Music Notes: Holiday Booking

Jason P. WoodburyNovember 1, 2018
Share This

Our top local musical acts for seasonal soirees.

Everyone knows the key to a good holiday party: an open bar. Aside from that? Well, great live music never hurts. Party planners in Phoenix have a great pool of local talent to pull from – pick any of the following groups and prepare for a Clark Griswold-size holiday bonus.

The Jon Rauhouse Orchestra
As a sideman for Neko Case, Billy Bob Thornton and Jakob Dylan of The Wallflowers, pedal steel master Jon Rauhouse knows a thing or two about how to win over a crowd. His own outfit provides dusty Western swing, fusing country and jazz. Classic sounds made by classic players.

Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra (pictured)
Fronted by fiery vocalist Camille Sledge (daughter of Debbie Sledge of R&B powerhouse Sister Sledge), this 16-piece band abounds with bass, percussion and vibrant horns, tapping into the classic Afrobeat sound popularized by Fela Kuti. When PAO is on the stage, the dance floor is not optional.

Flamenco Por La Vida
Speaking of dancing: Angelina Ramirez leads Flamenco Por La Vida, a troupe combining both flamenco sounds and fancy footwork on stage, dressed in full traditional regalia. Entertainment for the eyes and ears.

What’s the Big Idea
This Phoenix-based trio brings a modern sensibility to its classic jazz template. Providing more than just polite background music, Josh Kneisel, David Drew and Mike Kleinschmidt take cues from The Bad Plus and Brad Mehldau, building a sound even ardent hip-hop and rock fans appreciate.

The Maya Spectra
The Maya Spectra bills itself as “omnigenre,” and while that sort of thing might smack of pretentiousness, brothers Donald Peña and Julian Peña, along with French-Canadian singer Janel Blanco, actually earn the descriptor. The trio blends jazz, hip-hop, post rock and mutated electronic sounds to create a melody strictly for adventurous gatherings. Email:;

For more than 50 years, PHOENIX magazine's experienced writers, editors, and designers have captured all sides of the Valley with award-winning and insightful writing, and groundbreaking report and design. Our expository features, narratives, profiles, and investigative features keep our 385,000 readers in touch with the Valley's latest trends, events, personalities and places.