2023 Honoree Dr. Hugh Ragin accepts his award from brother jeff, surrounded by his family - Photo by Steve Hostetler

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HONOREES

Five Points Jazz Festival

presented by United Airlines

Each year, Denver Arts & Venues honors individuals who have been significant contributors to the Five Points community and the legacy of jazz in Denver and beyond.

2024 Honorees

ROSALIND "BEE" HARRIS

Rosalind J. Harris (also known as Bee) is the owner, publisher and art director of the Denver Urban Spectrum newspaper. She has been "spreading the news about people of color" since 1987. As an active member of the community, Bee has been politically connected and has volunteered for local and national campaigns. She has served on many boards in the capacity of an advisor and/or director with memberships and affiliations with diverse businesses and organizations. Over the years, she has mentored and trained more than 250 young people ages 13 to 17 in the field of journalism. Locally and nationally, she and the Denver Urban Spectrum have received numerous awards. Bee was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 2020. She has two sons and two grandsons, and is the proud great grandmother of 4-year-old Desiree.

KEITH OXMAN

Keith Oxman has been an Instrumental Music teacher for more than 33 years. The first nine years of his career were spent teaching fifth and sixth grade band in Colorado Springs. After that, Keith moved to Denver where he's taught at East High School as the Director of Instrumental Music for 24 years. Performing in Denver since the 1970s, Keith made his mark at El Chapultepec, the Champa Bar and numerous Five Points clubs with players like Gordon Simms and Al Hammond Moore. Keith performed on the James van Buren album “Hurry Up and Slow Down-Live at the Casino Cabaret.” He also toured with the Buddy Rich Band in 1986. In the early 2000s, Keith became part of the house band at El Chapultepec. He's shared the stage with many notable musicians, including Phil Woods, Art Blakey, Sonny Stitt, Pete Christlieb, Red Holloway, Louis Bellson, Pearl Bailey, Paquito de Rivera, Mel Torme, Pat Bianchi and Marian McPartland.

KEN WALKER

Ken Walker moved to Denver in late 1985 and, in 1987, began a 12-year tenure as the house bassist at Denver's legendary jazz club El Chapultepec. Ken has been on the faculty of the Lamont School of Music since 1991, where he teaches jazz bass to all jazz and commercial bass majors, and coaches the Modal, Standards and Latin Combos. Ken is also the bassist for the DU Jazz Faculty Combo. Ken Walker has played with a veritable who’s who of jazz artists. He has toured in Canada, Italy and Australia and also performed at the Telluride Jazz Festival, Jazz Aspen Snowmass and other festivals and venues throughout the United States. "Terra Firma," his recording debut as a leader, stayed on the Jazz Week Radio charts for 17 weeks, reaching #13, and finished #56 on the top 100 Jazz CD releases for 2005. Walker’s discography also includes "Phil Woods and Carl Saunders Play Henry Mancini," and two releases on Capri with Curtis Fuller: "I Will Tell Her" and "Down Home." "Down Home" was the #1 CD on Jazz Week Radio charts for four weeks, and finished at #5 in 2012.

CLEO PARKER ROBINSON AND CARLOS LANDO

Parade Grand Marshalls

Cleo Parker Robinson's talents as teacher, choreographer, and cultural ambassador have taken her world-wide, with numerous workshops and master classes reinforcing her vision of dance as a universal language.

For more than 30 years Carlos Lando was both PD and General Manager at KUVO. He has been an advocate for local musicians, and has received various awards for excellence including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Five Points Jazz Festival, and is a candidate for the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.

2023 Honorees

ED DWIGHT

Ed Dwight is a graduate engineer, a former USAF Test Pilot and America’s first African American Astronaut candidate. Not only did he have a successful career in the Air Force, he’s also been an IBM Systems Engineer, a restauranteur, an aviation consultant, a real estate and construction entrepreneur, and a visual artist, dedicating the last 43 years solely to his artistic endeavors. After being commissioned to create a bronze bust of George Brown, Colorado’s lieutenant governor in 1974, Ed enrolled at the University of Denver in the Master of Fine Arts Program and received his MFA in 1977. In 1979, the National Park Service encouraged Ed to create a bronze series portraying the history and historical roots of Jazz. "JAZZ: An American Art Form" consists of more than 70 bronzes depicting the evolution of Jazz from its African roots to the fusion of contemporary music. He is the recipient of enumerable “Living Legends Awards” from around the country for his achievements in space activities and contributions in art and black history. Most recently, he was inducted and bestowed honorary membership in the newly created Space Force. There is even an asteroid named after him. And several of his bronze pieces have been on Space Missions. Ed Dwight is a true renaissance man!

