Jazz Singer Brings Soft, Lilting Voice To Payson

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Recording artist Sherry Petta comes to Payson next weekend as part of the ongoing Payson Friends of Jazz and Jazz in Arizona, Inc. concert series.

Petta, an emerging Phoenix artist, will perform at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 9 in the Community Presbyterian Church, 800 West Main St.

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Sherry Petta sings jazz and blues standards in the tradition of Etta James, Frank Sinatra, Steve Tyrell and Ray Charles.

She began her love affair with music at the age of 4, announcing to her family she wanted to learn to play the piano. She was 5 years old when she was given a piano, and music became a focal point in her life.

Petta surrounded herself with music -- taking piano lessons twice a week and practicing (for fun) for three hours a day, participating in local talent shows, playing the piano for friends and family.

She played the piano for several years at St. Maria Goretti Church in Scottsdale, St. Phillips in Pasadena, Calif. and St. Thomas the Apostle in Phoenix, where she met great musicians and friends.

From these relationships, she was asked to sing occasionally with the Motown style Soul Solution band.

It wasn't until February 2004, however, that she realized people really wanted to hear her sing, according to her Web site, www.sherrypetta.com.

The song that opened her eyes to the audience in front of her was "Waiting," a piece she wrote in 2003. The response was overwhelming.

One person who heard Petta sing introduced her to the Pita Jungle in Chandler, where they have a weekly open jazz jam session.

"I went there to sing and put my name on the sign-up sheet," she said. "I was nervous, and took my name off the list. I didn't think I sang well enough to sit in with this band."

Two months later, she stopped in at Kazimierz in Scottsdale where they were having an open jam session, so she signed up again to sing and this time took the microphone in hand.

"I remember the first song I sang at Kazimierz," she said. "It was ‘Teach Me Tonight.' The musicians were fantastic. The feel was great, and I could see Margo Reed smiling at me. It was sort of an approval from her and I was honored.

"The applause was overwhelming to me -- I was so moved. When we left Kazimierz that night, my boyfriend stopped me in the parking lot, took my open hand, reached up and then sprinkled (invisible) stardust in my hand and then closed my fingers around it. When I questioned what he was doing, he said, ‘That's it. It's yours. You've got it.'

"Whenever I sing in public, people ask me where they can get my CD. I didn't have one, but after enough requests, I figured it was probably a good idea to do one."

It took more than a year to make the CD, titled, "This is Why."

On the album, Petta is backed by Armand Boatman on piano, Jerry Donato on sax, Mike King on bass, Bill Moio on guitar, and Dom Moio on drums -- Phoenix's finest, according to Gerry Reynolds, president of Jazz in Arizona, Inc., and coordinator of the Payson jazz series.

The CD has received some notice and is getting considerable air time on jazz radio KJZZ and Star97.5, and Tower Records has it in stock.

"Sherry began singing publicly only a few years ago with the Pita Jungle Restaurant band, of which I am a member," Reynolds said. "So I thought it would be appropriate to have the entire band at this performance."

Her music favors the jazz and blues standards made popular by Etta James, Frank Sinatra, Steve Tyrell, Ray Charles and others, Reynolds said.

"Her voice is soft, lilting with a touch of country (although she denies it)," he said.

The April 9 performance by Sherry Petta is free of charge, but donations are welcome.

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