DENVER — “Never in my life would I have imagined that the home that I grew up in would somehow transform into a stage for the arts to take place.”
Rico Jones first picked up the alto saxophone when he was 11 years old. Now, at age 23, he’s successfully built Denver's hottest new jazz venue: his parents’ front yard.
Jazz at Sloan's Lake
Free front yard Jazz performances by award-winning musicians.
In May of last year, when the coronavirus pandemic dominated the news and isolation dominated our routines, Jones—an award-winning musician who was featured in KUVO's "30 Under 30" when he was in high school—missed making music.
“One evening I was talking with my brother and he said, ‘Why don't you invite some friends over and play socially distanced in the front yard?’ And that’s how it all started,” Jones explained.
He continued: “We had so much fun and we felt so enriched just getting to spend time with one another, we decided to continue doing it.”
After a couple weeks of performances, Jones said people would "stop for a couple minutes and listen."
Jones had somewhat of a built-in audience; the porch-cum-stage is located at the intersection of 17th and Meade, overlooking the very popular Sloan’s Lake Park.
“I suppose this was a unique situation because living by the park, there were lots of people that would come by,” Jones said.
Over 70 performances later, the popularity of “Jazz at Sloan's” has grown. Jones says they've had up to 300 people attending a single concert. The ensemble started with 11 childhood friends rotating in and out of performances.
When Rocky Mountain PBS stopped by for one of the shows, Jones was playing the saxophone, Gabe was playing the upright bass, Max was on piano, and their friend Julian played the drums. All four men are friends from high school.
The concert series also regularly hosts special guest performances from musicians who mentored Jones and his bandmates.
“It’s always beautiful and great to see that something I can do very locally can have an effect on so many people,” Max said.
“In all my years living here I haven't really seen the community tied together in such a beautiful way,” Jones said.
Jazz at Sloan's Lake performs every Friday and Saturday from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., weather permitting. For more information people, can join the mailing list by emailing Jones here or by following him on Facebook and Instagram.
Jason Foster is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.