Thursday, Jan. 12—Kamasi Washington—Rialto Theatre, 7:30 p.m.
Kamasi Washington, saxophonist, is an American jazz musician based in Los Angeles. Born into a musical family, Kamasi began playing saxophone at age 13, later attending the prestigious Hamilton High School of Music followed by UCLA. He has toured and recorded with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Rapahel Saadiq, Kendrick Lamar, Gerald Wilson, Lauryn Hill, Mos Def, Harvey Mason and Chaka Khan, to name a few. Kamasi released his groundbreaking solo album, The Epic, in May 2015. The 172-minute, triple disc masterpiece, which includes a full string orchestra and full choir, debuted at #1 on several iTunes jazz charts, including the U.S., Canada, Australia, Russia and U.K. In addition to composing his own music, Kamasi is part of a west coast musical collective called the West Coast Get Down. He was voted the “Best New Music” on Pitchfork and has also had press in the New York Times, LA Weekly and on NPR.
Presented by UA Presents
Friday, Jan. 13—Storm Large “Stormy Love”— Fox Tucson Theatre, 7:30 p.m.
Storm Large, vocalist, has been making a name for herself from tours with Pink Martini to the stage of Carnegie Hall singing Kurt Weill with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. But it is with her loyal and fearless band, Le Bonheur, that she has been grabbing audiences by the lapels and refusing to let go. She emerged as a young artist across punk rock stages and into her infamously Googled stint on a rock n’ roll reality series on CBS. Recent engagements include her debut with The New York Pops Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, The Cincinnati Symphony, The Houston Symphony, and The RTE Concert Orchestra in Dublin among others. Her 2012 memoir, Crazy Enough, was named Oprah’s Book of the Week. Storm’s fierce and fiery show includes the American songbook, Broadway tear-jerkers, rock goddess anthems and some of her own gorgeous originals.
Presented by Green Room Entertainment
Friday, Jan. 13—Alex Weitz Album Release Party—Club Congress, 10 p.m.
Alex Weitz, saxophonist, composer, and producer lives in Miami FL. He graduated from Catalina High School in 2009 and was in the Tucson Jazz Institute program for five years. He went on to further his studies at the prestigious University of Miami Frost School of Music, where he completed his undergraduate studies in jazz saxophone performance and graduate studies in studio jazz writing. In 2013 he released his first album of original compositions titled Chroma and recorded in the big band for George Benson’s album Inspirations. He participated in the 2014 Betty Carter Jazz Ahead at the Kennedy Center and he has shared the stage with Benny Golson, Terence Blanchard, Chick Corea, Brian Lynch, Dave Douglas, Dave Liebman, Fred Hersch and Jeff “Tain” Watts. In May 2013, he won the DownBeat Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Jazz Soloist and in 2014 his original “Song for Peace” was featured as the theme song in the documentary Bettan’s Taxi. At his Tucson performance, he’ll release his second CD, Luma. Appearing with Alex is Tal Cohen, piano; Benjamin Tiberio, bass; and Michael Piolet, drums.
Saturday, Jan. 14—John Pizzarelli with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra—TCC Music Hall, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 15, 2 p.m.
John Pizzarelli, guitarist and singer, was hailed by the Boston Globe for “reinvigorating the Great American Songbook and re-popularizing jazz.” The Toronto Star pegged him as “the genial genius of the guitar.” John has expanded his repertoire by including the music of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Tom Waits, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Lennon-McCartney. He started playing guitar at age 6, following in the tradition of his father, Bucky. He turned to jazz in his late teens after playing in rock bands, and he received an education playing with his father and many jazz greats who would influence his work: Benny Goodman, Les Paul, Zoot Sims, Clark Terry and Slam Stewart, among others. His solo recording career started in 1990 with My Blue Heaven on Chesky Records. In 1993, he opened for Frank Sinatra’s international tour and then joined in the celebration for his 80th birthday at Carnegie Hall, bringing down the house singing “I Don’t Know Why I Love You Like I Do.” Pizzarelli’s latest album, Midnight McCartney, has its origins in McCartney’s GRAMMY®-winning 2012 album, Kisses on the Bottom. Pizzarelli played guitar on 10 of the album’s 14 tracks and backed Sir Paul at an iTunes concert at Capitol Records Studios and at the GRAMMY® Awards.
Sunday, Jan. 15—Sunday Blues Brunch, Johnny Gibson’s Downtown Market, 11:00 a.m.
Free Bonus event! The Lil’ Mama Hardy Duet performs. Come as early as 9:30 a.m. for brunch on the patio, relax and listen to local favorite Heather Hardy.
While studying classical violin at the Manhattan School of Music, Heather began to busk in the subway, collaborating with different blues and rock musicians. This was the turning point at which she began to explore improvisation on the violin. In 1989 she moved to Tucson and soon after joined the Sam Taylor Blues Band. Sam was a major influence on Heather’s career as a mentor and friend. In 1996 she released her first solo recording, Violins, to critical acclaim on Trope Records. In 1997 Heather moved to New York where she started her own band, Lil Mama and in 2000 she released her second album, I Believe. Heather is much sought after as a musician and vocalist with an original style that shows the influences of Claude Williams, Gatemouth Brown, Papa John Creach, and Jimi Hendrix.
Monday, Jan. 16—Downtown Jazz Fiesta—Various Downtown Venues, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
This daylong celebration of jazz on Martin Luther King Day features two outdoor stages on Fifth Avenue and a half dozen indoor venues, primarily on Congress Street. It’s free and sponsored by Rio Nuevo.
