Memories Cloudy, But Music’S Still Mighty Fine

Organizers discuss past and future of jazz series


Funny thing. Memories get cloudy.

It happened last week when I sat down with Gerry Reynolds and John Shevlin to do a story about the 10th anniversary — or maybe it’s the 11th — of the Payson Jazz Concert Series.

Neither was certain which anniversary the series is celebrating this year — but they agreed it was a significant one.

Computer archives are a wonderful thing. As I prepared to write this story, I put two words in the search parameters; two words I was close to dead certain were in every item the Roundup has ever published about the Jazz Concert Series: “Gerry Reynolds.” Reynolds submits the information, and photos when available, and he’s the contact person for every performance.

My search of the Roundup Web site brought up 268 articles to review. The first entry was a letter — from John Shevlin:

Jazz Concert A Welcome Alternative

Thursday, August 29, 2002


Last Sunday afternoon, Gerry and Judith Reynolds, in association with JazzinAZ, presented the third of monthly jazz concerts at the Senior Circle. Singer Delphine from the Valley was the highlight of the program, and played to a standing-room-only crowd of more than 100.

Thank you, Gerry and Judith, for bringing this most welcome musical alternative to the Rim country. We needed that. May we have many more.

J.B. Shevlin, Payson

The next entry was probably the first story I wrote about the series after I returned to the Payson Roundup from a 14-(or maybe it was 15)-year (as I said, memories get cloudy) absence from the Rim Country.

Between Shevlin’s letter and my article, my best guess is the series started in the summer of 2002 … So, Payson’s Jazz Concert Series is 11 years old (or is it 10? … You don’t turn 1 until you’ve been around a year, so is it the same for a concert series?).

According to Reynolds, he and some friends were sitting around his kitchen table and talking about how nice it would be to have someplace closer to go to for good jazz; someplace closer than the Valley.

“I moved up here three years ago and 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,” Reynolds said, recounting the birth of the group in that article more than 10 years ago.

They decided to see how many people would be interested in attending a jazz performance.

Reynolds is a drummer who, at the time, played with jazz acts on a regular basis in the Valley, so had connections with people who would be willing to come to Payson and perform. The group at his kitchen table came up with close to 100 names.

Asking around, Cory Houghton, then advisor of the Senior Circle, offered up her facility, free of charge, for use as a concert site. With a site and mailing list, a concert was put together and invitations sent out.

The first concert was more of a jam session than a concert, Reynolds said. There were five or six musicians performing to an audience of about 85 … which meant they had to scramble to find chairs for everyone.

Eventually the concerts “migrated to the church,” Reynolds said. “It has a nice room and a baby grand piano, and us being here is a way to let people know the church is there.” He added the church also has more seating and better acoustics than the previous concert site. “The church” is the Community Presbyterian Church, 800 W. Main St., Payson.

Jazz Patrons needed to cushion coffers

Everything is volunteer and the loosely organized group only asks for a $5 donation from guests. Some give more; some give less. No one is turned away, Reynolds said.

Memories are cloudy and money is sparse, but the music’s still mighty fine.

The group that brings the concerts to the Rim Country — Payson Friends of Jazz — has operated the program on a shoestring since its inception. Now it is hoping to get a little bit of a cushion in its coffers.


Contributed photo

Tony Vacca and his trio will perform Oct. 13.

Reynolds outlined the group’s “budget” based on the donations at the door and costs of the program. He said the average cost of a program is $650, factoring in “scale” for the performers at $150 per artist ($600 for four musicians) and $50 for refreshments. An average of 75 people attend concerts, generating only $375 in donations. That puts the program in the red by $275 for each performance.

Eight groups have been booked to come to the Rim Country for the 2013-2014 season, so Payson Friends of Jazz needs $2,200 to break even.

To meet the financial need, the Payson Friends of Jazz invites fans and supporters to consider becoming patrons of the program. A donation of $100 per person ($200 per couple/family) earns the “rank” of Jazz Patron and invitations to participate in the social activities the group has, including after-concert gatherings with the artists.

To learn more about the patron program, contact John Shevlin at (928) 474-7454.

Reynolds said the concerts provide an important cultural and social venue for the community. The setting is very informal and members of the audience have a chance to visit with the artists during the intermission. Those attending also have a chance to visit with one another.

The 2013-2014 series, which opened Sept. 15, features both new and returning artists.

Tony Vacca, saxophone and flute, will return Oct. 13 with his trio; and Frank Smith, piano and sax, will perform with another trio Nov. 10.

Other performances: George Grund, piano and sax, and AJ Siniaho, trumpet, Jan. 12; John Darst, guitar and vocals, and Bob Veltre, guitar, Feb. 9; Pete Pancrazi, guitar and vocals, and Claudia Bloom, piano, March 9; Ken Taylor, trumpet, and Dave Ihlenfeld, piano, April 6; and Beth Lederman, piano and Felix Sainz, bass, May 4.

All performances are at 2 p.m. Sunday; doors open at 1 p.m.

Community Presbyterian Church is the primary sponsor of the concerts. Additionally a solid corps of volunteers makes everything possible, providing the refreshments, setting up and tearing down, greeting guests and more.

To learn more, contact Reynolds at (602) 619-3355 or e-mail him at Gerry-reynolds


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