Beloved Grand Junction Musician Jim Smith Has Passed Away
The Western Colorado musical community is saddened by the death of longtime resident Jim Smith. You've undoubtedly seen Jim performing on saxophone or drums at some point over the years.
Jim passed away Friday, March 8, in Arizona, at the age of 89. He and his family divided their time between homes in Arizona and Grand Junction.
In recent years, you've heard Jim perform with various ensembles including the Frank Bregar Orchestra, the Grand Junction Centennial Band (which he played with since the ensemble was formed), Sentimental Swing, The Men of Music, SuperSun Dixieland Band, the Swinging Resorters Big Band, and Mountainbrook Concert Band.
Jim was a member of the sax session on the very first professional gig I ever played. That was a New Year's Eve job back in 1989 with, get a load of this name, the Blue Baron Dance Orchestra. I searched high and low last night for photos from that gig. I found a couple, but unfortunately, none captured images of Jim.
The last time I played with the Frank Bregar Orchestra, Jim served as a member of the sax section. You may have been at that show. It was part of the Fruita Summer Concert Series last summer. That's Jim at far right in the front row.
I will really miss his humor, old jokes and his love for short poems. I will cherish our friendship forever. Prayers for Jim and his family. - Frank Bregar
When I first met Jim, not only was I new to bass playing, I was new to music. I barely knew the names of the strings on a bass. When he saw me struggling to get through a chart, he offered me a piece of advice. "Learn to play simple," he said. "People overthink. The key to being musical is to play simple."
Back row L to R: Jim Smith, Waylon Jordan. Front Row L to R: Mike Gazdak, Frank Bregar, Eric Nohe
Shortly after that experience, I had a chance to play for Jim's group. As I recall, it was a little 3-piece band, Jim on drums, Frank Bregar on Sax, and I played bass. In order to cut the gig, I needed access to the charts ahead time so as to get a little practice. When I went by his house to get the book, he assured me that if I lost the music he would beat the Hell out of me. Not a threat, just good band management. Replacing an entire bass book would be a massive drag.
At the end of the day, it can truly be said Jim Smith was one of the nicest people who ever lived. Check out that photo again. Personally, even though I've known him for 30 years, I struggle to believe he was 89. To my eyes, he looks very young in the photos above.
Thank you, Jim Smith, for all the year of wonderful music. Rehearsal last night with the Swing City Express was difficult for all the players in the band. The guys are hurting. Your presence is sorely missed.