Jazz Musician Didn't Discover Calling Until 29


Each of us finds our calling in life sooner or later.

Musician and Arizona native Pete Pancrazi discovered his love for jazz after working as an insurance agent for seven years.


Pete Pancrazi Jazz Quartet
When: 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Community Presbyterian Church, 800 W. Main St.
Cost: $5 donation

"A friend of mine bought me a ticket to see jazz guitarist Barney Kessel play with his trio," Pancrazi said. "It lit a fire in me. I thought, ‘I'd like to try that.'"

At 29, Pancrazi ditched his suit, picked up his guitar and headed to Boston's Berklee College of Music, where he won numerous awards for his songwriting and performance abilities.

"I never looked back," said Pancrazi, now 49. "You could classify me as a late bloomer. Most people begin much younger, but I feel like I'm just starting to reach my peak."

Pancrazi lists trumpet player Miles Davis and guitar player Jim Hall as his biggest jazz influences.

Both are noted for their lyrical playing, Pancrazi said.

"All of their improvisations are highly melodic and have hummable solos," Pancrazi said. "I'm drawn to that style because I'm a singer."

During his youth, Pancrazi sang and played guitar in folk and rock bands, covering artists such as James Taylor and Cat Stevens.

Jazz has since allowed Pancrazi to surpass the limitations of fixed band membership and a monotonous song list.

"There is a basic roadmap to jazz, but how you get through it is up to you," Pancrazi said. "Whereas, in rock, Zeppelin's ‘Stairway to Heaven' sounds the same every time."

Improvisation features heavily in Pancrazi's performances.

"Everything is improvised -- that's really the nature of jazz,"

said Pancrazi, who also constantly changes his sound by playing solo, duo, trio or quartet. "For a song, I'll pick the tempo and a style like swing or Brazilian bossa nova. We'll interpret it and then change, depending on how goofy I feel."

Often, each musician will also take an improvised solo over the main structure of the song, Pancrazi said.

Another staple of Pancrazi's performances is his singing.

"I found if my mouth could sing, I could get more jobs," said Pancrazi, chuckling. Pancrazi said he listened to the vocals of Mel Torme, Frank Sinatra and Chet Baker and began blending their songs into his sets.

"On my first album, I sang a few songs," Pancrazi said. "It then morphed into a situation where people expected me to sing."

Pancrazi has four compact discs and another in the works.

"Trio Songbook," his latest CD, features his trio playing popular jazz songs and requested tunes.

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