CHARLESZINE "TERRY” NELSON

Denver native Charleszine “Terry” Nelson has been involved with the Five Points Jazz Festival since its beginnings. As former Senior Special Collection and Community Resource Manager at the Blair Caldwell African American Research Library, Terry has been steeped in the history of Five Points for decades. A graduate of Manual High School, and University of Colorado – Boulder, Terry Nelson has spent her career nurturing the community roots of the Library and co-authored a book on how to engage volunteers in the work of libraries. She has lent her considerable expertise and enthusiasm to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission, her sorority (Alpha Kappa Alpha), The Links, Inc, and the Five Points Jazz Festival. The Five Points Jazz Festival Committee is thrilled to honor her with a 2023 Tribute Award.

DR. HUGH RAGIN

Dr. Hugh Ragin was raised in Houston, Texas, and began playing trumpet in his early teens, taking lessons in classical music; he was also a member of the Houston All-City High School Orchestra. Ragin earned a degree in music education from the University of Houston and a degree in classical trumpet performance from Colorado State University. He continued his education in 1978 at the Creative Music Studio with Roscoe Mitchell. A year later, he performed with Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith and the Creative Orchestra at the Moers Festival in Germany. He then toured with Anthony Braxton. During the early 1980s, Ragin toured with jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson. He began an association with David Murray, becoming a member of Murray’s band in the 1980s. Currently, Ragin is a member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Ragin earned a Doctorate in Musical Arts in jazz studies from the University of Colorado - Boulder and leads a variety of ensembles, master classes and workshops.

PURNELL STEEN AND ERICA BROWN

Parade Grand Marshalls

Erica Brown is a singer, songwriter, recording artist and actress based in Denver and has been dubbed “Queen of the Blues.”

As leader of Purnell Steen and the Five Points Ambassadors, Denver native Purnell Steen has performed jazz and blues “Five Points Style” for more than 30 years. 

2022 Honorees

GEORGE MORRISON

Denver Arts & Venues pays homage to George Morrison by naming the stage at 27th and California streets in his honor. George Morrison, Sr. was born in Fayette, Missouri in 1891, to talented musician parents. As a young child, his family moved to Boulder, Colorado where he studied violin for several years under Professor Harold Reynolds of the University of Colorado. Upon graduating from high school, he married and moved to Denver where he continued studying violin with David Abromwitz and Dr. Horace Tureman, Conductor of the Denver Civic Symphony Orchestra. Declining a scholarship to the New England Conservatory, Morrison instead attended the Columbia Conservatory of Music in Chicago. He later formed a jazz orchestra and toured and recorded under several variations of the name “George Morrison’s Jazz Orchestra,” including playing a Command Performance for King George and Queen Mary. While not touring, he gave lessons in his Denver home on Gilpin Street to pupils even if they could not afford to pay him. Five Points Jazz Festival performer Purnell Steen said of Morrison, “He was to Denver jazz as Louis Armstrong was to jazz in New Orleans.”

RON MILES

Ron Miles was born in Indianapolis, IN, on May 9, 1963, eventually moving to Denver in 1974 at the age of 11. He went to East High School before attending the University of Denver, University of Colorado Boulder and the Manhattan School of Music in the 1980s, studying both classical and jazz.

His 35-year recording career spanned a dozen albums for the Prolific, Capri, Gramavision, Sterling Circle and Blue Note labels. Miles’ expansive career extended to coordinating the jazz program at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Miles was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2017, and was nominated for a Grammy in 2018. Miles' last performance was in 2021 at the Village Vanguard in New York City.

Miles passed in March 2022 from complications from polycythemia vera – a rare blood cancer. Miles was a kind, spiritual, hard-working composer, musician, teacher and father who loved his family, his community, and music.

Biography adapted from Ron Miles’ Denver Post obituary.

CHRIS AND PAUL ROMAINE

Passionate about creating unique opportunities for youth to study and play jazz together, Chris and Paul Romaine founded the Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts (CCJA) in late 1999.

Paul, a second-generation Denver-based professional musician, award-winning teacher and instructor at MSU Denver and CU Boulder, used his experience and deep community roots to establish CCJA as a place where youth could connect with other professional musicians in meaningful ways.

Chris, a musician, secondary teacher and entrepreneur with degrees in public policy and economics, put her varied experience to work in handling the administrative side of the organization.

