Free, front-yard jazz shows return to Sloan’s Lake

The concert series, led by Rico Jones, starts on August 11 at 17th and Meade.
5 min. read
Rico Jones plays a front-lawn concert with Bill McCrossen (left) and Vlad and Aleks Girshevich across the street from Sloan’s Lake. July 2, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Looking for a spot with a cool breeze, gorgeous sunset views and the sweet, smooth, soulful sound of jazz drifting across a serene lake?

Saxophonist Rico Jones has you covered.

Jones is back in Denver and will once again host his "Jazz at Sloan Lake" summer concert series, starting Friday, Aug. 11.

"I'm really excited and it's important to me because I get to put together some really great bands with some of Denver's finest musicians," Jones said. "We do have a rich [jazz] cultural history [in Denver]. If possible I would like to keep the history of the music alive and present it in a culturally accurate way without it being a throwback... I want to be able to give back to the community because I know how integral art is and expression is for the wellbeing of people."

The wellbeing of his community sums up why Jones started the series in the first place.

In the summer of 2020, Jones said his brother suggested that he invite a few musicians over to their parents' home, which is across from Sloan's Lake (or Sloan or Sloans), and play in the front yard.

An audience has assembled to watch Rico Jones, Bill McCrossen and Vlad and Aleks Girshevich play a front-lawn concert across the street from Sloan's Lake. July 2, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Music venues were closed. No gigs were available. So, playing outside was the perfect way to let out their creativity.

It began as an impromptu musician meetup; People passing by would stop and listen from their cars or pull over and sit in the grass. But very quickly, it grew into a whole event where people could be with one another safely while enjoying the music and the company.

Jones said people adhered to all the social distancing rules and some would leave tips via cash jars or cash payment apps. But, Jones added, money wasn't his goal.

"I know for a fact that I want to have an impact on my community and I don't want my focus to be on just climbing up that social ladder or looking for the money," Jones said.

He said the shows were always about fostering community and sharing the gift of music. The same goes for this year's series.

Jones said several local artists who have toured around the world will be heading to the front lawn for the shows.

"I'm featuring a lot of the elder musicians in town who have been established for a number of years and really contributed to the jazz culture in Colorado and actually abroad and around the world," Jones said. "In conjunction with that, there'll be opportunities for young, up-and-coming players to come in and play with the band as well."

Bill McCrossen and Vlad Girshevich play a show on Rico Jones' parents' front lawn, across the street from Sloan's Lake. July 2, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

There's Brad Goode, a trumpet and jazz studies professor at University of Colorado Boulder who's played with legends such as Red Rodney, Ira Sullivan, Eddie Harris, Jack Dejonette and Joe Henderson.

Pianist Eric Gunnison will also join the band. He's an educator, as well, who has played with the late Billy Tolles at El Chapultepec Jazz Club.

Bassist Seth Lewis, drummer Harold Summey, pianist Vlad Girshevich and others will also join the lineup.

"They're very well-accomplished and professional artists that have toured around the world and played with many jazz legends but they're willing to do [the concert series] without any guarantee of money," Jones said. "Part of the challenge and the beauty is that it is a community funded thing... So it's integral that it's supported by the community, otherwise it may not be sustainable."

And the community has supported the event since the beginning. Jones said when he mentioned on the neighborhood app NextDoor that the series may return, he got tens of thousands of reactions.

Jones reiterated that the event is free. If people are inclined, there will be cash jars and QR codes for cash apps placed around the lawn.

"It's free to the community and it's just really at their discretion what they would like to give us or not," Jones said. "If there's people interested in supporting it in any way beyond monetary donation, I would just say spread the word. Share it with your friends and family. Share it with your church community or your school community or your book club or whatever your community is, just share it and offer that to people as a potential outlet on the weekends. Free art, you know."

When: The series begins this Friday, Aug. 11, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Where: Sloan Lake, at the corner of West 17th Ave. and Meade St.

The series will continue every Friday and Saturday until the first weekend of Sept.

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