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Redefining jazz: Desert Fever uses variety to provide a rollercoaster ride for fans

Although the faces of Desert Fever have changed through their history, the band’s mission hasn’t.

“We started because of the passion we have (for music),” said Desert Fever drummer Julio De La Rosa said. “(It’s the) Army mentality that you have to play at the highest level.”

The band is made up of vocalist Jen Charest, Edwin De Leon on the trumpet, De La Rosa, Dave Davidson the keyboard and vibraphone player, Ken Fox on guitar, Chris Lawrence plays the saxophone and flute, Aaron Cherry another vocalist and Mark Davis, the group’s bassist.

Fox, De La Rosa, Lawrence and De Leon are all retired Army and played in the Army band.

The eight current members of the band don’t want to settle despite their tight schedules and limited practice time. The group is dedicated to tailoring each gig to the anticipated crowd and making sure they’re playing the best they can. Despite holding the title of a jazz band, the group plays a variety of genres, like country, R&B, funk and fusion.

“We are going to give the audience a rollercoaster ride because we can play all (varieties),” Lawrence said. “We know how to bring the intensity ...”

Desert Fever plays across southern Arizona, but their home base is Sierra Vista. Recently the group has played in Bisbee, Douglas and Patagonia. Their next set is Saturday at the 8th annual “An Evening on the Green” Jazz and Wine Festival at Brown Parade Field on Fort Huachuca. The event starts at 4 p.m. and Desert Fever will take the stage throughout the evening and night as entertainment.

Lawrence is the sole member of Desert Fever from the original group that first formed in 2015. The original six musicians of Desert Fever were a part of and were an extension of the U.S. Army band.

“The idea was let’s create a group, we already had a group, so let’s put on civilian clothes and play outside,” Lawrence said. “It never really dawned on me that we’d get bigger. I was worried about keeping the group together.”

When Desert Fever started all of the members were active military and due to retirements and permanent change of stations new members were brought in to replace those who left. De La Rosa is the second longest tenured member and Davidson, was invited years ago when the previous keyboard player left.

“I was flattered to play with Army guys,” Davidson said. “Playing with Army guys forced me to rise and up my level.”

De Leon agreed since he is classically trained on the trumpet. He admitted it was a challenge and requires more practice time to be able to perform the different music the group performs, but he likes the challenge as it helps him become a better musician.

Depending on the gig, Desert Fever may shrink in size. Sometimes they do strictly instrumental sets as a trio or quartet, other times they will have a vocalist with the smaller group. De La Rosa said having the rhythmic section is the most critical to have at an event.

“We can taylor performances to what the gig requires,” Charest said.

Desert Fever can play an gig big or small as long as they receive adequate time in advance. For more information visit their Facebook page, @desertfeverjazz

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