Over the last 22 years, Chris and Paul have been blessed to be stewards of CCJA’s natural growth and evolution. CCJA programs now include small groups, big bands, summer camps, educational outreach to schools, community performances, guided jam sessions, Near Peer Mentoring, Recording and Music Industry workshops, guest artist clinics, salons, Vocal jazz, SheBop Women’s Program, Adult program, and KinderBop for preschoolers. CCJA musicians have performed for over 100,000 people, and its programs serve hundreds of different musicians each year, support the creation of original music, and have positively influenced national and local jazz scenes.

Working so closely isn’t for all married couples, but Paul and Chris have made it work, committed to a community that is united through the arts and deeply committed to youth and the jazz art form.

DONALD ROSSA

Donald Rossa was born in Milwaukee. He took as job as a dishwasher, rose to cook, and then at the age of 21, became his company’s youngest general manager and starting opening restaurants. For the next ten years, he continued this trajectory in Denver, working for Jo-Jo’s, Grisanti Restaurants and Sfuzzi, where he became vice president. In 1990, he moved to Piatti’s as their vice president. In 1999, he left the corporate restaurant world and moved to an independent restaurant, Four Story.

In 2001, he found his sweet spot in the community with Dazzle, building a place for the heart and soul of Colorado’s music life. Donald became Dazzle’s owner in 2003. Under the leadership of Donald Rossa, Dazzle has presented a full range of performers, from local students to Grammy award-winning stars. “Not only does the music performed on our stages represent this exact moment in time, but it also pays tribute to the jazz greats who have graced our stages and others before. Jazz is a continuation of not only sounds that stem from Black musical roots, but also improvisational representations of our time,” he explained. “Without stages like Dazzle’s, this music tradition, and others, cannot grow and live on. That’s what it’s all about.”

MATT RUFF

Born in El Paso, Texas, Matt Ruff started his career in the restaurant industry at the age of 17. Starting as a dishwasher in an ice cream parlor, Matt quickly discovered his natural talent and love for hospitality and service. In 1988, Matt received a BA in communications, with an emphasis on advertising and public relations, and a minor in creative writing from the University of Texas, El Paso. Armed with his degree, he ran the numbers and quickly realized he could make a good living as a bartender, and it was more fun than other career options.

He moved to Denver in 2003, and within two weeks, Donald Rossa had hired Matt to be the general manager at Dazzle, Denver’s iconic jazz supper club. For 19 years, Matt has been in charge of the day-to-day operations of food, beverage and service at Dazzle and makes everyone feel welcome. When Dazzle moved from its location at 9th Avenue and Lincoln Street to the historic Baur’s building on Curtis Street in Downtown Denver, Matt became part owner.

Matt explained that he enjoys working at Dazzle because it is not a standard food and beverage venue; it’s more about the people and community. “To be surrounded by creativity and having profoundly talented people to work with in all aspects of the business is a blessing.”

COUNCILWOMAN CANDI CDEBACA AND JIM “DR. DADDIO” WALKER

Parade Grand Marshalls

Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca is a fifth-generation resident of the Eastside, graduating from Manual High School. She was the first LGBTQ Latina and first Democratic Socialist to serve on Denver City Council, with her city council office located in Five Points. As a member of Council, she co-sponsored the Eviction Defense Right to Council ordinance, Charter Amendment 2E to bring more balance to the branches of Denver’s government, and led the charge for Denver to divest from halfway houses run by private prison companies. 

Jim “Daddio” Walker was the force who brought rhythm and blues and soul music to Denver’s radio scene in the 1960s. Walker grew up in Gibsland, Louisiana. In the late 1960s, he moved to Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood with his family, later becoming operations manager at KDKO radio station. In 1989, Walker bought KDKO and became the first and only Black Man to own a radio station in Colorado’s history. Once he took over KDKO, he worked to ensure that the lineup appealed to all ethnic communities, and included DJs from a diverse group representing white, black and Latin cultures. Through his radio work, Walker promoted unity in the community and broadcasts with a positive voice.

2019 Honorees

JESS E. DUBOIS

Jess DuBois is a world-renowned artist who, even at the age of 84, continues to paint in home studio daily. Inspired to paint as a young boy, at the age of 26, he went on to fulfill his lifetime passion and love for art by attending the Art Institute of Denver as a member of the first graduating class in 1957. His studies continued under the tutelage of John Jellico and Daniel Green. He’s painted throughout the United States, including New Mexico and California where his work is greatly appreciated. 

For more than 20 years, DuBois owned and operated his own private studio and gallery in Estes Park until town's devastating flood of 1982. At that time, he relocated to the Denver area, returning to the Five Points neighborhood in which he grew up to open a studio and gallery at 2823 Welton St. He remained in the Five Points neighborhood until he was forced to close the gallery. 

