"It's about bringing music to the people, and like all art, it should be shared with all people."
Updated May 19, 2021: Please note clarification—the mediator interviewed the neighbor and Jones separately and believed it was too confrontational to bring both parties together at the time. As of this date, both parties agree to meet and are scheduling mediation.
Rico Jones, a Denver native and professional musician, moved back to Denver from NYC just before COVID hit last year. He's returned to his Denver Highlands family home and started playing live jazz music on his front lawn during the pandemic.
When the pandemic hit roughly mid-March-April 2020, Jones found himself homebound along with the rest of the world, including his Denver Highlands neighborhood. As a musician with 11 years of playing, freelancing, playing venues, and attending the Manhattan School of Music, he found that not even the pandemic could keep his music contained. What started as inviting some friends over to play together in his front yard in April 2020, to playing for an audience of three people, quickly grew to a dedicated following of walkers, neighbors, and an entire community sitting out on Sloan's Lake waterfront listening to Jones' music every weekend. The audience of three quickly grew to upwards of 100–300 people.
It started with an organic following from one Next Door post, a three-piece jazz band that grew to a six-piece jazz band: saxophone (Jones), trumpet, trombone, drums, bass, and piano. The community came out religiously on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays for a quarantine respite of live jazz music. People would bring blankets and picnics and gather to take in the socially distanced live concerts.
Rico Jones' (saxophone) six-piece jazz band, Courtesy of Rico Jones
With the blessing of an unusually sunny and warm spring in 2019, the weather cooperated with Jones to play every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (6:00-8:00 p.m.) throughout the spring and summer. But that came to a close when the Colorado winter hit and his live front yard music was shut down in October due to the cold winter temperatures.
But as the slow spring thaw started opening things back up again, there were nearly 500 responses from the community saying they'd appreciate the live jazz music starting up again come spring, May 2020.
And so Jones and his six-piece jazz band reopened their front lawn and started playing again in May 2020, but only to be shut down not because of weather, but after one neighbor filed a complaint with the city of Denver. The neighbor's complaint was filed with the City Council in May due to noise and Jones' live jazz music has been stopped ever since. Since the formal complaint was filed, Public Health needs to conduct an investigation on sound violations.
A public health investigator visited Jones at his house to discuss the complaint and since then, Jones and the neighbor were ordered to mediate. Jones told us that the neighbor refused to attend mediation, noting the situation was too confrontational for mediation, so the issue of Jones' live jazz music is up in the air and on hold until he hears back from the city.
Jones commented that he reached out to the neighbor to see if they could discuss this over coffee to come to an agreement, but was met with no response.
Talking to Jones, he was crestfallen, saying, "This is a community-building event. It was beautiful to see people coming out for a picnic. It isn't my intent to cause distress or turmoil through the music. I wish we could have a civil dialogue so I can empathize and see their point of view."
As much as the community supported Jones' live jazz concerts on his front lawn, they have supported him during this time as well. Jones commented that he has received several texts and many walkers stop by his house to tell him how much they miss his music. The community has not only expressed their support to Jones, but they have also become very vocal with their City Councilwoman, Jamie Torres, by emailing her. The community's letters and emails have gotten so great in number that Torres has asked Jones to tell people to stop emailing her.
Jones has plans to return to NYC when the economy opens back up for musicians. In the meantime, he'll be here in Denver, specifically the Sloan's Lake neighborhood, saving money and finding "a way to share music with people in the community. It's about bringing music to the people, and like all art, it should be shared with all people."
Find Rico Jones at ricojonesmusician.com and reach out to him if you want to help "bring music back to the people." Share your thoughts on this matter in the comments.