Musicians will play tribute to Walt Smith Sunday in Basalt

Staff report
Walt Smith at one of his many gigs in the Roaring Fork Valley. He became a fixture in Aspen's apres-ski scene in the 1950s and had a large following in years at the Sopris Restaurant near Glenwood Springs.
Courtesy photo


What: A tribute to Walt Smith, “the king of Aspen’s jazz scene”

When: Sunday, door at 4 p.m., show at 4:30 p.m.

Where: The Temporary at Willits Town Center in Basalt

Price: $20 in advance, $25 on Sunday

Cause: All proceeds will go to a jazz student musician at Colorado Mesa University

A tribute to Walt Smith, a pianist known as the “king of Aspen’s jazz scene,” will be held at The Temporary in Basalt on Sunday.

Smith was a longtime favorite musician in the Roaring Fork Valley, with his career spanning from the lively apres ski scene in Aspen starting in 1950 to residency at the Sopris Restaurant and Buffalo Valley downvalley in the 2000s. Smith, 91, died in August in Grand Junction.

The event is called, “A Tribute to Walt Smith: A Jazz Pioneer.”

“Jazz musicians from throughout Walt’s career will pay tribute to their friend by playing songs they once played together,” said a flier for the event. His daughter, Leslie Newbury, helped coordinate the event. Tim Fox and Mark Gray are the music directors.

“I have invited any musician that played with Dad to join in on a tune or two,” Newbury said. “The songs that will be played are from his repertoire.”

All proceeds will support a jazz musician scholarship at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.

Smith came to Aspen in 1950 to play a six-week run for the opening of Steve Knowlton’s Golden Horn restaurant and nightclub. He moved from Denver to Aspen in 1954 and played all the hotspots of the day — the Hotel Jerome, Red Onion and the Freddie Fisher Room at Aspen Highlands. He led the house band at The Tippler in 1964.

He later played a weekly gig at the Sopris Restaurant south of Glenwood Springs for several years.

Even after he moved to Grand Junction, he kept a connection to the Roaring Fork Valley. He returned to The Temporary in Basalt for a couple of well-received performances last winter.

Smith was scheduled to perform at a birthday party in his honor on the day he died in August.