Jazz Jams series returns to downtown Farmington next week

Grand opening event for renovated space set for May 19

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A popular summertime tradition will return to downtown Farmington next week when the first Jazz Jam of the season takes place in the HeArt Space behind the Studio 116 art gallery.

The free live music events, which started in the summer of 2018 under the auspices of the nonprofit San Juan Jazz Society, were suspended last summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization's president, Delbert Anderson, said they will resume on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month beginning June 9, taking place from 7 to 9 p.m.

A special Jazz Jam is planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 19 to celebrate the grand opening of the renovated HeArt Space. The jazz society, and Studio 116 owners Karen Ellsbury and Patrick Hazen added several improvements to the special events venue in early 2020, including the construction of a new stage. But the onset of the pandemic prevented them from holding an event to christen the renovated space as they had planned.

The Jazz Jams series presented by the San Juan Jazz Society will return to the HeArt Space behind Studio 116 this summer.

While the Jazz Jams are returning, the pandemic will continue to have an impact on how they are staged. Anderson said attendance will be limited to 50 people, and tables will be spread out to assure social distancing. He also said members of the audience will have their temperature checked before being admitted, and each table will be equipped with hand sanitizer.

Additionally, the events will only be held if San Juan County continues to be categorized at the Turquoise Level under the state's four-tier, color-coded system for virus-related business restrictions. If the county falls back to any lower level, Anderson said, the series will be discontinued.

Attendance at the Jazz Jams series this year will be limited to 50 people, and tables will be spread out to ensure social distancing.

The Jazz Jams series has proved to be very popular, frequently attracting crowds of approximately 100 people when it was started three years ago. The series was held on a weekly basis during its first two years, but Anderson said he and other organizers have decided to scale it back to a twice-a-month schedule this year.

That has little to do with the pandemic, he said, and is more a function of making sure the participating musicians don't get burned out. A core group of five to six players take part in the series, augmented by a small number of guest performers each week.

"For a lot of musicians, it was hard to keep that up every week," he said. "I think this is a better plan in general."

Anderson and saxophonist Mark Smith will take turns leading the group. Anderson said anyone who wishes to participate is welcome to join in.

More:San Juan Rebuilds: Performing arts organizations look forward to resuming live shows

Anderson said organizers chose to hold the series on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month because in jazz music, the emphasis traditionally is placed on the second and fourth beat, rather than the first and the third.

He said he is excited about the return of the series, which was his brainchild. It served as the first project of the jazz society, which is devoted to promoting the live music scene throughout the county.

"Oh, totally — everyone's been looking forward to it," he said.

Bottled water, soft drinks, popcorn and other snacks will be available for purchase during the events.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.