An Evergreen Story

No, it’s not a story put on the shelf to run when real news is short. It’s about Evergreen, Colorado, our home away from home.

A couple of years ago when told about Evergreen, the husband of our former English aupair thought it was a delightful name. Great Britain didn’t seem to have such autological names.

Evergreen is not exactly ever green. It is this year due to heavy spring rains, but it can be pretty brown this time of year. In fact, what I like about it is that it is dry. The humidity is low and it claims more sunny days per year than San Diego.

Perhaps more precisely, Evergreen is ever white. No more so than many small towns in America, but it is striking to someone who lives in the ethnically diverse Washington, D.C. suburbs. The people who work at Home Depot, McDonalds and all manner of businesses are always white. It’s odd how odd that feels when you are used to something else.

What drew us to Evergreen, however, were two specific people – my brother and sister who moved there about seven years ago. My wife, worried that I’ve had one too many biking accidents where I jarred my brain, wanted us to have a fall back residence for the time when I will need to be wheeled around while drooling. We bought a place in Evergreen so my younger siblings could share her burden.

It is a delightful change of pace, though not one I’m prepared to commit to forever. The town is bifurcated.  The northern part of town lies adjacent to I-70, about 20 minutes from downtown Denver.  There are many well-appointed and large homes there.  And I’m told those folks never make it to downtown Evergreen, which is a collection of funky restaurants like the Wildflower Cafe and craft shops populated by tourists on the weekends and refugees from the 60s during the week.  The town attracts many bikers.  The bicyclists usually just pass through.  The Harley riders often stop at the Little Bear Saloon, a honky-tonk with its own unusual history.

The move there did introduce me to a wonderful surprise — the Evergreen Jazz Festival, which just completed its eighth annual edition. Being a jazz fan, I’ve become involved, acting as its media relations contact. It’s fun and rewarding to promote a music I think is wonderful.

But true to its venue, the Evergreen Jazz Festival is homogeneous. Among about 40-50 musicians performing there, only one is black. How can you have a jazz festival without black musicians. When you think about it, that’s pretty hard to do, I would think. But then you look at its audience. It’s all white. I saw maybe one or two Hispanic looking folks, but no African-Americans that I recall.

The musicians are chosen by the festival’s founder. I have no reason to think he’s biased. And it may be that because the festival focuses on “traditional jazz,” it doesn’t attract a lot of black Americans. I’ve heard that is typical of trad jazz festivals. A quick survey of some festival sites does reveal a disproportionate number of white musicians and audience members. Why that is I’m not sure.evergreen lake 2

Absent evidence that I’m involved in some kind of white supremacy conspiracy, I’ll continue to help out the Evergreen festival. It’s an all-volunteer effort with really great musicians and a beautiful setting.

One of my favorites is a guy named Carl Sonny Leyland. I had arranged for him to appear on a radio show the night he got into town. He didn’t even have to time to eat when I showed up at his door to take him to the studio. He has sideburns and combed back hair, looking every bit a 50s rockabilly star. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Not a colored t-shirt with a logo or graphic on it. No, just a white t-shirt. And that’s how he went to the radio studio. But he played the hell out of that piano.

I can’t say I’m a trad jazz diehard. I like much of post-war (WWII) jazz. But my annual 10-day sojourn to Evergreen was again a joy.