To borrow a line from Fats Waller, “the joint was jumpin” Friday night at the Elks Theatre as jazz fans gathered for the kick-off concert of the 19th Prescott Jazz Summit. In “A Celebration of Jazz from New Orleans to New York”, with Pete Barbutti as Master of Ceremonies, The Great American Jazz Band led the audience on a musical journey from the New Orleans of Louis Armstrong, Al Hirt and Jack Teagarden, to the Dixieland sound of Pete Fountain, and Jelly Roll Morton to the Chicago and New York sounds of Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, among many others. It was a night of jazz rhythms and improvisation, top notch musicianship and nostalgia for the rich legacy of American’s original art form.
Ginger Berglund, fan David Stringer, Ronnie Rose, and Mike Vax
This year marks the 19th anniversary of a jazz festival in Prescott that dates from a one day event in 2000, “Jazz in the Pines”, and has now grown to a full weekend of hot music. This year brought 26 musicians to Prescott from across Arizona, as well as visiting musicians from Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
The founder and moving spirit of the festival, trumpeter Mike Vax, has played with such legendary bands as Stan Kenton, Glen Miller and Tommy Dorsey, and later led the Dukes of Dixieland and the Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra. Since he relocated to the Prescott area in 2010, he has focused his energies on promoting jazz festivals in Prescott and around the country.
This year’s assembly of jazz musicians included such notable figures as vocalist Ronnie Rose,who was Las Vegas’s Entertainer of the Year in 2011, and has performed with such “A” listers as The Four Tops, Dean Martin and Barry Manilow. Trombonist Scott Whitfield has played with the Glen Miller Orchestra, the Stan Kenton Alumni Band and the Jimmy Dorsey Band. Female vocalist Ginger Berglund is renowned for her legacy performances of June Christy, Anita O’Day, and the Johnny Mandel Songbook.
Saturday’s events included a full day of performances and student workshops at Prescott High School, and an evening concert featuring music from the era of the Big Bands.
The three day festival concluded with a Jazz Brunch and an All Star Jam Session of jazz improvisation at the Top of the Elks Theatre, with catered tapas from El Gato Azul.
The weekend of festivities was joyful proof that jazz is alive and well in Prescott. For those who missed this year’s festival, Jazz Summit founder, Mike Vax, assures us that plans are already underway for the 20th anniversary Jazz Summit scheduled for the last week of August, 2020.
Pete Barbutti, fan David Stringer, and Jack Petersen