Art Scene: Summers of jazz |

Art Scene: Summers of jazz

Christina Brusig

Ahmad Jamal Trio, Hugh Masekela, Cassandra Wilson, Sonny Rollins, Joe Pass, Tuck and Patty, Poncho Sanchez, Herbie Mann and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Sounds like the dream concert on the international jazz festival circuit? You’re half right. Each of these legendary jazz artists redefined the genre that was born in New Orleans over 100 years ago, and took that mythical blend of African and European sounds and instruments and changed our culture.

But first, they and over 180 other astonishing jazz and blues artists, made their way to Glenwood Springs, and, for 25 years, transformed the art of music and created a cultural phenomenon as deeply rooted as the Rockies because Bob and Mary Noone made it happen.

Tonight, the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts will honor this amazing and essential couple as we launch a one-of-a-kind exhibit and retrospective of original concert art, programs and news coverage to celebrate their gift to our community. Reminiscing and remembering will be the language of the evening.

Recently, I had the privilege of talking with Mary and Bob during Gabe Chenoweth’s Community Connections segment on KMTS. Gabe and I were asking questions like it was the first day of school, and they shared the highlights of that wonderful journey.

Mary: “In 1985, Bob was on the board of the Arts Council, and, for the first couple of years, we worked through the council. In September of that year, we had Akbar Depriest, this great musician from Portland, play at the Hotel Denver, and we sold tickets and had tablecloths with flowers on the tables, and it was just intoxicating. We had a real live jazz band. We had so much fun doing that we wanted to do more. We decided that next summer we would have concerts in the park with 10 evenings of a variety of music — country western, classical chamber, blues, flamenco guitar. Of course, 7 out of 10 events were rained out and we’d take cover at the Hotel Colorado.”

Bob: “It’s important to remember that when Mary says park, it was Centennial Park where the Farmer’s Market is today. We had 8 sheets of plywood that we stored down the alley in the old J.C. Penney’s building, now Treadz. Every Wednesday, we set up our plywood bandstand with a very long extension cord, and bands came from Denver.

“The driving incentive for Mary and I was to create a place where people could come in the middle of the week, bring a picnic and get to know one another. We were pretty new arrivals, with small children, didn’t know many people … and we didn’t want to drive the two-lane road to Aspen for music so we wanted it to be in Glenwood Springs, centrally located, reliable and free. We were at Centennial for a year and then moved to Two Rivers Park.

“We had never done this before, and we learned it week to week. Jazz emerged from the various types of music we were presenting as the art form that encouraged people to interact with each other in the audience, and the musicians worked to build that rapport from the stage.

Mary: “It was really fun when we started picking the bands. We had a lot of people who worked with us — Heather McGregor, Vic Zerby, Rich Glazer, Merrilee Rippy and Terry Glasenapp. After a while, we realized we could get anyone we wanted if Bob could contact them and I could raise the money.

Bob: “When we started there was no web, no Internet to check out an artists’ performance, no cell phones, and we’d call these jazz agents and then wait for the CDs in the mail. That’s how we did it for years. Amazing years with amazing artists.

Mary: “…and we tried never to repeat acts and we didn’t until about 2006. Every year, we’d have at least one artist from the New Orleans Jazz Fest. We’ve gone to the festival every year. The energy and enthusiasm with all these musicians from around the world is so great, so intoxicating.”

The phenomenal range of jazz artists that Bob and Mary brought to Glenwood Springs was just part of the impact of the Summer of Jazz years. Mary, a top-tier visual artist, invited a different local artist every year to paint what they saw, creating original poster art and paintings for every concert.

Tonight, we launch a retrospective of images that define the experience of the Summer of Jazz that planted the seed for public music to grow in Glenwood Springs.

We have the Noones’ entire original poster collection, collages of Dean Bowlby’s incredible concert art all sketched during live performances, an electronic collection of definitive concert photographs taken by Walter Gallacher, archival news coverage of the concerts from historian Terry Glasenapp and original themed art from Mary Noone, Dean Bowlby and Kristof Kosmowski.

See you tonight at 6 at the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts, and just to strike the right note and since New Orleans was Bob and Mary’s branch office, we thought some righteous gumbo would be appropriate from that other Glenwood legend, The Lost Cajun.

So as we say in the bayou, pass on by and laissez les bons temps rouler/let the good times roll.

Christina Brusig is the executive director of the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts. She can be reached at

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