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Waldis, vocalist will add jazz to the mistletoe

Pianist Dan Waldis at the keyboard in Libby Gardner Hall.
Pianist Dan Waldis at the keyboard in Libby Gardner Hall.
Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News

Christmas is a time of traditions. Music, decorations, festive activities — they all combine to get us into a holiday spirit.

In that spirit, pianist Dan Waldis will be keeping some traditions alive this holiday season, such as favorite holiday tunes.

What would Christmas be without "Jingle Bells," or "Little Drummer Boy?" Accompanied by the Dan Waldis Jazz Ensemble and vocalist Melissa Pace, Waldis will present "A Little Jazz With Your Mistletoe" Friday as part of the Music in the Box series.

Waldis said the concert will be mostly standard Christmas tunes, with a couple of Christmas-associated tunes, such as "My Favorite Things." He added that he also plans to include one original composition, as well.

Another tradition Waldis will keep is that of jazz arrangers as musical pranksters. When it comes to music, it seems that most jazz arrangers love for catching listeners off guard. "I've kind of done new things on these tunes. Anybody who is even somewhat familiar with the jazz genre will listen to the introduction and say, 'What's that doing in a Christmas concert?' Then it will become apparent what the tune is.

"So I just tried to do something different. It's just kind of a fun thing. I've tried to throw some curves and catch people a little off guard and have them expect one thing and then sneak in something else." All the material, he said, is newly arranged for this concert.

Joining in on the fun will be vocalist Melissa Pace, drummer Mark Cheney, bassist Jim Stout and Scott Harris on the reeds. All are musicians active in the local jazz scene.

"Melissa Pace is a great vocalist," said Waldis. "She is really a wonderful combination of pop and the sultry '40s torch singer. It's quite a unique combination of those elements."

Harris, he said, used to be involved in the L.A. music scene and has also found success here as a clarinet and reeds player.

Cheney and Stout both play regularly with Waldis as a trio. Waldis described each as being a "consummate musician" and said that both are able to play a variety of styles "amazingly well." (Waldis pointed out that Cheney is married to one of the Saliva Sisters.)

Waldis keeps busy teaching at the University of Utah with private and applied piano students, as well as a group jazz-piano class, and at the Wasatch Music Academy. He also works free-lance as a jazz pianist, playing gigs around town.

"I am really glad to be a part of this Music in the Box series," said Waldis. This concert marks his second appearance with the series as a group leader.

If you go

What: "A little Jazz with Your Mistletoe," Dan Waldis Jazz Ensemble, Melissa Pace

Where: Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

How much: $12

Phone: 355-2787 or 888-451-2787