ONE Denver Fosters a New Jazz Age for Youth Band

By Basha Cohen

Stephen Brackett doesn’t sleep. 

As a founding member of the Flobots and Youth on Record, and as Colorado’s current music ambassador, Brackett has set his sights on reinventing the nighttime economy of Denver. 

As part of Mayor Michael Johnston’s transition committee for arts and venues, Brackett is advocating for safer and sensible nighttime policies and a new “night mayor.” The role has met with great success in other cities and helps facilitate a vision and collaborative dialogue across public and private sectors. 

For Brackett, it all starts with the kids. He believes Denver currently doesn’t have places for youth to gather and express themselves after dark. 

“If we neglect Denver’s youth, we ruin its future,” Brackett said. “Where is there a space for children and teenagers to experiment and develop their creativity? If we don’t make space and allowances for them then we aren’t making space for our future.” 

Brackett, Alex Whittier and Matt Runyon have launched a nonprofit called ONE Denver, in which “ONE” is an acronym for Office of Nighttime Economy. Formerly known as 87 Foundation, ONE Denver’s vision is to make Denver a world-class city for music, creativity and nightlife. 

DAES jazz jam band at El Chapultepec, July 6, 2023. Photo by Basha Cohen

Brackett believes that youth are part of that mission. As a test drive for the theory, ONE Denver hosted an electrifying kids’ jazz jam series last summer at the legendary downtown jazz venue, El Chapultepec. The “Pec,” home to jazz greats throughout its 87 years, was shuttered in 2020. 

“For generations, aspiring jazz musicians used to gather outside this very venue, even when they were underage, just to catch a glimpse and listen to the renowned musicians who played inside,” Brackett reflected. “It holds a special place in the heart of jazz enthusiasts and serves as a symbol of inspiration and ambition.”

Brackett introduced this old-school venue to new-school jazz greats from the Denver School of the Arts. “Great” is putting it mildly when it comes to these young musicians known as DAES.  They curated nights of free-wheeling jazz called “The Sandbox.” Performers ranged in age from elementary students to high-school graduates heading to the tony halls of The Juilliard School and Berklee College of Music on full-ride scholarships.

“Our goal is to give aspiring young talents mentorship to navigate what is often a fraught music scene,” Brackett explained. “We teach them how to negotiate contracts, set times and work with promoters on marketing budgets. We want these students to know they deserve to be paid equitably.” 

As a result of the Sandbox series and ONE Denver’s vision to cross-collaborate and amplify youth opportunities throughout the Denver community, DAES has become a regular part of the Northwest Denver music scene. They jammed at the Little Man “CAN” in LoHi this summer and opened for Jamming on the Jetty in September. DAES was featured live on KUVO in November. 

You can catch DAES on Santa Fe First Fridays at Invisible City (941 Santa Fe Drive). They will also perform at Little Man’s “Santa’s Factory” (4411 West Colfax) in a Fa-La-La Friday Live Music series in December. 

ONE Denver is planning a family friendly New Year’s Eve party on the Tivoli Quad from 5 to 9 p.m. 

“We love the kids from DAES,” Whittier said, “and if we can raise the funds, we hope to have them as part of the magical night.”

Make sure to save upcoming dates to see DAES in performances that honor the past, embrace the present and carry the legacy of Denver’s jazz heritage into the future. 

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