Hazel Miller and The Collective to headline benefit for Wings of Hope for Pancreatic Cancer Research

Hazel Miller

Evening of Hope, dinner and live auction to take place Sept. 18 at Heritage Eagle Bend Golf Club

By Peter Jones

Hazel Miller isn’t singing the blues about helping to raise funds next month for Wings of Hope for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

We don’t necessarily have any big money to donate, but if our name sells tickets, that’s great,” the rhythm and blues vocalist said. “Who doesn’t have somebody in their family who has had cancer? I’m diabetic, and a lot of times diabetes goes into pancreatic cancer. We’re happy to be a part of this.” 

Hazel Miller and The Collective will headline An Evening of Hope on Saturday, Sept. 18, at Heritage Eagle Bend Golf Club, 23155 E. Heritage Parkway, in Aurora. The benefit concert, auction and sit-down dinner will support the groundbreaking pancreatic cancer research taking place at the University of Colorado Cancer Center on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

“We are thrilled to have Hazel Miller as our headliner at this year’s Wings of Hope benefit,” said Maureen Shul, the organization’s founder and executive director. “With all the ups and downs of this past year, we thought everyone was in the mood to get together and enjoy her wildly wonderful talent.”

Miller and her band have been a backbone of the Colorado music scene and beyond for nearly four decades. The singer’s signature style is a seamless blend of blues, R&B, soul and rock.

“Since there’s seven of us, everybody has something they love to play or sing. It keeps the night fresh for all of us,” Miller said. 

The singer has been known to put her spin on everything from the hits of Etta James and Sly and the Family Stone to Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.”

“The way we play it is kind of like laidback smooth jazz,” the vocalist said. 

Fronted by Miller as the band’s chief blues-soul shouter, the seven-piece Collective also features singer Coco Brown and diverse lead guitarist-vocalist Cody Carbone.

“Is he amazing or what?” Miller said. “He’ll be 28 in December. I got shoes older than this kid. My fans just love Coco and Cody. This is the best band I’ve ever had in my life.”

Miller has gone through a wide range of musicians and song styles since migrating from Louisville, Ky. to Denver in 1984. At age 33, at the urging of her dying mother, she packed her two kids and everything she owned into a U-Haul truck. They would barely make it halfway to Miller’s destination in the Los Angeles music industry.

“I didn’t have anything that even resembled good credit,” the singer recalled. “The truck started breaking down six hours later in East St. Louis. Then it broke down in Kansas City. In Denver, the truck just said, ‘I ain’t goin’ any further.’”

Although the single mother of two boys wound up working various jobs, including as the maid supervisor at the Brown Palace, she was soon cleaning up on the Mile High music scene.

I haven’t had a day job since 1986,” Miller said with joy. “I love what I do and I’ve been blessed to make a living at something I can call a career.”

In the years since, Miller has toured much of the world, including as a collaborator with Colorado’s own Big Head Todd and the Monsters, a band with whom she has also recorded.

“Two decades later, they still send me royalty checks for my backup vocals,” the singer said. “Those guys are the nicest, most generous, calm people you’ve ever been around. It was like being on the bus with your favorite little brothers.” 

Along the way, Miller’s band has opened concerts for the likes of B.B. King, Michael McDonald, Herbie Hancock and, of course, Big Head Todd.

Miller’s latest CD, What We Did, was produced by fellow Colorado mainstay Chris Daniels and features guest appearances from the Monsters’ Todd Park Mohr, bluegrass picker Sam Bush and the well-known session bassist Kenny Passarelli, among others. 

“Chris went out and called in every favor under the sun,” Miller said. 

After more than 40 years of making music, Miller promises a full evening of danceable fun.

“The audience is going to hear something really different with every single song,” she said. “People never know what they’re going to hear next. It’s fun.”

Evening of Hope begins at 6 p.m. with a cocktail reception, followed by dinner, a live auction and a performance by Hazel Miller and The Collective. Individual tickets are $100. Sponsorships are also available. For more information, please visit wingsofhopepcr.org or call 720-733-0491.