July 2005 CJA Network Newsletter Feature Interview I
Vocalist/Trumpet/Band Leader for the Denver Mile High
When and why did you
start developing a love for Jazz music?
Denver: I started to
love jazz and specifically Big Band music in 7th
grade....I was a trumpet player in my Junior High Jazz
band, and got to play a solo in our first
concert....after that, I was hooked!!
Did you study Jazz
music formally? I know you received a scholarship to
attend Belmont University. Are there professors at
Belmont that are into Jazz?
I was a trumpet major at Belmont University in the
school of music. I did the best I could at jazz and
improvisation. I played lead trumpet in the Belmont
University Jazz Ensemble for 3 years. Dr. Jeff Kirk was
the instructor of that group, and he also was the head
of the Commercial Music Program at Belmont University.
He has been nominated for Grammy Awards for his own jazz
albums, and is an amazing teacher of jazz!
Who are some of the
Big Bands you have listened to that you really admire?
I love Frank Sinatra, Harry James, Harry Connick Jr,
Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Benny Goodman, and Glen
Miller was pretty amazing, too!
There is an very
substantial increased amount of interest in Christians
listening to Jazz music. I found some very insightful
words on your web site where you were introducing one of
your Christian Jazz CD’s…"Christian music is presently
starving for something, new, fresh, and exciting. Please
expand on this.
Denver: Our band has all these components in our
Big Band sound! I love all styles of Christian
Music. There are so many incredible artists writing and
singing incredible songs. But much of what is out there
today stylistically sounds very similar. We have people
coming up to us all the time saying, "I've never liked
big band jazz before, but I sure like you!". We've
worked very hard to make our sound very unique, upbeat,
and high energy. I'm very thankful that this music
resonates with our listeners in a fresh and exciting
We have found that
there are multitudes of people who share your feelings
about the present state of much of the CCM being
produced today. People are burnt out on hearing the same
thing over and over and find Jazz to contain refreshing
elements that incorporate a variety of stylistic
elements. You know a little, “Tower Of Power Funk”,
Latin Jazz, Swing, whatever. What are your thoughts
Denver: The public will let you know what they
want. I do hear comments like this all over the country
all the time. My personality gets too bored with the
same thing over and over...that's why our DMHO Big Band
albums have a lot of variety on it. We also have so many
people now that did not grow up with with Funk, Latin,
or Swing music being prominent in commercial music, and
they find our music and very new, and exciting sound.
I noticed that your
band is booked solid in churches all over… please share
with our readers how churches are receiving the Big Band
jazz that you play at churches.
Do you find that when
you play in churches that you come up against a
mentality about jazz, that it’s not “spiritual” music?
Denver: The response we receive at churches all
over the country is incredible! Many times I feel we
don't deserve the overwhelming response we have! I don't
ever come up against a mentality that jazz isn't
spiritual music...I think that if our band had been
around 15 to 20 years ago, we may have heard that. But
Christian music has changed so rapidly in recent years,
that I feel most folks are excited to see a style of
music that has mainly been only for secular music
finally being sung and performed within the church!
Share with our
readers a typical concert at a church and what you try
to focus on when planning your music for a concert?
Denver: Our concerts at churches are very high
energy, full of fun, entertainment, and excellent music
to the best of our ability. But our main focus is always
on giving a very clear message of the gospel of Christ,
and presenting the tremendous impact that God has had on
our lives as musicians, and more importantly as people
in need of God's power and grace. I usually speak for a
few minutes towards the end of our concerts, and I'm
always in awe of how God is moving and working in
people's hearts and lives.
Denver, I think it’s exciting to
find other Christians who either have a Big Band or are
participating in one! I recently came across an
excellent Big Band from Australia,“OnFire Big Band", and
a very hot Big Band out of Chicago playing Latin Jazz,
“Angel Melendez and the 911 Mambo Orchestra” (both who
recently joined the CJA Network!) In fact the Big band
from Australia mentioned that they had been on the CJA
Network site to locate Big Band charts…do you write the
charts for the DMHO and are they available for purchase?
Yes! I write
most of the songs we record, and I write all of the
arrangements and orchestrations for the band and our
recordings. All of our arrangements that we have
copyrights for (songs that I compose, and songs that are
public domain) are available for sale on our website,
Do you play at your concerts most
of your own original material or do you cover other
charts and arrangements as well?
Denver: Well, it takes me so long to write the
arrangements, and also because we have more than 70
original songs and arrangements, we do our own stuff
almost all the time.
Does most of the
music you play in churches contain vocals?
Denver: Yes. All
of our songs contain vocals. I've played with the idea
of maybe doing some all instrumental Big Band
arrangements at some point.....I'm sure we will someday.
Do you find a
spiritual connection in playing and writing music?
Of Course! Especially since the music I am writing is
about my Lord and Savior. It is truly an honor to have
the opportunity to write, record, and perform music for
my God...one that I don't deserve, but one that I
What is one of your
favorite church hymns and why?
I love the hymn "The Solid Rock". We have a very upbeat
and fun arrangement of the song. But more than that, I
love the message. Our Lord never changes, and is a sure
foundation. Anything else in this world is sinking sand.
I love it!
with us a verse or passage from the Bible that has
and influence your outlook on playing music.
Psalm 33:3 says to play skillfully and shout with joy
unto the Lord. I love that there is a command to play
skillfully and LOUD for the Lord. To the best of our
ability, (I know that we have the really loud part
down!!) we try to do this as a band every time that we
have the opportunity to share our music and message of
our Lord and Savior!
More information on
& The Mile High Orchestra can be found here: