Basalt to host two nights of free jazz at Pumpkin Jazz festival |

Basalt to host two nights of free jazz at Pumpkin Jazz festival

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times


What: Pumpkin Jazz, presented by the Arts Campus at Willits

Where: Downtown Basalt and Willits Town Center

When: Friday, Oct 9 (downtown) & Saturday, Oct. 10 (Willits), 5 p.m.

How much: Free

More info:

Music lovers who are starving for an in-person live concert experience, after more than half a year without the Roaring Fork Valley’s normally crowded slate of festivals and shows, have a buffet feast this weekend.

In its second iteration, the annual Pumpkin Jazz will bring six bands to 12 venues across two days in Basalt and Willits for socially distanced and outdoor performances.

Produced by The Arts Campus at Willits, the shows are free with the support of the Basalt Public Arts Commission and the town of Basalt. The two-night event caps an inventive season of concerts in Basalt reimagined for the novel coronavirus pandemic and led by the Wednesday Night Live series that placed street musicians across downtown for outdoor and distanced live music experiences. The Arts Campus team built the COVID-19 version of Pumpkin Jazz with lessons from the Wednesday Night Live series.

“We learned so much from the busker events this summer about what worked and what people were comfortable with,” said Arts Campus director Ryan Honey. “That gave us good ideas.”

The inaugural Pumpkin Jazz featured 10 artists at 10 venues downtown in one night. Based on feedback, they spread it over two nights and included Willits, where bands will play a variety of storefronts — from Soak Hot Tubs to Keating Gallery to the Wienerstiube, Sure Thing Burger, Capitol Creek Brewery and Mezzaluna — on Saturday night.

The downtown will host performances at The Art Base, Free Range Kitchen & Wine Bar, Heather’s Savory Pies and Tapas, The Tipsy Trout, Tempranillo and Craft Coffee House.

Spread out from downtown to the strip mall where the permanent Arts Campus at Willits is now under construction over two nights, the new format — Honey and organizers hope — will allow patrons to see more music (and give restaurants a two-night boost to shoulder season business). It also helps organizers efforts to adhere strictly to social distancing protocol.

The artists include LAPOMPE, the Denver-based gypsy jazz outfit that has built a loyal local following through the Arts Campus at Willits, with concerts stretching back to when the band played the grand opening celebration at the nonprofit’s The Temporary venue in 2017.

Other familiar faces in the lineup include Chris Harrison, the longtime local saxophonist who played with the popular rock band Jes Grew and led Rock’n’Roll Academy sessions at The Temporary. He’s now playing playing in a jazz fusion outfit called The Brothers alongside Grand Junction bassist Jon Brown, Silt drummer Clint Thompson and Somerset keyboardist John Paul Riger.

The lineup is rounded out by multi-instrumentalist Mark Johnson playing with pianist Walter Gorra, the Tim Fox Trio (featuring local vocalist Josefina Mendez), jazz rockers 2b3 and the Boulder-based Brad Goode Quartet.

All of the musicians will perform outside in taped-off areas, with seating in the restaurants distanced per Eagle County rules, and masks mandatory for all audience members.

“We feel like we’ve had great communication with the town and the county to make sure everybody feels good and that we are doing this in a responsible way,” Honey said.

And, of course, with music venues dark and tours canceled, Honey and his team are proud to offer gigs and live audiences for hard-hit local and regional musicians for the weekend.

“It feels really good to be able to get these talented artists back to what they’re doing,” Honey said.