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Tue, Aug. 20

Jazz is alive and well in Prescott

Frankie Chavez/Courtesy<br>Frankie Chavez and music great Lionel Hampton ham it up on the set of “West Side Story” in this 1960 photograph.

Frankie Chavez/Courtesy<br>Frankie Chavez and music great Lionel Hampton ham it up on the set of “West Side Story” in this 1960 photograph.

PRESCOTT - Prescott may not be the jazz capital of the country, but Frankie and Rosemary Chavez are helping make the 129 ½ An American Jazz Grille the jazz capital of Prescott. He plays drums and she sings the songs.

"We love playing here. This is like our home away from home," Frankie said.

"We love having fun here. It's a real jazz club," Rosemary added.

From 6:30-9:30 p.m. each Saturday night, various local jazz musicians join Frankie and Rosemary on stage for the Grille's Jazz a'la Mode show.

"Jazz talks about life and experiences; about heartache and beautiful places," Frankie said.

"It's about quiet nights and bright stars," Rosemary said.

Frankie and Rosemary met 13 years ago and married 10 years ago. In 2004, they moved from Los Angeles to Sedona where they had honeymooned.

"We were both at this gig in 1997," Rosemary said. "And I started talking to him and we stayed up talking until 3 in the morning. He was a great guy to talk to."

Rosemary grew up in Minnesota, and flew straight to Los Angeles after graduating college with a teaching degree. Frankie grew up in Los Angeles, and attended Downey High School at Downey.

He started playing drums at an early age, and a lot of the L.A. musicians considered him a child prodigy. When he was only 11 years old, Lionel Hampton invited Frankie to tour with him as a featured soloist.

After that, door after musical door kept opening up for him.

He performed as a child dancer in the musical, "West Side Story," with Natalie Wood, and had music companies courting him to endorse their drum sets in between doing school homework. A high school classmate, Karen Carpenter of The Carpenters, was so captivated by young Frankie's drum skill, she asked him to teach her how to play drums.

"I was her first drum teacher," Frankie said. They also became lifelong friends until her death in 1983 from heart failure brought on by complications from anorexia nervosa, a disease she suffered for years.

Randy L. Schmidt recently published a biography about Karen Carpenter, "Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter." Schmidt chronicles Chavez and Carpenter's friendship, and includes a high school photograph of the two young drummers together.

A car accident in 1980 gave Frankie what he calls a "life altering experience." He missed going to Carpenter's wedding scheduled the next day.

"I stepped out of the music scene in the late 80s and early 90s," he said. "Then life stepped in and threw me a curveball."

"He had more music in him to do," Rosemary added.

During his career, which he says is nowhere near slowing down, he played and toured around the world with some of the biggest names in show business: Lionel Hampton; Stan Kenton; Dee Dee Bridgewater; Pat Boone; Mitzi Gaynor and Bobby Gentry.

Rosemary, who recently returned from a European tour with the internationally acclaimed Nordic Choir, is well known in the world of vocalists. She recorded three solos for the movie soundtrack to "Roar," which starred Tippi Hedren ("The Birds") and Melanie Griffith. The couple released their own CD, "Sweet Jazz a'la Mode."

"I want people to get an emotional feeling, a feeling of being moved by our music," said Rosemary, who is as energetic off stage as she is on stage. "I'm telling a story; giving them a part of me."

"I hope people go away with an uplifting feeling; that we made them happy," said Frankie in his soft-spoken way. "Jazz is the great American art form."

To learn more about Frankie and Rosemary Chavez, visit www.chavez-music.com.

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