After barely doing it in the early days of 2020, and being canceled last year, the Tucson Jazz Festival is scheduled in multiple venues from Friday January 14 through Sunday January 23. The festival returns with an expanded variety of styles, both indoor and outdoor shows, and a special jam day that delves into the heart of jazz.
Of course, this is happening as infection cases increase statewide and two headliners, Herb Alpert and Jon Batiste, have rescheduled. But there are still plenty of events and artists planned all over the city, at places like the Fox Theater, Hotel Congress and Rialto.
“Everyone on our lineup, I’m super excited, to be honest. We have some of the best performers. Unfortunately a couple had to postpone their performances, but we still have some fantastic musicians coming, ”said Khris Dodge, Executive Director of the Tucson Jazz Festival. “I think the festival has been cohesive enough to offer a wide range of different styles in the jazz idiom, and this year is no exception. We are working hard to provide options for different tastes.
Highlights include Grammy-winning artists like singer Dianne Reeves, guitarist Lee Ritenour, and songwriter Dave Grusin. Beyond individual artists, the Tucson Jazz Festival has also programmed complete groups and orchestras, such as the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, and Tucson’s Orkesta Mendoza.
Dodge says the goal of the Tucson Jazz Festival is to attract some of the best performers from across the country, but also to showcase the jazz of our city.
“We have some of the best in the country here in our own city, and we need to showcase and celebrate our wonderful local musicians, in addition to those we bring in from out of town,” said Dodge. “Both are definitely valuable. ”
New to the festival this year is the Tucson Jazz Festival Jam, scheduled for five to noon on Saturday, January 15 in the hotel’s convention plaza.
“I’m really excited about the outdoor jam, which features artists booked for the Fox Theater mingling with some of our top performers here in town, creating different bands on three different stages throughout the day,” Dodge said.
The long collaborative jam will give people the opportunity to listen to new combinations of performers. Due to its time, the audience can even listen a little, leave, come back, and there will still be new music being played.
“It’s something that happens at other jazz festivals. From an artist’s point of view, it’s really cool because you play with your own band all the time, and all of a sudden you get the chance to play with other great musicians that you wouldn’t normally have. the opportunity to meet, ”said Dodge.
On Monday January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the open-air Downtown Jazz Fiesta will be free to the public. The Jazz Fiesta features drummer and songwriter Kendrick Scott alongside the University of Arizona’s Fred Fox Jazz Ensemble.
While there are indoor and outdoor events planned, Dodge says there are currently no virtual components planned, which fits with the vivid, improvised nature of jazz.
“Over the past two years, we’ve been doing a lot of virtual. And that was wonderful and we needed it, but I also think as a community we need that live connection, ”said Dodge.
Due to the seemingly endless nightmare that is COVID, Dodge admits that schedule changes may be needed as the Jazz Festival approaches. However, participating sites are working with the safety recommendations and mandates of the City of Tucson and Pima County.
“The biggest part is that we believe in our community, and we want to uplift our community. The arts and music do that, ”Dodge said. “Of course, they don’t solve everything, but it’s a small piece of the pie that makes Tucson great. And if we can play a small role in improving our community, we will try to engage in any way we can. ”
SELECT THE RANGE
Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin. Two jazz legends team up for a special performance at the Fox Theater on Sunday, January 16. Over a five-decade career, guitarist Lee Ritenour has amassed 16 Grammy nominations through his technical fusion of jazz, pop, rock ‘n’ roll and world music. Dave Grusin has worked as a composer, record producer and pianist, and has produced several film scores. In an effort to spread the love of jazz, Grusin is also a co-founder of the National Foundation for Jazz Education, a philanthropic group dedicated to helping young jazz musicians.
Diane Reeves. Singer Dianne Reeves is known for wielding her voice like an instrument, delivering a rich tone as well as improvisation between jazz and R&B. Her work has earned her five Grammy Awards for Best Vocal Jazz Album, as well as an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the Juilliard School of Music. Reeves’ performance has been rescheduled until Friday, May 13 at the Leo Rich Theater at the Tucson Convention Center.
The Dave Stryker Quartet and the Eric Alexander Quintet. This ensemble performance brings together two collaborating musicians, each with their own group. Exhilarating guitarist Dave Stryker pairs his quartet with tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander’s quintet for a unique performance filling the Fox Theater stage on Friday, January 14.
Kendrick Scott. Drummer, songwriter and conductor Kendrick Scott has been named one of jazz’s most notable rising stars, performing on several Grammy-winning records. He has released several albums, both avant-garde and more traditional, and is currently working on the faculty at the Manhattan School Of Music. Scott will perform with the UA Fred Fox Jazz Ensemble headlining the Downtown Jazz Fiesta on Monday, January 17th.
Orkesta Mendoza. Tucson’s Orkesta Mendoza performs a special style of percussive fusion that could only really come out of the Old Pueblo. Dubbed “indie mambo,” Orkesta Mendoza’s great sound offerings draw inspiration from ranchera, cumbia, psychedelic music and more. Their unique music includes drums, accordion, keyboard, clarinet, guitar, saxophone, piano and several singers. Orkesta Mendoza performs at the Congress Hotel on Saturday January 22.
Sammy Rae and friends. Eight-strong, this collective is completed by a rhythm section, a brass section and several singers. Conductor Sammy Rae traces her influences everywhere, from classic rock to folk to jazz. All of this combines in a smooth but energetic performance with multiple intertwined melodies that remain dancing. Sammy Rae & The Friends will take the stage at 191 Toole on Tuesday, January 18. ν
For more information, full lineup and to purchase tickets, visit TucsonJazz Festival.org