Six weeks after the loss of John-Alex Mason at age 35, the local bluesman's legacy continues on — in his music, in our memories, and now, in a new program aimed at furthering his efforts to introduce younger people to the art form he championed and revered.
In February 2009, the musician told a radio interviewer at Fort Collins' KRFC-FM the reasoning behind his "harebrained idea" of leading a couple van loads of high school students on a journey through the birthplaces of the blues.
"Let's get real here: Everybody's trying to sell them something," said John-Alex of the students he'd take to New Orleans, Mississippi, Memphis and Chicago. "Those poor teenagers, man, they're getting slapped around by what they're supposed to think, and what the world's supposed to look like, and what everyone's telling them that it looks like. But take them to the Mississippi Delta and it kind of turns their heads around. They get to talk to these musicians straight-up and meet some of these guys who have made a life out of making music, not necessarily for money but because it's something that they love."
Later that month, in an interview for an Indy cover story, John-Alex placed those post-Katrina journeys in a more historical context: "The seminar is called 'Blues and Civil Rights History,' so we're using the music as kind of a lens to view American history. They're tied hand-in-hand: When you look at African-American history and you look at blues and jazz music and how it progressed, the civil rights movement had a lot to do with the music. And vice versa."
This Friday, Dec. 2, the nonprofit Colorado Blues Society will help carry that torch as it launches the John-Alex Mason Scholarship Initiative with a benefit concert and silent auction. The evening will feature performances by Ronnie Shellist, Cassie Taylor and Jason Downing & Friends, as well as auction items ranging from handmade gifts to studio recording time. Money raised will go to a scholarship fund to send Colorado kids to culturally relevant seminars and workshops.
I guess this is the point where I'll mention that the event is being held at Road 34 Bike Shop, which is up in Fort Collins. But even if you're snowed in this Friday, you still have options: The concert is being simulcast at krfcfm.org, and you can go to the event's Facebook page at on.fb.me/sS4Rtn for updates and info on how to contribute from home. You'll also find a video of the previously mentioned interview there.
Then on Saturday, you'll want to head over to Lofty's for its one-year anniversary celebration, a concert and art sale featuring performances by Willy Tea Taylor, Alex Koshak, Tom Skora, Mike Clark, Grant Sabin and Briffaut. (Details at on.fb.me/th7vb1.) Also within sledding distance that same night is the J.Miller Band Kickstarter Fundraiser Hellraiser Party at McCabe's, while over at Zodiac, look for a return visit from Denver emigrant Chris Bullock's Tall City along with Thrifty Astronaut and We Are Not a Glum Lot. On Sunday, catch the notorious Mickey Avalon (of "My Dick" fame) at the Black Sheep.
And finally, for anyone heading up to Denver this weekend, El Toro de la Muerte is headlining Summit Music Hall on Saturday, while the aforementioned We Are Not a Glum Lot opens for Springs heroes Tango Red Tapestry at the Larimer Lounge on Sunday. Don't look now, but we're taking over that town.