In 1988, Mr. DuBois was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Denver Black Arts Festival, and was also commissioned by Denver Transportation to create a bronze statue which remains located at 30th and Downing streets adjacent to Denver’s light rail station. In 2004, DuBois was honored for his artworks by Denver Mayor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts and was also inducted into the Art Institute of Colorado Hall of Fame. Mr. Jess DuBois also proudly served in the United States Marine Corps in Korea. Jess DuBois continues to paint daily and has a deep desire to pass on his lifelong experience and skills as an artist to anyone who may be interested in becoming an artist.

FRED HESS

Fred Hess was one of Denver’s most important educators and was a beloved musician held in the highest esteem by his colleagues, peers and students. He shaped the career of dozens of jazz musicians. He was admired not only as a man with amazing talent and keen ability to share it, but also as a bon vivant, a man who always was in a cheerful mood. He is thoroughly missed; however, his legacy will live on through his recorded music and with the many musicians he inspired.

Fred Hess was born on September 3, 1944 in the northern Philadelphia suburb of Abington, PA but was raised across the Delaware River in New Jersey. Fred graduated Trenton State College in 1981 and relocated to Boulder where he graduated from the University of Colorado-Boulder with a doctorate in music composition in 1991. His early professional credits include stints with Phil Woods and Fred Waring. Mr. Hess also composed the music for a Sam Shepard play. Although Fred was at first influenced by the swing era saxophonists of his youth, by the early 1960s he had embraced the exploration of the boundaries of notated and improvised music as well as the avant-garde movement of the free jazz players like Anthony Braxton and the renowned AACM. Shortly after moving to Colorado, he founded the Boulder Creative Music Ensemble and soon after started the Fred Hess Group. 

Over the decades, Hess performed and recorded with Charlie Haden, Ginger Baker, Wynton Marsalis, Ray Brown, Hugh Ragin and numerous others. Fred received the Colorado Council of the Arts Composition Fellowship in 1986 and again in 1994. He also was the winner of the inaugural Hennessey Jazz Search and won the Julius Hemphill Award for Jazz Competition in 2000. Fred Hess was the Director of Composition Studies at Metropolitan State University of Denver for more than 20 years. When not teaching or performing, Fred loved gardening and being with his children, grandchildren and friends. Hess was a firm supporter of the Salvation Army and was a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church. He enjoyed watching football and boxing when not tending to his vegetable garden. On October 27 of 2018, Fred Hess made his final transition, leaving the world a better place with his magnificent contributions.

ELBRA WEDGEWORTH

The Hon. Elbra Wedgeworth began her career in public service as a City Council Senior Analyst. From 1994 through 1996, she was the Clerk and Recorder for the City and County of Denver and served also as a member of the Denver Election Commission and the Board of County Commissioners. The Hon. Elbra Wedgeworth later served as the Director of Community Relations and Philanthropic Affairs at Denver Health and Hospital Authority, but later resigned that position to pursue election to Denver City Council, where she served two and a half terms and eventually became Council President. In 2007, she joined Denver Health as their Chief Government and Community Relations Officer—where she currently serves today. Wedgeworth was also the President of the Convention Host Committee and a key driver in securing Denver as the location of the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

2018 Honorees

JEFF FARD

A native of Northeast Denver, Jeff S. Fard, better known as brother jeff, is a multimedia journalist, historian and community organizer who lectures nationally speaking to youth, students, social organizations and professionals about subjects including cultural identity and history, diversity, self-empowerment, community building, economic development, health disparities and the uniting power of art. In 1994 he founded brother jeff’s Cultural Center in Five Points. The space is dedicated to events that foster growth, strength and voice in the community.

In 2000, brother jeff began organizing nationally to help reduce the disproportionate HIV and AIDS rate in the African-American community and served as an advisor to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and several other organizations. Since then, he has branched out and his current work includes gun violence reduction, mental health interventions and community mentor development.

brother jeff is a board member for the Center for African American Health and is a past board chair of the Denver Foundation. He has received numerous honors for his work including being recognized by the late Steven Graham and the Community Resource Center as a “Legendary Leader of Colorado’s Nonprofit Sector.” Jeff is also the publisher and editor of the award-winning monthly publication, 5 POINTS NEWS.

