Dennis Roland and Daryl Weisser performing at the Prescott Jazz Summit

Across the Street

Jazz and Blues music have been linked since the very beginning. While blues was around even before the advent of jazz, there has always been a close connection to the history of jazz. The two genres have influenced each other throughout the years and they still interact in countless ways.

At 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, the Prescott Jazz Summit is performing “Blues and the Roots of Jazz,” its next installation of the Jazz Journey monthly concert series, in the Crystal Hall on the third floor of the Elks Performing Arts Center, 117 E. Gurley St., Prescott.

The Jazz Summit All-Stars will feature Mike Vax on trumpet, Dave Russell on saxophone, Mike Jaramillo on guitar, Chris Finnet on bass, Kenny French on drums and special guest singer Dennis Rowland from the Count Basie Orchestra. Vax spoke with Across the Street staff ahead of the performance. The following interview was edited for length and clarity.

What do you like most about playing jazz?

I play every kind of jazz you can imagine. I lived in Dukes of Dixieland in New Orleans back in the 1970s and played with a bunch of the other groups in New Orleans. I play everything from Dixieland to big band to bebop. I play every kind of jazz you can imagine. That’s part of the fun is there’s so many different types of jazz. One of the concerts we did this year was all Latin jazz, and people loved it. In jazz music, you know, improvisation is one of the best parts of it. That means that you can play what you feel every time. So, you play a tune, then tomorrow night it may not be the same as you played it tonight.

What inspired you originally to play the trumpet?

It was funny. I wasn’t inspired to play the trumpet. When I was in grammar school, they did what they now call recorders, but we used to call them song flutes. The orchestra director at my elementary school would bring song flutes into the classes and teach everybody and then the kids that showed some talent, I was in the third grade, and maybe in the fourth grade, you would get put into the orchestra if you were doing really well and they would let you try instruments and stuff. Well in the first six weeks or so of my third grade, I got into the song. I really got into it, man. So, I went to Mrs. Aldridge, the orchestra director, and I said, “Well, what do you want me to do next?” And she said, “I want you to do next week’s first.” And I said, “No, you don’t understand. I know the whole book. So I played the stuff in the back in the book for her. We didn’t have a lot of money to buy an instrument. The only thing they had left to give out, she found this old beat-up coronet, so she put the cornet in my hands and said, “Okay, this is what you’re playing,” And I fell in love with it right away. I just love to play it.

For more information about Prescott Jazz Summit performances, visit

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit, or call 928-756-2844.

Jesse Bertel is a reporter/videographer for the Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter @ JesseBertel, email him at, or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2043.

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