A Cool Way To Get In The Holiday Spirit

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Guitarist Pete Pancrazi -- who is appearing in Payson this Sunday -- is not exactly a household name when it comes to jazz legends, but the Valley musician is extremely well known in the jazz community.

Downbeat magazine has called him "the one to watch," and a guitar player "deserving greater attention," while "AzJazz" magazine recently named him "Jazz Guitar Player of the Year."

Pancrazi is a graduate of the Berklee School of Music in Boston. While there, he received their Performer/Songwriter Award four times, and was a two-time winner of their Songwriter Competition.

And while he may not be that well known nationally, Pancrazi has cultivated a large and loyal following among Arizona jazz fans. Audiences enjoy his nimble guitar work and warm vocals, especially in such settings as The Duck & Decanter restaurant and the Desert Botanical Gardens.

While his repertoire includes original compositions, alongside straight-ahead and Latin jazz standards, the focus Sunday will be on his special blend of holiday music. Pancrazi's performance begins at 2 p.m. Dec. 11 at Community Presbyterian Church (800 W. Main St.) as part of the Jazz in AZ concert series.

Pancrazi will be accompanied by Jacob Kolar on piano, Justin Brotman on upright bass, a saxophonist to be named later, and, of course, Gerry Reynolds on drums.

Reynolds, former Payson resident and president of Jazz in AZ, stages the Payson jazz concerts on the second Sunday of each month.

"It's a fun event," Reynolds said. "The folks who come up to perform seem to always enjoy it.

"It's a great audience. It's great to play for people who listen."

If jazz and religion seem to be strange bedfellows, consider this:

"The Presbyterians are the ones that came to me, and the Methodists are kind of after me to move over there," Reynolds said.

"I say, ‘No, no, we're in solid with the Presbyterian church.'

"Pastor Chuck Proudfoot said, ‘Let's throw the doors open. Let's do it. People have forgotten (the church is) even here.'

"People are coming who are not Presbyterians, and people are saying, ‘This is a nice church.' They don't charge us for anything.

"It's concerts like this that keep jazz alive. That's our whole mission."

The concerts, which include a refreshment intermission, are free, but attendees are encouraged to make a donation and, especially, to make a reservation since seating is limited to 225 people.

(To do so, send an e-mail to prez@jazzinaz.org, or call (480) 785-1278.)

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