat singing. The rest is classic mix of standards, such as “Birdland.”