Colorado Music Hall of Fame Inducts Seven Jazz Masters...
Very seldom can you find several jazz masters all under one roof. Well that was the case last month when the Colorado Music Hall of Fame inducted Charles Burrell, Bill Frisell and Ron Miles, Dianne Reeves, and Phillip Bailey, Larry Dunn and Andrew Woolfolk of Earth, Wind & Fire as Jazz Masters & Beyond at the Paramount Theatre.
The Colorado Music Hall of Fame, presented by Comfort Dental, has opened its doors at the Trading Post at Red Rocks. The dynamic new environment is designed for thousands of visitors before and after concerts, where they will learn about Colorado’s amazing and diverse musical legacy.
The mission of the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, a non-profit organization, is to honor those individuals who have made outstanding contributions, to preserve and protect historical artifacts, and to educate the public regarding everything that’s great about Colorado’s music.
Chuck Morris,Presidentand CEO at AEG Live Rocky Mountains, opened the celebration with words of welcome then introduced Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock who made reference to how many inductees had attended East High School and noted that a long list of famous alumni (over several generations) has benefited from the music programs.
Morris, who says he was honored and lucky to call Barry Fey his business partner and friend, presented the first Barry Fey Visionary Award to the East High School Music Program along with Hancock and “another visionary” and good friend former Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb. On behalf of the East High School Music Program, Keith Oxman who directstheinstrumental Music and Jazz Studies program and Will Traylor who directs the Vocal Program accepted the award.
Carlos Lando, President and General Manager of KUVO, was introduced as the host for the event who welcomed his jazz community to the first Jazz Masters Induction in Colorado’s history. To introduce the first inductee Charles Burrell, Lando asked Webb to share Burrell’s story who said, “You know he was the first African-American in the country to join a major symphony orchestra. He also had a pure and profound love for jazz. So after he’d finish a performance with Denver Symphony Orchestra, he would carry his bass to downtown joints like the Playboy Club and the Band Box to play with jazz groups.”
In his 60-plus years as a professional musician, Burrell played for conductors Arthur Fiedler and Pierre Monteux; he was an acclaimed jazz bassist appearing onstage with the likes of Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Lionel Hampton.
Webb closed by quoting Burrell who said, “I loved practicing classical music, and still had it in my mind that I would someday perform in a major classical symphony, but I also loved the way the girls looked at me when I played jazz.”
While gratefully waving his hat to the audience,97 year old Charles Burrell accepted his award to a resounding standing ovation as niece Dianne Reeves presented the award, saying “Congratulations, Uncle Charles…It is our honor to present you with this award of Induction.”
As a tribute to Charles Burrell, his nephew Purnell Steen (and Le Jazz Machine) played some of Burrell’s music.
The next Inductees were guitarist Bill Frisell and trumpeter Ron Miles.
“Now Ron and Bill are both a couple of East High kids,” Webb said. “By the time Bill Frisell graduated high school he was already an incredible guitarist and began studying with local legend Dale Bruning, and then Johnny Smith at UNC. He has held the Number One spot in the annual Downtown Critics Poll for nine out of 10 years. As much as he is renowned for jazz, he has also crossed boundaries into folk, countrymusicand Americana.”
In a career that spans more than 100 recordings, Frisell continues to garner notoriety as one of the world’s most well-known and sought-after jazz musicians.
Lando shared his sentiments about Inductee Miles saying, “I flat out love Ron Miles. I think it’s safe to say everyone who’s ever met him loves him. We have been hearing how extraordinarily generous he is in the community and how he has this knack for bringing people together – which is the very essence of jazz. He is renowned all over the world, and we are fortunate that he is Director of Jazz Studies at Metro State. I have heard Ron play with every genre ofband, and it is always the crystal-clear and gentle tone of his trumpet that you take home with you, that lives in your bones long after the music stops. The man sings through his horn.”
