Western Colorado Icon Walt Smith Dies – Hours Before Tribute Concert
UPDATE: A celebration of Walt Smith's life will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, September 8, at Two Rivers Winery and Chateau at 2087 Broadway.
Western Colorado music legend Walt Smith passed away Saturday morning, August 18. Smith was scheduled to appear later that same day at a tribute concert in his honor.
Smith, a long time resident of Aspen and Western Colorado, suffered a heart attack last July 5. Days before Smith's heart attack, Swing City Express bandleader Clark Gault announced plans for a tribute concert celebrating Smith's 91st birthday.
Smith has been sharing his piano virtuosity with the Western Slope since 1956. Many, including Gault, consider him to be "the" musical icon of the valley. Smith collaborated with Leon Uris to create and produce a Broadway musical. Smith has also played the Art and Jazz Festival for over 20 years. He frequently performed with area artists such as Gary R. Smith, Clark Gault, and Dennis Woodrich.
"A Truly Monumental Musical Event - Tribute to Walt Smith" was scheduled for August 18, 2018, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Art Center at 7th and Orchard in Grand Junction. It was hoped Smith could attend his tribute concert, and there were hopes he might even perform. All selections performed at the concert were arranged by Clark Gault specifically for this tribute.
As the audience took their seats for the show Saturday morning, it was not known to most that Walt had passed away. The performance began with bandleader Clark Gault, a gentle giant if there ever was one, breaking the news to the audience of Smith's death.
In place of Walt Smith at the piano, a framed photo was placed upon it. At various points in the concert friends and family shared memories of Walt.
Over the years I've performed with the Walt Smith Trio on three occasions. The first of those performances remains to this day my greatest musical memory. Walt knew every tune ever written, and could play them in any key at the drop of a hat.
We've lost a legend, Western Colorado. I invite you to visit the library and see how many books you'll find mentioning Walt Smith's name. Kudos to you, Swing City Express, especially Clark Gault, for the tremendous effort and artistry involved in putting this show together. Thank you to Gary R. Smith of Gary R. Smith Productions for sharing the photos.