The Casino Cabaret (now Cervantes’ Masterpiece) is no longer bustling with jazz legends, flappers, and cigar smoke. The Rossonian Hotel remains vacant, but the jazz scene in northeast Denver’s historic Five Points neighborhood continues to thrive. Following in the footsteps of jazz legends Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, and Duke Ellington, more than 30 local jazz musicians will play nine stages in the neighborhood formerly known as the “Harlem of the West” this weekend. Now in its 11th year, Five Points Jazz Fest started humbly (two or three bands playing in the Blair-Caldwell Library parking lot.) With a day full of live music, dancing in the streets, art vendors, and food truck fare, this year is expected to surpass last year’s record attendance of more than 16,000 people.
Niecie Washington, special events coordinator at Denver Arts & Venues, says the festival “keeps the local flavor” by showcasing musicians with Colorado ties. Starting at 11 a.m., festival-goers can bounce from venue to venue at their own pace, while listening to local bands such as After Midnight Trio, Freddy Rodriguez, and Brad Goods. Headlining acts include Castle Rock saxophonist Nelson Randell and salsa band Conjunto Colores on the main stage (29th and Welton). In between sets, the audience can nosh on catfish from DC Concessions, smoked turkey legs from the Goods, and burgers and fries from OG Burgers, while sipping on local libations from Wicked Hard and Black Canyon.
Five Points Jazz Fest is a free event on Saturday, May 17 at various venues in the Five Points neighborhood.