Jazz summit delivers 'swinging and joy'

Jazz musicians perform at the Hassayampa Inn during the 2013 Prescott Jazz Summit in downtown Prescott. This year’s events are this weekend. (Courtesy photo)

Jazz musicians perform at the Hassayampa Inn during the 2013 Prescott Jazz Summit in downtown Prescott. This year’s events are this weekend. (Courtesy photo)

The sounds of jazz's special joy are spreading across town this week, bringing acclaimed musicians to perform in the annual Prescott Jazz Summit.

Highlights are concerts on the courthouse plaza, the Elks Theatre and Performing Arts Center and at Prescott High School's Ruth Street Theater.

Trumpet player Carl Saunders, who played with the Stan Kenton Band when he was just 18 years old, says that jazz is "classical" music that America invented.

"Jazz is always different," Saunders said, emphasizing its improvisational qualities, with new ways of playing old standards. Jazz musicians play a song differently every time they pick their instruments up.

Jazz, he said, brings "feelings of swinging and joy" to its listening audience.

The jazz festival opens today at noon with a free one-hour concert in the gazebo on the courthouse plaza, featuring a select ensemble of the Summit Jazz All-Stars, both instrumental and vocal.

Tonight, the summit will present a concert at the Elks Theatre and Performing Arts Center. This performance, which runs from 7:30 to 10 p.m., will feature a small jazz ensemble format, with rotating guest artists so that the audience will have the opportunity to hear nearly all of the artists at one time or another during the evening.

Saturday features several events. Jazz Summit All-Star professionals will work with young musicians in workshops from 1 to 3 p.m. in the high school's Ruth Street Theater. Outside in the high school parking lot, Prescott Antique Auto Club members will show off their vehicles from 1 to 8 p.m. for summit guests to enjoy. For more information about the auto show, log onto paacaz.com. The Bad Cactus Brass Band will stroll through the vintage autos before the afternoon or evening concerts.

Another highlight Saturday is the Big Band Gala, with the Swing Shift Big Band performance from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Ruth Street Theater.

"Traditionally, the most popular of all the summit events, many guest artists will solo with the big band in support," summit director Mike Vax said. The Prescott High School Jazz Ensemble will open the concert.

Sunday begins with a jazz brunch at the Hassayampa Inn from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., with rotating guest artists entertaining. The afternoon concert from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Hassayampa ends the formal portion of the jazz festival. The finale of the summit is an informal jam session from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Murphy's restaurant.

Guests must make reservations with Murphy's restaurant by calling 928-445-4044.

To reserve tickets for all the events, except for the jam session at Murphy's, call Kristy 928-830-2462 or 928-277-1576. Tickets also are available online at prescottjazz.com or at the Prescott Chamber of Commerce. To receive a discount off of the regular ticket prices, enter the code exactly, PJS-Courier online in the shopping cart, or mention it to Kristy when you call her for tickets.

Bill Watrous and Scott Whitfield are among the guest artisans coming to Prescott for the annual jazz fest.

Watrous played with famous jazz arranger and composer Johnny Richards in New York, appeared on the Merv Griffin and Dick Cavett television shows and performed with such greats at Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald at the Copacabana nightclub.

His father was a trombone player and he chose that path to follow, he said.

"Jazz is a funny world," Watrous said. "It covers a lot of different ground. It involves different music that develops within it. Jazz is the kind of music you listen to when you want to hear some jazz."

Trombonist and vocalist Scott Whitfield and his wife, vocalist Ginger Berglund, will both perform in the fest, doing songs from their new CD, "Solitary Moon," along with Johnny Mandel music and melodies from the Great American Songbook.

Scott Whitfield became enchanted with music as a small child, when he would get into his father's big band and swing record collection and was hooked from that time on, he said.

He has played with many great artists, including Lionel Hampton and Toshiko Akiyoshi, a famous Japanese composer and bandleader, he said.

He has traveled the globe with his music.

Of jazz music, Whitfield says, "The freedom of artistic expression is unmatched in any other genre. It is a language that speaks to me. Hopefully, I translate that back to the audience and bring them in to the enjoyment of what I do."

- Story by Karen Despain, The Daily Courier