NORMAN HARRIS III

Norman Harris is a fourth generation Coloradan, born and raised in Denver. He attended Colorado Academy from middle school to high school and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University. Norman’s roots in the Five Points neighborhood run deep. From the age of 8, Norman worked for and with his grandfather, Norman Harris Sr. at Wise Harris Liquors, a family-owned liquor store at 24th and Welton streets. There Norman learned valuable lessons about running a business and interacted with businessmen and property owners in the neighborhood who were friends and associates of his grandfather.

After graduation from Colorado State University, Norman started working as an investment professional and began to develop businesses including a t-shirt printing business and an entertainment company. In 2012, Norman lead the rejuvenation of Denver’s Juneteenth celebration attracting crowds that the celebration hadn’t seen since the late 1990s. In 2013, Norman started working with the Five Points Jazz Festival, helping the celebration reach new heights in attendance and community participation.

Norman is a proud father of his son Brenden, who attends the University of Arizona. 

Through his companies Mile High Festivals and non-profit JMF Corporation, Norman’s mission is to create culture in Denver and bring people together in harmony.

Norman currently serves as a board member of the Five Points Business District.

LU VASON

Lu Vason’s career began in hair styling, moved to newspaper reporting, then to managing musical artists and eventually to concert promotion. Starting with concerts in the Bay area, he eventually partnered with a Denver friend to promote the US P-Funk tour. Later, that friendship led him to settle in Denver permanently where he began working with renowned promoter Barry Fey, promoting concerts with some of the greatest stars in music, including Prince, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, the O’Jays, and Earth, Wind & Fire.

In 1977, Lu attended Cheyenne Frontier Days and was inspired to create his own African American Rodeo circuit, finally realized in 1984 as the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo. At the time, it was the first and only African American touring rodeo in the United States and throughout the world. Today it continues to touch thousands of people with stories of African American cowboys and cowgirls.

In addition to the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, Lu had his own entertainment company, “Lu Vason Presents,” through which he continued to book concerts, plays and other forms of cultural activities for the community. In 2013, he produced the First Annual Denver Jazz Fest. In 2015, Lu introduced Colorado to “OperaJazz.”

With an unshakeable partnership with his business manager and wife, Valeria Howard-Vason, Lu will forever be remembered as pioneer, visionary and barrier breaker.

JIM “DADDIO” WALKER AND WENDE HARSTON

Parade Grand Marshalls

Jim “Daddio” Walker was the force who brought R&B and soul music to Denver’s radio scene in the 1960s, running KDKO with a mission of creating unity within the community at-large through his mixture of talk radio, rhythm and blues, and soul music. Walker grew up in Gibsland, Louisiana. Though he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology at Southern University in Baton Rouge and a certification in education at Grambling University, his dream was to own and operate a radio station. In the 1960s, he and his family moved to Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood, started working for KDKO and shortly thereafter instigated a change in lineup with a group of DJs representing white, black and Latin cultures. Walker promoted unity in the community and broadcasts with a positive voice.

Wende Harston started performing in theater at the age of 5, singing professionally at 10, and continues to perform regularly. She is a fourth-generation singer, and her mother's love of singing jazz was passed onto her. Even though Wende is a classically trained singer, she has sung almost every imaginable style of music, with jazz and blues as her favorites. As a stage, TV and film actor, Wende infuses her song interpretations with her acting skills. Wende feels "amazingly blessed" to have had a 32-year run with Denver's second oldest band, the Queen City Jazz Band, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

What's next for Wende? "Well, the good Lord willing and the crick don't rise, I'll be able to keep it up till it's time to leave this world."

Previous Honorees

2005 - 2017

2017
Ellyn Rucker
Dick and Maddie Gibson
Lew Gaiter

2016
Jim “Daddio” Walker
Rod Buckner
Jerry Krantz

2015
Joseph Leonard Bonner
Jimmy Trujillo
Sam "Sammy" Mayfield

2014
Neil Bridge
Justina Curlee
Willie Houston

2013
Hazel Miller
Flo Hernandez Ramos
Nat Yarbrough

2012
Erica Brown
Carlos Lando
Bob Montgomery

2011
Ed Dwight
Fred Fuller
Wende Harston
Councilwoman Carla Madison

2010
Ray Pacheco
Cleo Parker Robinson
LeRoy Smith

2009
Gloria Holliday
Purnell Steen
Billy Tolles

2008
Dr. Sam Gill
George Morrison, Sr.
Freddy Rodriguez, Sr. 

2007
Edward Battle
Louise Duncan
Brad Leali

2006
Charlotte Mosley Cowens
Sam Bivens
Harriet Butcher

2005
Ted Alexander
Charles Burrell
Joe Keel