Zonas Tamales Five Points Denver restaurants“Cool, Crazy, Hot” advertised the brochure for Five Points Jazz Festival last Saturday. I guess standing in line for tamales for 20 minutes, only to be told I should come back in an hour, was kinda crazy. The air was cool but the sun was certainly hot, and it was too early in the season for me to have remembered to bring a hat or sunscreen.

The best term for the jazz fest would be “laid back.” It was a block party. People were hugging, chatting with the pairs of police officers who seemed to be everywhere, dancing in the streets, getting some soul food.

The only thing they didn’t want to do was sit in between the light rail lines, even though train service had been stopped to accommodate the festival. “Bad karma,” Todd said.Five Points Jazz Festival downtown Denver view

I was tempted to get ice cream at Blackberries and call it lunch, but instead I went to a booth for fried catfish, which was yummy. I stood close to the stage, taking pictures of the Janine Santana Latin Jazz Ensemble,five-points-jazz-fest-janine-santana-latin-jazz-horn-section-denver-may-2009 until Todd said some of the drumming was bothering his left ear and causing his eyes to twitch (nystagmus). We moved back into the shade of one of the buildings along Welton to listen some more. I thought the band was pretty tight.

Meanwhile, the crowd kept circulating among the four stages, two inside and two outside (technically, the KUVO Studio was the fifth, but only one band played there). A blind couple went by with matching white canes, and children played with balloon swords. We saw two women in what looked like nuns’ habits, made of shiny purple fabric; Todd thought they might be Nation of Islam. This street performer, a Mr. Jentry McCombs, danced up to me as if to say, “I see you over there taking my picture.”five-points-jazz-Jentry-McCombs-flutist-denver-may-2009

Blackberries kept calling, though, and it wasn’t just the badly mixed but catchy tunes from Dr. Tone and the Notes. It seemed to have called most of the people at the festival, judging from the line.five-points-jazz-fest-blackberries-line-denver-may-2009 I just had to try the sweet potato pie ice cream, so I got a suitably large cone for it and the chocolate. Big mistake: even with Todd’s help, a dessert defeated me.

Swallowed up by that line, I missed the twenty-car funeral procession. Todd said bystanders threw red roses on the hearse, and trumpeters played a dirge.

Todd left to take a nap in the nearest park, and I listened to Dr. Tone (What’s Your Voice Tone? said their T-shirts)five-points-jazz-fest-dr-tone-right-bobby-thursday-left-denver-may-2009 and then to the Lamont School of Music Jazz Band five-points-jazz-fest-lamont-school-of-music-band-denver-may-2009in the newish Crossroads Theater, which won Westword’s Best New Theater award last year. Todd reappeared and pronounced them the best band he’d heard all day. Maybe he liked the way the young drummer bared his teeth as he played with marshmallow sticks.

I highly recommend attending festivals in Five Points. The next one is Juneteenth, which commemorates the day the slaves in Texas learned they were free. And in late August there should be another jazz fest that lasts a week. Last year it coincided with the Democratic National Convention and the birth of this blog.

Leave A Comment

  1. BernardL May 19, 2009 at 7:28 am - Reply

    Entertaining word tour of the festival, Beth.

  2. Beth Partin May 19, 2009 at 7:49 am - Reply

    Hey, maybe one day I’ll do video.

  3. Todd Bradley May 20, 2009 at 8:12 pm - Reply

    The only thing good I can say about Dr. Tone and the Notes (which was the full name of the band at the ice cream shop) was that they played a cover of a song that Frank Sinatra also recorded. As far as I know, I’d never even heard the song before, but then I heard it playing today at the Italian restaurant where I had lunch with some people from work.

    That school jazz band was definitely the best group of the day, and one of very few who played what I’d consider “real” jazz. Great instrumentalists, with a heavy emphasis on improvisation around complex chord progressions.

    I liked that you could get free water from the Denver Water truck parked right among the strip of booths and tables. I wish there were more food and drink vendors, though, with a wider variety of offerings.

  4. Beth Partin May 20, 2009 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    I think if there had been a wider array of food and drink vendors, it might not have had such a neighborhood feel.

    I guess Dr. Tone and the Notes was really more of a blues band, but then, at one point in the history of music, the distance between jazz and blues was much narrower than it is now.

    Beth Partin’s last blog post..Denver Wines on Wednesdays

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