Blues album unleashes ‘healing force’ after 15-year-old’s death |

Blues album unleashes ‘healing force’ after 15-year-old’s death

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Leslie Newbury doesn’t claim to be much of a musician.

But when she decided to make a musical tribute to her late son Erik, she knew a fine musician to call on: her dad, pianist Walt Smith.

Newbury and Smith, together with some local musicians and one notable imported player, have created “The Dance Continues,” a CD of jazz standards dedicated to Erik Newbury. Erik died in his sleep two and a half years ago, believed to have been killed by an enlarged heart.

“The Dance Continues” will be welcomed with a CD release party today at the Sopris Restaurant south of Glenwood Springs. The party will feature Smith and his regular rhythm section of drummer Chris Goplerud and bassist Mark Gray, plus vocalist Jeannie Walla and a horn player.

Recording versions of “Unforgettable” and “What a Wonderful World” may seem an unusual way of paying tribute to a 15-year-old. But Erik, who was studying classical piano and had performed at a local recital a week before he died, was a fan of the Great American Songbook.

All of the songs on “The Dance Continues,” from “Fly Me to the Moon” to “Someone to Watch Over Me,” were part of Erik’s repertoire, or held some meaning for him. At his sixth-grade talent show, Erik sang “What a Wonderful World”; he had learned “Cheek to Cheek” to perform at a cousin’s wedding, but died before he got the opportunity. Erik’s father, Paonia resident Don Newbury, is a blues bassist who once was a touring musician in Montana.

“He liked this music, oh yeah,” said Smith, a Parachute resident whose history as a local musician dates back to the six-week engagement he played at the Golden Horn restaurant in 1950. “He had to, because of his grandpa.

“I think it’s perfect. He was a good musician, and he could have been very good. He was a special kid. How many 15-year-olds relate to adults? He did.”

Newbury came up with the idea to record a CD, with sales proceeds going to local music programs. Currently, money raised is going to the band program at Basalt Middle School, though Newbury says she “wants to help wherever I can for music and the arts.”

She booked time at Jamie Rosenberg’s Great Divide Studio, chose the songs and lined up the musicians. Along with the local players, Newbury also enlisted the help of Harry Allen, a nationally recognized saxophonist who has appeared twice at the Roaring Fork Jazz Party, which Smith organizes. To accommodate Allen’s schedule, the CD was recorded in one six-hour session.

Apart from recording the standards, Smith took the opportunity of “The Dance Continues” to compose a song, “Erik,” that features the first lyrics Smith has written.

While “The Dance Continues” raises money for music programs, it is also lifting the spirits of Erik’s loved ones.

“Music has been a very healing force for me, very powerful,” said Newbury. “So that’s why we did this.

You don’t even need words with music. The CD is having an effect on my healing ” and for [her younger son] Luke and for my parents.”

[Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is]

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