Dazzle’s new location will feature artwork from local artists preserving the history of Colorado Jazz
The delay in opening has opened up opportunities for local partnerships led by Owner and President, Donald Rossa.
On both sides of Dazzle’s new stage are windows stained with hues of red and blue. They alter the lighting inside with the motion of cars and people traveling up and down Denver’s 14th Street.
“You will feel the pulse of the city without it distracting from the music,” said Kelley Dawkins, Dazzle’s Marketing Director.
Denver’s flagship jazz club is moving from its current location in the Baur Building (1512 Curtis St) into the city-owned Denver Performing Arts Complex (1080 14th St.). The stage will feature dynamic LED lights that resemble Dazzle’s newest logo.
“What you see are these circles on the logo. The circles are either a vinyl, the bell of a horn or the circle of life. It represents a lot of different things,” said Owner and President of Dazzle, Donald Rossa.
Due to building permit delays, the club doesn’t have a set timeline for its opening.
“We thought we were opening in October or November, but at this point it’s out of our control. As soon as we get the permit, we can open within two to three weeks. We’re so close. We can’t wait.” Dawkins said.
But Dazzle is making the most of delays and has been working with local artists and muralists to create an orchestra of visual art and sound.
Murals are planned to honor famous musicians such as Ron Miles, René Marie, Charles Burrell and Freddy Rodriguez Sr. Other installations will feature music note mosaics and a Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep made of reclaimed and repurposed wood from nearby demolition sites that will be an ode to the state’s mammal and jazz horns created by local artist, Brett Matarazzo.
Famous Denver artist Thomas Evans, better known as Detour, shared a video of his mural honoring Miles, who is in the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.
Earlier this year Detour, a Redline Contemporary Art Center (2350 Arapahoe St.) Board Director, introduced Rossa to resident artist Jasmine Holmes, artistically known as Jazz Holmes.
“[Detour] just happened to walk into my studio one day,” said Holmes. “He saw me working on some pieces and we talked for an hour just about the mural scene. He asked about my experience and he thought I would be a good fit for the mural scene. He had a partnership with Dazzle, mentioned me and that is how I got into that project.”
Holmes’ own experience with jazz made her just the right fit for the project. She played trumped for her school’s marching band when she was younger, something she felt helped her push jazz’s boundaries.
“Brass instruments are a strictly male-dominated thing. Women are expected to sing, men are expected to play all of the instruments. For me to be a trumpet player as a kid, I took a lot of pride in that.” Holmes said.
The bass, the beat and the booming of brass instruments lived in Holmes’ mind like colors.
“There were moments that I would close my eyes and have to feel what was happening around me. When I did that, I swear I could see these blips of color around me popping up with the music.”
Holmes first moved to Colorado in 2017 to attend graduate school at Colorado State University. She graduated in 2020 and struggled to find a jazz community during the pandemic being stuck in Fort Collins at the time.
“I honestly didn’t know about jazz in Denver. It feels like an honor to find jazz again. This is a dream come true type of project for me,” Holmes said.
Holmes will create two different murals honoring women from Denver’s jazz community. One of the women the murals will honor is René Marie, a mentor of Rossa.
“Rather than just hear the music, I want people to feel it. I always listen to jazz music in my studio because it helps me experience color. The more I listen to jazz music, I let the music itself determine the colors I use,” Holmes said. “Jazz is more than just music, it is a feeling, it’s a culture. I want to help people feel more than what they are hearing.”
Rossa said he’s been intentional about creating a space that will honor all contributors to the jazz scene.
One in particular is an ode to Chicano jazz legend, Freddy Rodriguez Sr.
“What I’ve learned operating jazz for so many years is that the Latin community has pushed music forward for the last 80 years. El Chapultapec first started out doing Latin music, but when the owner asked for a jazz musician, that person happened to be Freddy Rodriguez Sr.,” Rossa said.
Rossa brought in Denver artist Shay Guerrero to create a mural honoring the legacy of Rodriguez.
Her mural will be of Rodriguez Sr. playing the saxophone and will feature different levels of wood so as to pop out at the viewer. It’ll be located in the piano lounge.
“I just hope it inspires other people and brings in a new audience. Maybe this will spark the interest of a young child who wants to be a saxophone player like Freddy.”
Using the past to inspire the present is how Guerrero’s art career has taken shape.
“My dad passed away to suicide when I was six years old. He came from Mexico and became a U.S. citizen. Growing up I was not in touch with that side of me, I wasn’t in touch with it,” Guerrero said. “I started diving deep and trying to discover more about the lost side of my culture as I got older. I started diving into Dia de los Muertos and that became a huge theme in my artwork.”
Guerrero has embraced her Mexican background and eventually started her own company called heART Dog Art Studio, which turns pets that have passed away into alebrijes.
She spent much time researching the life of Rodriguez Sr. for the Dazzle mural.
“The thing that stood out to me the most about him was how he graced stages around Denver that were considered really rough neighborhoods. He was 89 years old playing on stages and actively participating in his passion up until his last days. That’s just such a beautiful example of someone living their true passion until the very end of their life.”
“His first jazz gig was at The ‘Pec and his last jazz gig was at The ‘Pec,” Rossa said.
The piano lounge will also feature a collection of vinyls highlighting Denver jazz musicians and it will be used as a space for monthly Saturday kids matinee funded by the Denver Arts & Venues Denver Music Advancement Fund.
“It will be geared toward kids from five to 15. We will bring in musicians who specialize in getting kids up, active and dancing. We want kids in this space, we want them listening to music without it interfering with the adult listening experience during other times of the week,” Dawkins said.
One of Rossa’s favorite rooms in the new space is the green room that connects to the sound booth looking out to the main stage.
“Best seat in the house,” Rossa tells me. “This is where I stand. You very rarely see me on stage. My favorite thing to do at Dazzle is to watch people watch the art. I’m just happy that we have brought in so much community to help build this place,” Rossa said.
Dazzle’s vision for its main stage is focused on highlighting its performers.
“The imagery we are using throughout the whole facility are people who have inspired Dazzle for 26 years now. People like Charlie Burrell told us how to give stage to the musician. Ron Miles, who passed away a year ago, told us what a musician needs from a stage. Both of those guys are huge mentors to Dazzle and myself personally.”