Jazz percussionist and spiritual traveler Jimmy Hopps -- aka Jimmi EsSpirit, the Spirit Man -- has a mile-long musician's resume and the chops to back it up: A boyhood friend of Motown's Marvin Gaye and young piano prodigy who switched to drums later on, he boasts such career highlights as stints with Bo Diddley, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Pharoah Sanders and even 33 far-out days with the man from outer space himself, Sun Ra. Throughout that soaring life path, Hopps steadily refused to allow music to become his job: His concurrent search for enlightenment led him to study Buddhism in Japan and meditation at the feet of the Dalai Lama. More recently, Hopps forsook the drum kit to pound rhythms on the bongos.
While working with Sanders in the early '70s, Hopps met Denver musician Joe Bonner, whose lasting friendship inspired the drummer to relocate to Denver last year. Here he linked up with the Creative Music Works, a local purveyor of innovative music, by happenstance: A friend of Works volunteer Scott McCumber met him at the Blair-Caldwell Library in Five Points. As a result, high-flying Hopps will engineer a return to his roots with the CMW's support and climb behind a kit once again, beginning tonight at 8 p.m. at the Swallow Hill Music Hall, 71 East Yale Avenue. Bonner, reed players Jesse Lee Montijo, Artie Moore and Rajah C and vocalist Kihn will provide backing. Of that fortuitous opportunity, Hopps says it best: "Yeah! Come hear what I hear now!"
For tickets, $7 to $9, call 303-777-1003 or go to www.swallowhill.com. -- Susan Froyd
A City Tradition
Theater in the Park is short and sweet.
Summer in Denver isn't really official unless you spend at least one evening hunkered down in front of the Greek Amphitheater in Civic Center Park, surrounded by flowers and stately buildings, munching on your picnic dinner and drinking in the clean (and free!) sixteen-year tradition that is Theater in the Park. This year, tight finances have forced the non-profit organization to pare the event to a single weekend. Still, executive director Betty Emmanuel promises it will be "full of entertainment and diversity." Tonight and tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m., absorb Ferdinand the Bull, the story of a reluctant warrior who would rather smell flowers than fight. The sensory assault will include a live mariachi band and the Ballet Folklorico de Colorado. Former Bronco Reggie Rivers narrates tonight's show in English, and Rodolfo C´rdenas of Univisión will deliver tomorrow night's performance in Spanish. There will also be a jazz concert Saturday at 8 p.m. and excerpts from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Sunday at 5:30 p.m. For information, log on to www.theaterinthepark.org. -- Amber Taufen
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