Jonesing for Food, Jazz and Festivals: Summertime in the Rockies is the Ticket
Need something to do this summer? Well the good news is there is no shortage of summertime festivities here in the Denver area. From concerts to festivals and food, the summer is lined up with events that cater to every preference. Not only will there continue to be amazing happenings this summer, but some of the best events have already taken place.
Jazz on the Points took place on May 20, and reminded us of Five Points’ historic relationship with Jazz. Once nicknamed the “Harlem of the West,” the Denver neighborhood has a long history of musical significance.
Shades of Colorado Springs showcased some of the finest Black musicians, artists and dancers in the state. There was also a beautiful fashion show which incorporated some traditional African garb along with some fresh takes of the iconic style. This 6th annual summer event happened June 2. Make sure to stop by next year to support this growing festival.
Juneteenth has been a staple in the African-American community since the dawn of time, and represents the oldest celebration of the freedom of slaves in America. The event on June 18 fit the bill accordingly and provided an interesting day of family fun and entertainment culminating with an exciting performance by Slick Rick. Boasting a large number of vendors and being centrally located in the downtown Five Points area creates the perfect atmosphere for an energetic yet relaxing weekend activity.
The upcoming Colorado Black Arts Festival is free, open to the public and will take place at City Park West, July 7-9. This festival serves to create an avenue to celebrate black art from across the entire diaspora. There will be beautiful art on display in a family friendly atmosphere, food and retail vendors and live entertainment on the Kuumba Stage. A very popular and inspiring event highlight will be Gospel Sunday, where a collection of the best choirs and praise teams in Denver will gather and grace the stage. A special guest performance by national recording artist, Melvin Williams (The Williams Brothers) will be featured on the main stage. This is one of the oldest black festivals in Denver as its roots trace back to the humble beginnings of a rained out inaugural day in 1987. Every year since, however, the festival has grown tremendously and has become a staple for summertime fun in the Denver area.
The Winter Park Jazz Festival is one of the most anticipated annual music events in Colorado and this year is set to match the hype. On Saturday, July 15, after an extremely talented all-day lineup including: R&R featuring Rick Braun & Richard Elliot, Nick Colionne, Jessy J, Pg. 6ix, and R&B legend Charlie Wilson will take the stage as the featured acts. Wilson has been a prominent figure in the R&B scene since his successful tenure as the lead singer of the legendary Gap Band. Wilson’s early career was already solidified from giving us great funk songs such as “You Dropped a Bomb On Me” and “Early in the Morning.”
However, Wilson didn’t stop there, launching a legendary solo career in the mid-90’s which has kept him successful and relevant to this day. “Uncle Charlie,” a nickname originally given to the crooner by Snoop Dogg, has given us smash hits like “Charlie, Last Name, Wilson” and creating new music for popular contemporary artists like Kanye West.
The second day of the festival on Sunday July 16, looks to be as equally exciting with acts including Brian Culbertson, Pieces of a Dream, Dotsero and Selina Albright. The featured acts include two very talented jazz vocalists, Marsha Ambrosius and Eric Benet. Ambrosius is a classically trained performer who transfers those skills seamlessly over into the world of soul and jazz. As one half of the duo Floetry, Ambrosius became known for her sultry singing ability and powerful songwriting. After leaving the group, she has continued on to have a successful career as a solo artist and currently records and writes songs for major contemporary stars like Beyoncé. Ambrosius has also put out several critically acclaimed EPs most notably, Friends & Lovers. She will be accompanied by her extremely talented partner, Eric Benet, a well-established vocalist that has been nominated for four Grammy’s in his illustrious career. With hits in his catalog like “Spend My Life With You,” he is sure to put on a great show alongside Ambrosius. Festivals are the not the only place to find great entertainment. You can enjoy Mary Louise Lee with an encore performance of Whitney Houston’s Songbook in July along with other performers in Downtown Denver at the Clocktower Cabaret.
In honor of 30 years of spreading the news about people of color in the Denver area, the Urban Spectrum will host the inaugural Family Reunion Festival. This festival will celebrate the institution of family reunions and create a new opportunity for Denver residents to host a summertime family gathering in the city. Along with vendors and live entertainment on the main stage, families will have the opportunity to purchase cabanas to be able to sit comfortably throughout the all-day event. There will also be food vendors, a car show, and a long list of family friendly activities to keep the whole family engaged for the entire weekend. Entertainment will be vast and diverse. Shane Franklin and the SF1 band will perform. Jah Goatfish and Friends will provide an All Star Revue with some of Denver’s most talented vocalist and musicians.
The Family Reunion Festival will take place Saturday, August 5, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Great Lawn Park in Lowry.
On Aug.18 and 19 the Genuine Wine and Jazz Fest will take place at the Copper Mountain Resort. This event provides intimate jazz venues in the nation and will be filled with some of the finest wine samplings in the Rocky Mountains. This year’s featured act will be Ronnie Laws, a talented musician who manages to blend the world of fine jazz with the powerful essence of soul music and the appeal of pop. Having been established since the 70’s with his saxophone laden appearance on “Always There,” Laws is sure to play some old favorites along with his contemporary work for an extremely compelling concert.
Paul Taylor is also listed on the bill, bringing one of the most talented contemporary saxophone players in the country to the stage. Not only is he capable of bringing the sounds of the 70’s back to life with his smooth tenor sax playing, but he is also a Denver native who always appreciates the opportunity to play near home. Having been an active professional musician since the 80’s, he has become comfortable honing his craft and as he says, “When it comes to writing and recording a new album, I always trust my instincts.” This is true on his latest album, “Burnin” which is his first record heavily infused with the tenor sax. Other artists on the bill will include Keiko Matsui, Alex Bugnon, Joey Sommerville and Jackiem Joyner.
A Hot Summer’s Night will present an extraordinary opportunity on August 19 to hear some legendary funk music from the 70’s era. The old-school focused concert will be held at the Arapahoe Park Racetrack, on 26000 East Quincy Ave. The classic band Cameo will headline the show and are sure to provide an energetic and entertaining night. They can be attributed with trans-generational hits such as “Candy” and “Wordup.”
The funk influenced soul band has been active since the 70’s and still tours forcefully and currently creates new content. The lineup is also jam-packed with other talented artists including the SOS Band, Lakeside, Howard Hewett, Soul School and the Deleon Brothers. It is sure to be one of the biggest parties in Aurora!
On Aug. 29, Lionel Ritchie and Mariah Carey will bring ample star power to the stage at the Pepsi Center. Ritchie is currently on his “All the Hits” tour and had to reschedule some dates, including the Denver show, due to illness. He is, however, back in good health and back on his cross country tour with the extremely talented Mariah Carey. Ritchie’s career is long, prosperous and littered with chart-topping hits.
He has been dominating the charts on both the soul and pop fronts since his funk days with The Commodores in the 70’s. After going solo in the early 80’s, Ritchie has not slowed down, winning several Grammy’s as both a singer and songwriter. Carey has an equally spectacular career haven risen to fame quickly and dominating the 90s, becoming the best-selling artist of the millennium by the year 2000.
So whether you enjoy heading to the mountains and soaking up the sunrays, thehustle and bustle of grabbing dinner in Downtown Denver for an intimate setting of entertainment, or rocking and rolling at a large concert venue in Denver, you can find it all and enjoy it all at summertime in the Rockies.