The Jazz Masters & Beyond Induction Concert was by all accounts an extraordinary evening of music, personal stories, and emotional inductions. Audiences and performers alike were moved by the love and sense of community felt by all at Paramount Theatre that night.
Before the official show time, anxious jazz lovers entered the finely crafted Art Deco auditorium to the sounds of East High School’s Sixth Hour Jazz Combo proudly playing a half hour set of their own compositions.
Subsequently, the brightly colored event logo lit up the stage as Mayor Michael B. Hancock and the Hall’s Chair, Chuck Morris opened the show with a brief introduction and welcome to the audience, then turned over the 3 ½ hour event to hosts; the popular Former Mayor Wellington Webb and KUVO’s charismatic radio personality, Carlos Lando.
To begin the evening, the Barry Fey Visionary Award [named after the legendary Denver promoter] was presented to music directors, Keith Oxman and Will Taylor on behalf of the renowned Music Program at East High School, which had produced so many esteemed professional musicians over the last century! These include past inductees; band leader, Paul Whiteman; singer, Judy Collins; and most of tonight’s honorees.
The inductions began with 97-year-old Charles Burrell — the first person of color to be hired by a major symphony [Denver] in the United States. In his 60-plus years as a professional musician, Burrell played for many other orchestras and conductors here and around the world. After accepting his award, Burrell charmed the crowd with an impromptu jig. He was honored with a performance by local jazz maven, pianist Purnell Steen and his band, Le Jazz Machine.
Next up were inductions for the widely acclaimed and sought–jazz musicians; guitarist, Bill Frisell and trumpeter, Ron Miles. Both are East High alums. The 4-song set with drummer Brian Blade entranced the crowd with their amazing musical synchronicity. They ended their performance with a beautiful cover of “What the World Needs Now Is Love”, which was thematic of the night.
World-renowned Jazz vocalist and 5 time Grammy winner Dianne Reeves was all smiles while receiving her well-deserved induction award from Mayor Wellington Webb and Carlos Lando.
The audience was awed by her exuberant vocals and poignant stories of growing up in Denver. She introduced her song “Nine” quietly recalling the following childhood memory, “We played out in the street all day long,…in the middle of the street…we played with our imaginations from sunup to sundown. The neighbors looked after all the children. I decided to dedicate this song to the age of nine because it’s the last time you’re only one number.” At the end of the song the audience jumped to their feet, applauding loudly in recognition of a more innocent time.
The final Inductions honored former Earth, Wind, & Fire band members and East High grads; Larry Dunn, Andrew Woolfolk [absent because of illness], and Philip Bailey. After receiving their awards, a lighting change revealed a battalion of instruments and musicians—
Denver-based band Hot Lunch, keyboardist Dunn, and vocalist Bailey. During the first part of their set, Bailey delighted the audience with stories of transitioning from students to young musicians. But just when you thought it was safe to take a seat, the place exploded with dancing and singing when they lit into ,” Let’s Groove,” “Shining Star,” and “September”! After the exhilarating performance, they all took their bows and said goodnight.
The house lights came up and the former shadows of dancing, waving, and applauding people, revealed an audience of many ages and colors, smiling as they headed home, united by the power of music…and love!