BATAVIA — When he was a kid, Charley Krachy’s parents took him to a year-end school assembly.
All he remembers is the high school student playing “Saxophobia” on his alto saxophone.
“It was one of those moments. He played an incredible solo,” Krachy said. “The next day I told my parents I wanted to play the sax.”
He’s been playing some 50-plus years since. Krachy is part of the Kazzrie Jaxen Quartet set to perform this week. The concert is at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Genesee Community College, 1 College Rd.
A native of the Peekskill area, Krachy didn’t meet up with Jaxen until around 1979. He had been previously playing weddings and barmitzvahs — gigs at which fans judged the band by how closely they resembled top 40 radio. That eventually got old, he said. With a genuine passion for music deep in his soul, Krachy ventured into improvisational jazz.
“I grew up listening to Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong and Lester Young, mostly. We had a big Stromberg-Carlson player and I remember the needles for the 78 rpm came in little brown envelopes, six to a pack, I think,” he said. “When Les Paul and Mary Ford came out with “How High the Moon,” I wore out the record in about a week ... I didn’t realize then, but I believe now that my deep love of music comes from this period.”
The more he delved into the jazz world, the more he began meeting more impressionable musicians, including Jaxen. The pair played duets and recorded an album that received a good review from the Village Voice. That seemed to catapult them to another level that included playing at The Blue Note, a highly acclaimed jazz club known for bringing the best music and shows to the Missouri region. They “steamrolled” from there, Krachy said.
About 10 years later, drummer Bill Chattin with Don Messina on the bass hooked up with Krachy and Jaxen for an impromptu jam session. A quartet was born.
“There was something really happening,” Krachy said. “We were improvising, it was spontaneous. We played one tune together and we all looked at each other and said ‘wow.’”
No slouch in the music department, Jaxen started taking classical piano by age 6. She got her start by improvising songs on her folks’ old piano when she was 4. She spent many hours singing along to a player piano and journeyed toward jazz by her early 20s.
She is a vocalist, pianist, teacher and composer known for her “playful exuberance, originality, virtuosity and ability to transport an audience,” according to her bio. Her musical expression ranges from free improvisation and jazz standards to original songs and “vibrational journeys into dreamtime.” She has recorded for the Jazz Records and New Artists labels, as well as independently.
Her list of performance venues includes Carnegie Recital Hall, The Greenwich Village Jazz Festival, Sweet Basil, Birdland, The Stone and and The Tusten Theater. Her one-woman shows have combined original music, poetry and prose and have been presented at theaters and colleges on the East Coast. In 2006 she won the Best Music Award at the Digit Festival in Narrowsburg.
Jaxen has been honored to play and/or record with many musicians including Eddie Gomez, Lenny Popkin, Roger Mancuso, Ratzo Harris, Thurman Barker, Carol Liebowitz, Carol Tristano, Warne Marsh, Cameron Brown, Tom Whaley and Miles Brown. Her jazz mentors include Lennie Tristano, Connie Crothers and Harvey Diamond.
Joining her for a duet was “daunting,” Krachy said. But he persevered and it was one of many sessions that were important to his musical development.
The quartet plans to entertain the audience Friday with some jazz standards, American song book favorites such as Gershwin and originals composed each by Jaxen and Krachy.
“And some occasional explorations into the unknown,” Krachy said.
The players ...
Each musician is described as: the lighter-than-air swing of drummer Bill Chattin, the earthy melodic pulsations of bassist Don Messina, the oceanic depth of tenor Charley Krachy and the adventurousness of pianist Kazzrie Jaxen. Their collective approach stretches the music “in unique and complex directions, serving to the feel and pure joy of improvisation,” a news release stated.
Jaxen likes to interact with the audience as part of the concert experience, Krachy said. And the group offers a question-and-answer period at the end so that patrons may find out more about the musicians and the genre of jazz.
Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for GCC faculty/staff and senior citizens, $3 for GCC students. Alumni with ID receive $2 off the full ticket price. Tickets are available through the GCC box office at (585) 345-6814.