Ron Miles studied music at the University of Denver and the Manhattan School of Music and gained national exposure recording on his own – performing with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Ginger Baker and the Bill Frisell Quartet.
After receiving their awards, Frisell and Miles presented an extraordinary performance.Dianne Reeves, the next Jazz Inductee, attended George Washington High School. “While still in high school, she was invited by Clark Terry to perform in Chicago. After studying at CU Boulder, Dianne decided she was ready to set out for Los Angeles to break into the big time,” Webb said. “Wilma and I had the opportunity to see Dianne in one of her first performances at the Greek amphitheater in Los Angelos and laterwhiletravelling, just missed her performing in Lyon, France and Wellington, New Zealand.”
“In LA, Ms. Reeves quickly rose to the top echelon of jazz singers winning five Grammy Awards, two honorarydoctoratesand numerous other awards. She sang with everyone from Stanley Turrentine to Harry Belafonte, and she was the featured singer in George Clooney’s film noir Good Night and Good Luck,” Lando said. “We are lucky that she moved back to Denver and we treasure her striking beauty, her elegant and evocative voice, and the way she makes us feel as she journeys through old standards and new works. Dianne, we are so proud of you. It’s my pleasure to present to you this award of induction in the Hall,” he said while presenting the award.
“Thank you for this award, and I’m so happy for this honor,” Reeves said before presenting a memorable performance like no other.
Reeves, who attributes her uncle Charles Burrell for grounding her in the classic jazz vocalists, was the first vocalist signed to the revived Blue Note label in 1987. “He would bring over recordings of these great jazz artists and would always be willing to discuss them whenever I had a question. It was through him, that I got my first introduction to Sarah Vaughan. Through him I learned that the soul to the music is created through communicating with other musicians,” she said.
The long-time Park Hill resident moved back to Denver in 1992 after years away from home.
Before the last inductions, Morris recognized and thanked the sponsors including Comfort Dental, the Boedecker Foundation, AEG and the Anschutz Foundation. He also thanked media partners KUVO Jazz, CBS Channel 4, the Denver Post and also Pasta Jay’s Catering and the CMHF Board of Directors. He noted previous inductees that included John Denver, Glenn Miller, Judy Collins, Lannie Garrett and many others and encouraged attendees to check out the exhibits at the temporary home in the Trading Post next to Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
Closing out the program, Wellington said, “Let’s journey back to East High School one more time. The Class of 1969 produced Philip Bailey, with his soaring four-octave voice that has served him so well, both with Earth, Wind & Fire and everything that came after. The Class of 1971 produced Larry Dunn whose funky-yet-sophisticated keyboards and brilliant production talent have elevated everything he has worked on. The Class of 1968 boasted Andrew Woolfolk, a natural-born jazz saxophone player who infuses every song with exquisite and adventurous playing.”
While introducing Earth Wind & Fire members, Webb asked how many old school people were in the house and how many remembered the 23rd St. East Club featuring Charles Caldwell and Phillip Bailey receiving several raised hands.
Lando continued saying, “Along with Maurice White and other stellar musicians, they built Earth, Wind & Fire into a band that won six Grammy Awards, four American Music Awards, and they’ve been inducted into the national Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as well as getting their own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They sold more than 100 million records, making them one of the best-selling bands of all time.”
Phillip Bailey, Larry Dunn and Shavon Woolfolk (on behalf of her father Andrew), were presented their awards giving gratitude and recognition to others. Larry Dunn recognized his wife Luisa who performed background vocals with the band. And Philip Bailey paid homage to many musicians and gave special recognition and thanks to promoter Perry Jones.
The award presentation was followed with a concert that included local musicians from the Hot Lunch Band and vocalist Cheryl Renee. Bailey performed, displaying hisfour octave voice with the very popular “Reasons,” along with other EWF hit songs, “Shining Star” and “That’s The Way of the World.”
“Thank you for coming. You are all part of the glue that holds our jazz community together” Morris said closing out the program.