Originally Published: September 9, 2013 6:03 a.m.
Those who want a captivating jazz experience should head to the Prescott Jazz Summit's "Howlin' at the Highlands" concert Sunday, Sept. 15, at the Highlands Center for Natural History.
The performance is from 3 to 5:30 p.m. and will feature Susannah Martin and back-up musicians Jack Petersen, Ted Sistrunk, Tony Vacca, Cleve Huff and Mike Vax of the Jazz Summit All-Stars Band.
Martin, now a Sedona resident, has been immersed in music since she was 2 years old. Recognizing her talent, her parents, also of musical bent, sent her to performing arts junior high and high schools, she said. In college, she studied classical voice, jazz and musical therapy.
Jazz, she says, has always been her favorite but she runs the gamut of genres, as well, from rock and roll to hits of the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s.
One hears excitement in her voice when she talks about Brazilian Bossa Nova and the artist who made it famous, Antonio Carlos Jobim, songwriter, composer, arranger, singer and pianist/guitarist.
"I've always loved rhythm," she said. "The Latin music is famous for its complex rhythms, and jazz is known for its syncopated rhythm and so is Latin music." With a mix of the two, "It's a great marriage of styles," she said. "It's such a happy style of music.
Martin shows the audience what she means when she sings from her Bossa Nova repertoire. She will sing in Portuguese so that "people will be able to hear it in the way it was originally written by the composer.
She will also entertain with "some really fun swing tunes and beautiful ballads," such as those from legendary Duke Ellington.
And, concert-goers will also get a taste of Martin's "scat singing," her vocal improvisations that "will get you on the edge of your seat."
Petersen, a Prescott resident, has been plucking his electric guitar for "63 or 64 years."
Another product of a musical family, he's been at it since he was 3. Jazz is undoubtedly his long-time favorite, and when he first heard it, "The ear pulled me toward it," he said. "When you hear music, you choose what you like."
Much of his career was in studio work in Dallas, Texas, writing, producing and playing jingles for radio stations and products. He started the guitar program at the Berkley School of Music in Boston in the 1960s.
"Playing and teaching has been my career," he said. Now that he is retired, Petersen said he "plays for whoever calls," and he adds, he's "been known to play all kinds of music," from country and rock to blues and folk.
Phoenician Tony Vacca, who holds a master's degree in jazz education, is an adjunct faculty member at Scottsdale Community College.
This genre is "absolutely my favorite," he said. He grew up in a house "where there was always music." His older brother was a jazz musician and his family had a band that played for weddings and other special occasions.
When he was 14, Vacca's brother took him to a Maynard Ferguson concert and Vacca said, "That's when I knew what I wanted to do."
He appreciates the freedom of jazz. "You don't play the same thing the same way every time. I like the freedom and creativity. There's a lot of room for interpretation.
"The thing about jazz musicians is that they are the most well-rounded."
He will play his sax in the band Sunday, an instrument he took up, following the lead o his brother. "I like the look of it," he said, noting the gold keys of the instrument. "The sax was very enticing to me as a kid."
Vacca has done well with his sax. An article on jazz and blues in the September issue of Phoenix magazine called him a "brilliant saxophonist and teacher."
Tickets to the show are $20 and are available at www.prescottjazz.com, the Highlands Center gift shop or at the door. The Highlands Center is located at 1375 Walker Road in Prescott.