September 7, 2005 - Ask most people to hum the jazz hit "Unforgettable," sung by Natalie Cole, and they'll manage to do it without pause and succeed at throwing in a few lyrics, as well.
The man who played the saxophone solo in that widely recognized recording, Pete Christlieb, will give a poolside performance on Sept. 16 at a Northwest resort.
He will be joined by five other American jazz greats, who have racked up decades of performances with Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Band, the Wynton Marsalis Septet, Benny Goodman's Sextet, and Merv Griffin on television.
The occasion is Let's Jazz It Up, an intimate evening of music, wine and hors d'oeuvres that will bring in money for the general budget of the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council. The jazz celebration will be at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort, 10000 N. Oracle Road.
"It's a first-class lineup of some of the greatest jazz players in the whole country," said Al Cook, an organizer of the event.
Along with Christlieb, the star-studded sextet will include trumpet player Warren Vache, trombone player Wycliffe Gordon, pianist Ross Tompkins, bass player John Heard, and drummer Jake Hanna.
Collectively, they have performed with everyone from Duke Ellington to Frank Sinatra to Count Basie.
"Many of them are men who began to learn very young and showed extraordinary ability," Cook said. "Some have been at it for 50 years."
The sextet will use as its stage a peninsula in one of the Hilton's swimming pools. The musicians will be surrounded on three sides by lighted water.
Guests will arrive at the poolside at 6:30 p.m. for mingling after leaving their cars in the care of the hotel's valet service. Music will begin at 7 p.m. and will continue in two sets until 9:30 or 10 p.m.
Jeff Haskell, a professor of jazz studies at the University of Arizona, is slated as the master of ceremonies. The recommended mode of dress is casually elegant.
The sextet of American jazz greats will perform in a variety of styles, Cook said, and will be sure to play jazz standards of the past 50 years or so.
"They'll play any of these songs you ask for, just about," he said. "They just play without manuscripts. They see an audience, they mix a little bit before the show, they know what these people like to hear and they play it."
Cook and his wife, Marilyn, began bringing jazz musicians to the greater Tucson area six years ago for intimate concerts aimed at bolstering GOVAC's budget. The early events took place in their home.
"We've made it a practice to go to jazz events across the country, and we're careful to get people who will draw a good crowd," said Cook, secretary of the GOVAC board.
The first year, the couple's intimate jazz party attracted 50 people and raised $1700 for GOVAC. The second year, it attracted 80 and raised $4,000. The third year, 120 patrons attended the concert and contributed $7,500, and the fourth year, 169 attended and contributed $9,000.
That's when the Cooks decided the party was getting too popular to be pulled off gracefully at their home.
The fifth year, the intimate jazz concert moved to the Hilton. That year, it brought in $14,000.
This year, $10,000 is promised to GOVAC from the jazz event, but Cook said he hopes the event will bring in more for an organization that works to make arts accessible in Oro Valley, supports local artists and advocates for arts education in schools.
"My view is that music and arts and the things we bring through the arts council are like the glue that holds the community together," Cook said. "It creates a cohesive neighborhood and adds to quality of life."