If you take the underground transport after landing at Denver International Airport, there’s a chance you’ll hear a soulful jazz singer welcoming you. “I haven’t heard it myself … but others have,” says Hazel Miller. “I recorded it in one take.”
It’s a fitting welcome to Centennial State visitors. Hazel Miller has become a Colorado treasure. She’s performed for all of Denver’s major sports teams: the Nuggets, Broncos and Rockies, performing for the likes of 30 million viewers when she sang the National Anthem at a 2016 Monday Night Football game. And this December she’ll perform what’s become an annual holiday concert at Palmer Lake’s Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts.
But Miller’s biography could be split in two, and it was a bit of fate that brought her to her mile-high home. She was raised in Louisville, Kentucky. Her mother was a housekeeper, and her father worked at Fort Knox, which houses a large portion of our country’s gold. Miller knew her vocal talent by first grade, when Catholic school nuns told her to sing louder.
As a child though, Jacques Cousteau was her hero, and she wanted to be a marine biologist. However, another hero solidified her path: Aretha Franklin. When the Queen of Soul won two Grammys in 1968 for her R&B hit “Respect,” Miller was watching from home on TV.
In the mid-’70s, Miller caught Aretha live in Nashville for a brief minute before racing back a couple blocks to perform her own show. When Franklin passed away in 2018, CBS Denver reached out to Miller for a televised interview about the Queen’s influence.
By the time she left Louisville, the Hazel Miller Band was the top local act. Miller’s community-empowerment anthem, “Look What We Can Do, Louisville” took her singing career to another level in 1982. Two years later, in the summer of ’84, she embarked on a move to Los Angeles. However, her U-Haul broke down halfway there—in Denver—and she has remained there ever since.
“Colorado has been an incredible gift,” says Miller, reflecting on the last 35 years. She has been a fixture on local stages and festivals, and her adopted home state has returned the love. Miller has received awards such as “Outstanding Performer at Red Rocks Amphitheater” and been called “a force of nature” by the Rocky Mountain News. Whether she’s signing blues, jazz, pop or gospel, there’s always a healthy dose of soul in her music.
The Hazel Miller Band’s Dec. 6 show at the Tri-Lakes Center will be the third winter performance at the venue. “It’s our most unique concert during the season,” Miller says. “It’s a tight stage and an intimate space. … The energy is emotional, and becomes a conversation with the crowd—and they truly listen.”
The set will include a rendition of “O’ Holy Night” and an Afro-Cuban take on “Silent Night,” Afro-Cuban being one of the earliest forms of jazz music.
“Growing up, Christmas was the biggest,” Miller reflects. “I love the season. A singer is never at a loss … [with] the wealth of sacred songs available. Turns out, Colorado loves gospel. … Colorado loves hope.”
More Holiday Concerts
Here’s how to jingle your way all the way through the holiday season with 32 Holiday Concerts in the Pikes Peak Region.