Wednesday, August 1, 2012


On a recent Thursday evening at six o’clock, I eased on down to the local bakery.  I was on my own and looking forward to sitting and listening to some great jazz.  “What?” you say, “Great jazz at a bakery?”  Yes, great jazz at a bakery.  Not any bakery, mind you, but The Desert Flour Bakery & Bistro in the Village of Oak Creek in Sedona, Arizona.  Every other week for a year now Gary Wald, owner, baker, and chef, has had the exceptional good taste to present singer Rosemary Chavez.  At first, Rosemary was accompanied by a pianist only, occasionally augmented by Frankie Chavez, Rosemary’s husband, sitting in on bongos and percussion.  But when the crowds started showing up regularly, Frankie began playing his full drum kit, when he wasn’t performing elsewhere or on the road with The Glenn Miller Orchestra.
This particular Thursday, I walk in to find the place empty of customers save for one table of four people.  Behind the counter Tammie, the gracious hostess and server, greets me warmly the moment I set foot in the door.  “Where is everybody, Tammie?”  “I don’t know,” she says, “It’s warm out, ya know,” suggesting that it might be a later crowd this night.  Two of the four people at the aforementioned table are neighbors of mine in Pine Valley, east of the Village, who motion me over.  I sit down at a table in front of theirs to be close to the music and to chat a bit with Pamela.   “She’s really a good singer!” whispers Pamela after listening to a couple of songs.  Indeed!
Rosemary, who is from Minnesota, began singing at the age of three and has never veered off that course.  After earning her Bachelor of Arts degree, she performed with the internationally acclaimed Weston Noble and his Nordic Choir in such notable settings as Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City.  After relocating to Los Angeles, Rosemary recorded three solo songs for the movie Roar starring Tippi Hedren and Melanie Griffith.  It was here that her friendship with Ms. Hedren inspired Rosemary to become active on behalf of animals, writing and performing music at The March for Animals in Washington DC and subsequently in Los Angeles accompanied by jazz keyboardist Billy Mitchell. In July and August of 2010 Rosemary was a featured soloist in the Weston Noble Alumni Choir Tour of Europe singing in Austria, Germany, and The Czech Republic.  Since living in Sedona, she has performed regularly at other venues such as PJ’s Village Pub & Grille, The Jazz Bouquet, Tlaquepaque, Ken’s Creekside, The Barking Frog, as a solo act in Red’s Lounge at Sedona Rouge, and other venues in Prescott, Flagstaff, and Scottsdale.                        
 I order some food and focus on Rosemary, Frankie, and pianist Steve Sandner.  I lose myself into a few bars of a song when Bette, another fan of Rosemary’s, sees me alone and sits down, and we chat about how wonderful the music is.  Gowned in black with matching stole and chic 1940’s style hat, Rosemary gives me a smile and a wink and breaks into one of my favorites, a swinging rendition of “Do Nothin’ ‘til You Hear from Me” by Duke Ellington.  I take a few bites of my Crab Cake Slider, which is very good, before I notice another neighbor Gary sitting just across the aisle.   When Sara, his wife, shows up, I spontaneously ask them if they’d like to join me.  Gary says that this is their first time here in the evening, and it’s not long before they are both grinning with delight. “Wow, this is a great combo!” says Gary.  Maybe fifteen minutes later, Joan, another fan, wanders in alone.  “Come on, Joan, sit with us,” I say.  I introduce her to Gary and Sara, and a music-loving foursome is born.
By seven o’clock, the place is packed, and the joint is jumpin’!  With Steve Sandner’s inspired jazzy piano and vocals and Frankie Chavez’s tasteful and sensual rhythms, Rosemary has kicked it up and is rockin’ the place with compelling arrangements of songs from “Night & Day” to “Duke’s Place”, “How Insensitive” to “C’est Magnifique”, and “99 Miles” to “Smooth Operator”—Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Johnny Mathis, and Sade.  How eclectic is that?  This group has so much joy and enthusiasm! I, we, you cannot help but be swept away!!
A native Californian, Frankie began playing the drums at two years old and was playing professionally by the age of 11, when he toured with Lionel Hampton as a featured soloist.  Mentored by Buddy Rich, Frankie Chavez is an accomplished drummer and percussionist who has performed and recorded with numerous artists including Lionel Hampton, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Gerald Wilson, Larry Carlton, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Pat Boone, Mitzi Gaynor, and the list goes on.    
Earlier in the week, Tammie told me, “It’s so much fun to work when Rosemary’s at The Bakery.  She likes to have a relationship with each person in her audience.  She makes everyone feel special.”  I feel special when I am wherever she is performing, listening to the voice: warm, rich, and supple; watching the singer: lovely, joyful, and commanding, who always showers me with a glorious whole-hearted smile that welcomes completely.  And what a good time she is having!  Rosemary Chavez doesn’t only sing the notes and mouth the words, she lets the music flow through every fiber of her being, and it infuses her with an energy that is utterly infectious, be it happy, wistful, seductive, or sad.  My senses awaken, my joy intensifies, and my body sways to the melodies and the rhythms whether all-out swing, jazzy bossa nova, dreamy ballad, taunting bolero, soft rock ‘n’ roll, or soulful rhythm & blues. Rosemary Chavez does it all with sassy spirit, tender heart, and consummate musicianship.
I take a stroll to the bar for a bit more water and see Susan, another fan, who is sitting there sipping one of bartender Andy’s specially chosen selections.  She is rocking to the music and looking quite happy.  “They’re great, aren’t they?” I say.  “Oh, yes!" she responds. "We’re so lucky.  In Phoenix we’d be paying a cover charge for this—if we could even get in.”  Her comment brings to mind Judi, a friend who lives in New York when not living in Sedona, who told me on her first visit to Rosemary at The Bakery, “I go to The Algonquin Hotel in New York City and pay a big cover charge, and there’s no one better singing there than there is here tonight.”
 Pamela leans over to me shortly after I return to the table and says, “Boy, I could bring my dad here.  He’d love all this.”  Yes, you could, Pamela.  And so could we all bring people we love to share in this festival of song, laughter, great entertainment, and, by mid-evening, warm atmosphere of the family we have just become thanks to Rosemary Chavez.

 Every other Thursday evening from 6:00 to 8:30 at the Desert Flour Bakery: 6446 SR 179,
The Village of Oak Creek, Sedona, Arizona, 928 284-4633.
Visit Rosemary & Frankie Chavez at

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