The 16th annual Five Points Jazz Festival promises a diverse menu of music, from New Orleans band Dinosaurchestra to headliner Jakarta, a Denver favorite led by City Park South resident Isaac Points. “The festival celebrates Five Points’ history as the ‘Harlem of the West,’ where many little clubs hosted such jazz greats as Thelonius Monk, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington,” said Brooke Dilling, community programming specialist for Denver Arts and Venues.
Dilling said the free festival drew 50,000 people last year. The music begins with a parade down Welton St., from 26th St. to the main stage at 27th St. “The parade is a nod to traditional second line parades in New Orleans. Everyone is dancing; it’s really fun,” said Dilling.
Forty-five bands are scheduled to play at 10 locations throughout the day. Many styles are represented, including blues, Latin, electric/fusion and gypsy jazz. Student groups include the Montbello drumline and the Quincy Avenue Rhythm band from Kent School. “There are lots of new bands every year,” said Dilling. “We get so many applications that veteran bands can only perform every three years.”
Several new performing venues have been added this year, said Dilling. “The Crossroads Theater was one of our venues but it was turned into offices. So the piano stuff will be at Coffee at the Point. This year we’ll be adding the Roxy Theatre as a venue. It’s a hip-hop club so we’ll bring in tables to give it a jazz feel. Another new venue is Goed Zuur, a sour beer taproom, which will feature late-night sets from 7pm to 1am.”
The placement of vendors and entrance points will be rearranged this year, Dilling said. “It was becoming too claustrophobic with everybody on both sides of the street, so now the food and art vendors will be on one side and the drinks on the other. To be more cognizant of security, there will be five entrance points with bag checks: 25th and Welton, 26th and Welton, 27th and California, and both sides of 28th at Welton. To help with parking, we’ll offer a bike valet again this year at Coffee at the Point.”
Headliner Jakarta plays from 6:30 to 7:30pm. Leader/bassist Isaac Points plans to swell the bands’ ranks for the festival. “We’re normally a 10 piece, but we’ll go to 13 or 14 players for the festival, including six horns,” he said. “Our show will reflect the diversity of the event, including soul, pop, country, Tejano and salsa.”
Points, a staple of Denver’s music scene since the early ‘90s, has lived with his wife Jackie in the City Park South neighborhood since 2010. A graduate of Manual High School, Points is dedicated to helping Denver Public Schools kids learn and play music. “My heart is with the Denver Public Schools because budget cuts have made musical training a lost art. It’s refreshing to help students to play real instruments.”
He’s on the board of Bringing Back the Arts, started by First Lady of Denver Mary Louise Lee to promote DPS student musicians at an annual concert at the Bluebird Theater. In April he arranged professional players to back up young East High School students at their talent show. “The kids play guitars or horns. Some of them are very talented gems,” Points said.
Points is adept at many styles of music, playing bass with such diverse artists as Chuck Berry and Tony Bennett, and singing bass with The Platters on tour. As the leader of Jakarta, he loves getting everyone dancing. “I sell fun,” he says.
Rebirth of Five Points
Restoring the heart of Five Points, but preserving its soul.
The Rossonian Hotel, the historic crown jewel of the Five Points jazz era, will rise from long dormancy to become a boutique hotel, jazz club and restaurant. Project partners include developer Palisade Partners and former hometown basketball star Chauncey Billups. The plan for the 41-room hotel includes adding a fourth story to the hotel which will add seven rooms with balconies. The project is slated to begin early next year, after the plan goes through Denver’s landmark preservation review process.
The Rossonian and numerous other jazz clubs along Welton St. drew well-known jazz musicians during their heyday, including Billie Holiday, Count Basie and Nat King Cole
The City of Denver and Five Points Business District have created a plan with the vision of making Welton St., in the heart of Five Points, “a multi-cultural entertainment district, rooted in African American history and seen as a destination for arts, culture and entertainment.”