Dzirae Gold remembers hearing about Denver’s Five Points and its bustling jazz scene when she was growing up in Chicagoland.
“It was the Harlem of the West (and) all of the great jazz musicians came here — particularly Black musicians because they couldn’t stay elsewhere,” Gold said. “Five Points (became) a safe haven and hub for jazz music.”
The 27-year-old vocalist finally got a chance to experience Five Points when she moved to Denver just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Even though she had been performing her entire life, it was a strange time to come to the city and dedicate herself to music full time, with many venues closing because of health lockdowns.
Gold put on virtual concerts and built an online audience.
“They say no musician blows up overnight, even though it looks like it,” Gold said. “I consider myself a forever student. For me, it’s happening at just the right pace.”
Gold now performs across the city and is looking forward to headlining a First Friday Five Points Jazz Hop for the first time.
“This once-a-month event honors the jazz tradition,” Gold said.
Norman Harris, founder of Mile High Festivals, is one of the events’ organizers.
“The energy you get from having a live band is non-replicable,” Harris said. “There’s a swing and a groove that naturally happens in a live-music setting.”
The monthly jazz hops are a collaborative effort of Harris’ organization, the Five Points Business Improvement District, the Heart of Five Points, Curtis Park Neighbors and various sponsors. The hops start at 5:30 p.m. the first Friday of every month and take place at various venues through the neighborhood. They feature several musical performances with staggered start times to allow attendees to see each one. The jazz hops usually wrap up around 9 p.m., but businesses remain open afterwards, Harris said.
“There’s just general activity in Five Points,” Harris said. “Jazz music is a strong foundation to bring people to the neighborhood.”
Looking for a way to drive traffic to the Welton Street corridor, Harris’ organization was awarded a grant from Denver Arts & Venues.
The hops were wildly popular when they began in January of 2020. But only two months later, COVID-19 forced a hiatus until January of 2021, when they were revived outdoors at Sonny Lawson Park. When gathering restrictions eventually eased and venues opened their doors again, jazz hops returned to club settings and now happen at a mix of indoor and outdoor settings.
All of the musicians are local, Harris said. And while jazz is the foundation for the music, the hops allow for creative freedom. Some of the acts may incorporate other elements, like a DJ or spoken-word artist, Harris said.
Gold specializes in R&B and soul and also classic jazz. She will perform at 7 p.m. Nov. 4 at Spangalang Brewery, 2736 Welton St. She will be joined by Isaiah Relf on drums, Will Gaines on bass and Bharat Bhargava on keys.
Though she is headlining a jazz hop for the first time, Gold is a dedicated attendee.
“You will not be disappointed in the atmosphere,” Gold said. “It’s just a good time.”
Harris invites everyone to come and see what the fuss is about.
“Jazz is a beautiful art form,” he said. “The vibration you get from jazz music is incredible. At the heart of it, we’re putting forward some genuine and authentic performances that people can experience and that drives the performers to give us their best.”
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