Living her dream

Friday, May 28, 2004

It won't be hard to catch Saxy Jazz in the coming weeks. The jazz duo composed of Pat Schwent and Pete Parysek have shows lined up at Saffron, Mollie's Cafe and Bar, River Ridge Winery and Cape Girardeau's Tunes at Twilight.

For saxophonist Schwent, who put the duo together, Saxy Jazz' success has been especially rewarding.

"I'm living a dream," she said. "Not many people are blessed to have the opportunity to do what they love to do."

Parysek, who plays keyboard and provides vocals, credits Schwent's popularity and outgoing nature for much of Saxy Jazz' success.

"She's quite a salesperson," he said.

Schwent's popularity is mostly due to the nearly 30 years she spent as the music director at Jackson High School.

After retiring in 2001, Schwent still had a passion to play music professionally and decided to dedicate herself to playing jazz.

The first thing Schwent did was take classes at Webster University in St. Louis. Her instructor told her she needed to find a pianist in order to play shows. Schwent said at first she was at a loss as to where she would find a piano player in the Jackson area, but then an opportunity presented itself in a way that Schwent said was fate.

Parysek was a former musician from Florida who had moved to Dexter so his wife could be closer to her family. He had been working in real estate but was looking for someone to play music with when Schwent gave him a call.

"It was a good partnership from the beginning," Parysek said. "We hit if off right away."

Parysek calls music Schwent's "magnificent obsession."

"She has such a passion for music -- for playing," Parysek said. "She cannot do anything halfway. She just puts her entire body and soul into it. Music is the love of her life."

Music has been a part of Schwent's life since she was 13 and began playing saxophone in a family band.

The band, Brenda Kiefer and the Swingtones, consisted of Schwent on saxophone, her older sister on bass guitar and vocals, her aunt on drums and her mother on piano.

Schwent remembers her first show with the band was at the former Starlight Inn in Jackson. She went on to perform with her family for 20 years, doing shows here and there while she was teaching.

In addition to the Swingtones, Schwent has been playing saxophone with the Jerry Ford Orchestra and combos since the mid-1980s.

Saxy Jazz, though, is different. It is Schwent's creation and she maintains control over it, deciding what type of music to play and where to play.

Although, as the moniker suggests, Saxy Jazz specializes in playing jazz, "we can play the music that fits whatever the occasion needs," Schwent said. That includes country, Dixieland jazz, contemporary soft rock, swing and blues.

Parysek said the first thing he and Schwent do when they arrive at a performance is take a look at the crowd.

Saxy Jazz performs before crowds at private events such as weddings and fund-raisers and at numerous public appearances.

While their public performances at events like Tunes at Twilight only happen periodically, Saxy Jazz is a regular performer at some area venues.

Every fourth Sunday, the duo plays at Saffron, a restaurant at 97 N. Kingshighway in Cape Girardeau. River Ridge Winery is another frequent venue for the duo.

On occasion, Saxy Jazz even performs as a quartet, with Steve Williams on drums and Jim Wall on bass. Williams is a retired fire department captain from Cairo, Ill. Wall is a professor at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

Schwent said Saxy Jazz is booked for private and public shows in the coming months, but all this playing doesn't come without a price.

On average, Schwent said she practices four hours a day, but has spent seven or eight hours practicing before playing a show later that day.

"It's like being an athlete," she said. "You have to keep in shape."

Despite the hard work, Schwent said it is purely a labor of love.

"I like to see people happy, having fun," she said. "I really feel this is what I was supposed to be doing, or all of these doors wouldn't have opened."

kalfisi@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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