A still of Jentry McCombs in 2nd to None & Still Number 1.Adam Lipsius
Flutist and singer Jentry McCombs has been playing around streets of LoDo — particularly along the 16th Street Mall — year-round for nearly two decades. More recently, he he's been performing across the street from Union Station, playing along to his "band in a box" that supplies his backing music.
Filmmaker and producer Adam Lipsius, whose most recent film is Crime Story, starring Richard Dreyfuss and Mira Sorvino, lives two blocks from where McCombs usually performs. Lipsius says that McCombs gives his dog, Tilda, treats so often that she can't hear the flute without tugging him down the street for a visit.
Lipsius has seen McCombs perform many times over the years and stops by to talk to the musician a few times a week, but there was a stretch of time near Thanksgiving when McCombs didn’t show up to play. Lipsius says the next time he saw McCombs, the flutist looked kind of sick and a bit distracted — and he didn’t have his flute.
McCombs, who just turned 64, told Lipsius that he’d gotten COVID and had forgotten his flute case in the doctor's waiting room. When he rushed back to get it, the bag was gone.
Lipsius wanted to raise awareness of McCombs’s plight, hoping to make enough money to get him a new flute. He made 2nd to None & Still Number 1, a short documentary on McCombs and set up a GoFundMe page. In the film, McCombs says he’s known around Denver as the "Golden Lip of LoDo."
“The thing about music is you never run out of fans,” McCombs says in the film. “You're getting new fans every day, too.”
Lipsius counts himself as one of thousands of fans McCombs has amassed over the past eighteen years that he's been playing around Denver. McCombs, who lived in Washington, D.C., before moving to Denver, has survived for nearly three decades solely by playing flute.
“You never know what life's going to bring you,” McCombs says. “But Denver’s has been good to me. It's been a good town.”
McCombs also addresses the addictions he had years ago.
“I thought back on what my mom had told me,” McCombs says. “She said, ‘You know, you can’t let your addiction go so far that you won't, you know, do things you're supposed to do to keep your music right. And I made a pact to straighten out my life and not do that anymore. And I ended up listening to what Mama said to do.
“I'm grateful to be able to play for people. I've had a lot of gratitude," he adds. "I lived on my flute. My flute was my survival. When I was young, people wanted me to quit and give up. I'm glad I didn’t, and that that's how you become the best.”
Lipsius says that every time he sees McCombs play it just makes his day, and his performances change the whole tenor of the city.
“I think Jentry is the heart of LoDo, and you can hear his beat,” Lipsius says. “And I don't want it to stop.”
In 2015, McCombs told Westword, “I love my audience out on the street far more than any club show. You’re gonna see the same old drunks in the club, but out here, I gain new fans every day. Street performing is a beautiful thing, because you never know who you’re gonna meet. My friend told me, ‘Don’t take your music where people don’t appreciate it.’”
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