The Denver Urban Spectrum’s Up Close and Personal is an event that continues to grow and unfold. Over the past months, audiences have been treated to an array of performers from Gregory Goodloe to Mary Louise Lee, among a variety of other talented artists. This monthly live music intimate experience benefits the Urban Spectrum Youth Foundation.
On Sunday, February 15, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., a very special Valentine’s celebration in the ongoing series will take place at Jazz at Jack’s in the Denver downtown Pavilions on the 16th Street Mall, complete with a catered buffet and cash bar. Ron Ivory, Freddi Gowdy (Freddi Henchi Band), and Robert Johnson will bedazzle their guests, each with their own unique sound and style. Concert-goers will have the opportunity to learn much more about these three fascinating men who Denver has the honor of claiming as its own local stars.
Ivory, Gowdy, and Johnson all share a deep passion for their life’s work of soulful entertainment. Each has his own personal story, inspirations, challenges, loves, and triumphs that will be shared in intimate conversations. Did you know that Ron Ivory began performing Motown songs on street corners in Denver with The Tender Fore at the age of 13? Or that Freddi Gowdy spent time abroad performing on a USO tour for our troops? Or that Robert Johnson has shared the stage with both Bob Hope and Stevie Wonder?
Ron Ivory’s diverse background and experience in R&B, jazz, rock n’ roll and popular standards has heavily influenced his musical and vocal repertoire. Years ago, he developed an interest in several musical instruments primarily to enhance his composing of songs and melodies. Those instruments were the xylophone, guitar and piano
Along with his solo gigs, Ivory has created and leads a number of bands and acts including one of his most successful groups to date, The Miles Apart Band – Officially regrouped and renamed in 1995 from The Ivory Summers Band which he had formed with long time bassist and friend David Summers, Jr. From this venture Ivory produced, wrote, composed and arranged his first CD entitled Get Right To It.
His group Expressions features female vocals and saxophone, and Suite ti is a contemporary jazz ensemble mix. Ivory came full circle from his original Tender Fore quartet of his youth to his classic Motown/Classic Soul group One on One, complete with choreography and wardrobe “Old School Style.”
The versatile musician has performed with Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes, Dennis Edwards and The Temptations Review, Atlantic Star, The S.O.S. Band, The Coasters and The Drifters, among others. He also performed in the chorus of the Central City Opera’s musical, Showboat at the Buell Theatre in Denver.
Freddi Gowdy is a founding member, along with the late Henchi Graves, of the 60s soul duo Freddi Henchi and the Soulsetters. They evolved out of the Phoenix, Arizona band The Jokers in 1966. Discovered and nurtured by a local radio disc jockey and producer named Hadley Murrell, “The Crown Princes of Funk” moved to L.A. and signed various record deals – eventually with Warner/Reprise who released their first album Dance. Because of that album and numerous singles the band toured the United States becoming the party-masters of the college circuit.
In 1970, the talented duo moved to Colorado where Caribou Studios and Feyline Concerts gave them recording time and opening act slots on major shows with many other musical greats including James Brown, The Whispers, Steely Dan, Billy Joel, Elton John and Tina Turner. The Soulsetters, and later the Freddi Henchi Band, were the hottest funk-machine west of the Mississippi.
Cancer took the life of his long-time partner Marvin “Henchi” Graves in 2009. Stepping away from the spotlight for a while, Gowdy regrouped and returned to the stage. He recently finished a CD with Chris Daniels and The Kings.
Robert Johnson is an entertainer who is equally at home in every arena of performance. His voice can be heard on countless national commercials from United Artist Theaters and IBM, to Greyhound and Toyota. He has appeared in national and regional productions of Porgy and Bess, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Blues in the Night, A Brief History of White Music, Showboat, The Full Monty, and as the voice of the plant in Little Shop of Horrors.
Since making his home in Denver, Johnson has been named Best Male Vocalist in the Denver Post’s Readers Poll, Best Jazz Vocalist by the Colorado Black Artists Association, was honored as Colorado’s Best Male Singer by the News and Radio Media and Best Male Vocalist by the Colorado Songwriters Association.
As a performer with The 17th Avenue All-Stars, an a cappella group that in 1993 won the National Harmony Sweepstakes, Robert produced, recorded, and lent his performing talent to their Cd True Colors. Currently he can be heard on his CD releases through his label Jakarta Records including Richard the Third, Black Prince Road and Home for the Holidays. His latest recording, the soon to be released jazz project A Long Road Traveled, continues to showcase his talents not only as a vocalist, but also as a songwriter, instrumentalist, and producer.
Tickets for this once-in-a-lifetime Up Close and Personal presentation can be purchased on line, $25.00 for adults and $20.00 for those over 65, at www.Instantseats.com. For additional information, call 303-292-6446.