As traditions go, jazz concerts in the Rim Country are relatively youthful.
Started in mid-2000, the jazz series was organized by fans of the genre who wanted to enjoy live programs without making the trek to the Valley or Flagstaff.
Gerry Reynolds is one of the founders of this new tradition.
He recalled the instigation of the series in an interview with the Payson Roundup about six years ago.
“I ... met some people who liked jazz music. About half a dozen of us were sitting around my kitchen table talking about there was nowhere to go to listen to jazz and nowhere to go to play.”
That small band of fans decided to see how many people would be interested in attending a jazz performance. The group at Reynolds’ kitchen table put together a list of people they thought would be interested and came up with close to 100 names.
Asking around, they found a venue when Cory Houghton and Payson Regional Medical Center made the Senior Circle building on Highway 87 available, free of charge.
Reynolds, a drummer, plays with jazz acts on a regular basis in the Valley, so he used those connections to line up the performers.
Invitations to the 100-plus people on that mailing list crafted at Reynolds’ kitchen table were sent out for a June show.
“All of them responded,” Reynolds said. “We had between 90 and 100 people at our first event. We asked if they were interested in keeping it going and everyone we spoke to said, ‘Yes, let’s do it again.’”
There has been a concert every month since that first one in June 2000. An average of 125 people attend.
Eventually the concerts “migrated to the church,” Reynolds said. “It has a nice room” ... more seating and better acoustics.
The church is the Community Presbyterian Church at 800 W. Main St. Pastor Chuck Proudfoot said the jazz concerts came to his church about a month after he assumed his ministry at the facility in August 2001.
He said Reynolds is one of the constants of the series.
“He gets to pick who he plays with,” Proudfoot said.
One of the reasons the series has succeeded — and why artists are standing in line to participate — is the venue of the church.
“It is a place people come just to listen to jazz ... there are no other distractions.” Most of the time the artists are playing where there is something else going on, Proudfoot said.
Continuing the tradition
The tradition continues this weekend, Sunday, Feb. 8, when frequent guest artists Judy Roberts and Renee Patrick return to perform at 2 p.m.
Roberts, a pianist and vocalist, has been called “Chicago’s favorite jazz woman” by the Chicago Tribune.
She has an international reputation, with numerous recordings and concert appearances.
From the Midwest to Phoenix to Singapore, Roberts is best known for her fun-loving approach to an eclectic and extensive repertoire, her hard-swinging piano playing, her ability to combine lush and sensitive vocals with rapid-fire scat singing, and for her unique ability to communicate with her audience in a relaxed and intimate style.
A multiple Grammy nominee, her 20-plus album/CD releases include the “The Other World,” whose hit single “Señor Blues” was No. 1 on the jazz charts and in radio airplay; the album “Trio,” with Ray Brown and Jeff Hamilton; the song “Twilight World,” co-written with piano diva Marian McPartland (on whose NPR show, “Piano Jazz,” Roberts has guested twice); and her international hit rendition of Dave Frishberg’s “My Attorney Bernie.”
In addition to club and concert appearances, Roberts performs at such jazz festivals as the North Sea Fest in Holland, the Singapore Jazz Fest, the Chicago Jazz Festival, and is a regularly featured artist on the Joe Segal and the Jazz Cruise Line jazz cruises, as well as the Newport Beach and West Coast Jazz Parties.
Roberts is on the faculty of Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts, and is a featured columnist for the Chicago Jazz Magazine.
She continues to perform and record in the Chicago area and around the world.
Born in Philadelphia, music was a way of life for Renee Patrick. Her father was a member of the world renowned Ink Spots, inducted in the Doo Wop Hall of Fame in 1997, and her mother somewhat a local legend having recorded duets with Terry Johnson of the Flamingos in Detroit’s Motown Studios alongside of greats such as Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye. It is safe to say that music runs in her family.
Patrick is a Phoenix-based artist driven by true passion and love of music.
Her music is shockingly honest and emotionally charged. Listeners find her sound somehow familiar, but one that is refreshingly original and inviting.
A powerful voice combined with a passionate delivery, her music captures the listener and doesn’t let go.
During the Feb. 8 performance of Roberts and Patrick the donated piano will be dedicated, marking the conclusion of the fund-raising campaign.
A raffle drawing will be held for the Jay Kemp painting donated to the campaign. The painting may be viewed at the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce. Tickets for the drawing are $20 each or three for $50. They are available at the chamber and at the church office.
The concert is free, but a $5 donation at the door is requested to help assure that professionals like Roberts and Patrick continue to be heard as part of the Rim Country’s jazz tradition.
For seating and information, contact Reynolds at gerryr@ cox.net.