Tucson’s Jazz Festival has been coined “Jazz in January” and the lineup of Jazz performers is world class once again! Executive director, Yvonne Ervin has worked hard this year to round up some of the best talent of live performance in Jazz around the country. This has not happened haphazardly. Ms. Ervin has many years experience as a jazz journalist and is currently the Executive Director of the Western Jazz Presenters Network and editor of Hot House magazine in NYC.
Creating a music festival is not the work of only one person or entity. There is a board that has worked in unison to create Jazz in January that is headed by Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. There are many sponsors with the major sponsor being HSL Properties. For information on Tucson’s Jazz Festival, please click here.
Talent. Every artist cannot be covered in this one article, so some of the highlights are mentioned. However, that is not meant to be a reflection of the artists not mentioned. I will be covering as many of the shows as possible individually during the 10-day festival.
Festival guest of honor, Jimmy Heath, nicknamed “Little Bird,” opens Tucson Jazz Festival on January 14, 2016 at the Fox Theatre. Mr. Heath, one of the living legends in Jazz, has played tenor sax since the late 1940s. He is a magnificent composer and arranger. Heath will be playing with the award winning Tucson Jazz Institute Ellington Band. Kenny Werner, pianist and composer, will open the show with a tribute to Erroll Garner’s “Concert by the Sea.”
Snarky Puppy will take the stage on Friday, January 15, 2016 at the Rialto Theatre. The name of the band seems to indicate a band with attitude. They are described as searing energy and fluid ease that navigates the modern (jazz) fusion. Need I say more? Nir Felder opens the show and has been touted as the ‘new voice’ in jazz guitar. Felder blends jazz with rock, pop and hip-hop.
UA Presents is sponsoring Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour at UA Centennial Hall on Sunday, January 17, 2016. The Monterey Jazz Festival is the grand daddy of all jazz festivals and the lineup is stellar! The all-star touring band features Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Raul Midon on vocals and guitar, Ravi Coltrane on saxophones, Gerald Clayton on piano, Joe Sanders on bass, and Justin Brown on drums. This is a true jazz super band and not to be missed! For ticket info, click here.
Poncho Sanchez is one of the most influential conga players in Afro-Cuban jazz. His shows bring a mixed bag of music to the stage including mambo jazz for dancing, Afro-Cuban jazz for serious listening and soul music to spice it up. Opening for the Grammy winning artist is La Voz de Tres. Chilean vocalist Natalia Bernal, Keyboardist Mike Eckroth, and seven-string guitarist Jason Ennis bring the best of Latin American musical traditions to the Fox Theatre on January 21, 2016. Click here for tickets.
The Fox Theatre also hosts The Rad Trads the following night, Friday, January 22, 2016. This show is sponsored by Rusing, Lopez and Lizardi, PLLC. The eight-piece New York City band sources their inspiration from New Orleans brass funk, swampy delta blues, straight-ahead rock ‘n roll, and jazz. Click here for some tracks from this impressive band and judge for yourself! Opening for Rad Trads is Arthur Migliazza, an award winning blues and ‘boogie woogie’ pianist. The Arizona Blues Hall of Fame inductee tickles the piano keys and dazzles the crowds during his shows! Both sets are a ‘can’t miss’!
Lizz Wright is a very special vocalist! She will appear at the Rialto Theatre on January 23, 2016. Her jazz vocals are often described as bedazzling and exceptional. Her blend of gospel, jazz, folk, pop and blues is unparalleled. Opening for Lizz is Tucsonan pianist, Larry Redhouse. The trio has a distinctively modern jazz sound, incorporating elements of straight-ahead jazz, Latin and funk styles.
Closing out the 2016 Tucson Jazz Festival is one of New Orleans’ ‘pride and joys,’ Kermit Ruffins! Kermit and his band the Barbeque Swingers will play the Rialto Theatre on January 24, 2016. Kermit is a master trumpet player and vocalist in the vein of Louis Armstrong. (If you look closely, he seems to have a resemblance to Mr. Armstrong.) Ruffins’ shows are a party ‘Big Easy’ style. Be prepared to dance and feel good. The only thing that would improve the set would be to serve some red beans and rice, crawfish, and gumbo in the back of the theatre!
There are many other activities not mentioned here such as the free shows on Martin Luther King Day on two stages downtown as well as the clubs in the area. For details, please click here! In a flash the 2016 version of the Tucson Jazz Festival will be over. Stay tuned here for reviews and stories of the happenings.