Tuesday, Jan. 17—Anat Cohen and Howard Alden Duo with UA Jazz Ensemble opening, Crowder Hall, 7:30 p.m.
Howard Alden, guitarist, was born in Newport Beach, California, in 1958 and began playing the guitar at age 10. In 1979, Howard went east for a summer in Atlantic City with Red Norvo and continued to perform with Red Norvo frequently for several years. Howard has been a Concord Jazz recording artist since the late 1980s. His prolific recorded output as leader, co-leader, and versatile sideman has establishes an artist of consistently astonishing virtuosity and originality. Howard can be heard on the soundtrack to the 1999 Woody Allen movie “Sweet and Lowdown,” starring Sean Penn, who was also nominated for an Academy Award for his role as a legendary jazz guitarist in the ’30s. Howard not only played all the guitar solos, but also coached Mr. Penn on playing the guitar for his role in the film. Howard’s inimitable playing has also been sought out by rock/blues/pop icon, Steve Miller, for recording projects and live appearances.
Anat Cohen, clarinetist, has been voted Clarinetist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association nine years in a row. She has also topped the Critics and Readers polls in the clarinet category in DownBeat magazine every year since 2011. Anat was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, where she attended the Tel Aviv School for the Arts and the “Thelma Yellin” High School for the Arts; she began clarinet studies at age 12 and played jazz on clarinet for the first time in the Jaffa Conservatory’s Dixieland band. Anat also attended Berklee College of Music where she honed her jazz chops and expanded her musical horizons, developing a deep love and facility for various Latin music styles. Moving to New York in 1999 after graduating from Berklee, Anat spent a decade touring with the all-woman big band, The Diva Jazz Orchestra; she also worked in such Brazilian groups as the Choro Ensemble and Duduka Da Fonseca’s Samba Jazz Quintet. Anat has toured the world with her quartet, headlining at the Newport, Umbria, SF Jazz and North Sea jazz festivals as well as at such hallowed clubs as New York’s Village Vanguard.
Wednesday, Jan. 18—Armen Donelian—Scottish Rite Temple, 7:30 p.m.
Armen Donelian, pianist/composer, has had an enviable 40-year career. Donelian apprenticed with a series of jazz giants starting in 1975 with Mongo Santamaria, where he presided over the piano chair once filled by Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. Two years later, Sonny Rollins recruited him as a sideman for several tours. In the midst of his four-year tenure with Billy Harper’s band, he made his recording debut with 1981’s Stargazer, a trio date with Billy Hart and Eddie Gomez featuring his original compositions. Donelian has consistently explored his Armenian roots in his music and recorded for several labels with the Middle Eastern jazz ensemble Night Ark and he co-produced (with producer George Avakian) Listen to My Heart, a Sony collection of jazz interpretations of Armenian folk songs. Donelian has authored several authoritative texts, including Training the Ear and Whole Notes.
Thursday, Jan. 19—George Benson—Fox Tucson Theatre, 7:30 p.m.
George Benson, guitarist and vocalist, always had the dual role of expert improviser and vibrant entertainer but few might have predicted that striking level of stardom 40 years ago when Benson was a fledgling guitarist working the corner pubs of his native Pittsburgh. Wes Montgomery, one of jazz’s most creative players, who came across Benson early on, urged him to continue his already impressive work. Benson had both the conviction and chops to nip at his hero’s heels; his 1964 debut was released as The New Boss Guitar. It lived up to its title. Benson’s tone was juicy, and his blues solos sparkled with a carefully honed logic. Hooking up with the CTI label in 1970, he was united with many of jazz’s finest instrumentalists. Classic albums, such as Beyond the Blue Horizon, abounded. But after a while different ideas began to flow from Benson’s muse. What happened was Breezin’, the first jazz record to attain platinum sales. The 1976 blockbuster, brought the instrumental title track to jazz radio. “This Masquerade,” which featured the guitarist scatting along with his solo break, was a pop smash. He followed up with many pop hits, including a sultry version of “On Broadway” and the irresistible “Give Me The Night.” The NEA Jazz Master has won ten GRAMMY®s, played around the world, and thrilled many crowds with his playing.
Nayo Jones to open for George Benson
Nayo Jones (pronounced Nīyō) was born in Chicago into a family of musicians. Her parents noticed her musical gift at an early age. An accomplished jazz musician and music educator, her father William “Doc” Jones groomed and nurtured her natural ability and thanks to her father’s love of jazz, Nayo grew up listening to standards that proved to be a solid foundation and would later become a signature in her own show. Nayo is also a classically trained flutist. A graduate of Spelman College, Nayo set her focus on the corporate world eventually finding her way back to music. Currently Nayo is based in New Orleans where she performs regularly with her band and tours alongside New Orleans’ iconic jazz trumpeter, Kermit Ruffins. In 2012, Nayo debuted at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and has performed annually to rave reviews. She opened for Chris Botti, Otis & the Temptations and The Whispers & Lakeside. Nayo is excited to release her fourth CD, The Nayo Jones Experience Live at the Kerr Cultural Center.
Friday, Jan. 20—Dee Dee Bridgewater, Fox Tucson Theatre, 8:00p.m.
Dee Dee Bridgewater, vocalist, has ascended to the upper echelon of singers, putting her unique spin on jazz standards. A fearless voyager, explorer, pioneer and keeper of tradition, and now three-time GRAMMY Award-winner, recently won the GRAMMY for Best Jazz Vocal Album for Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie with Love from Dee Dee. Throughout the 70’s she performed with such jazz notables as Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon and Dizzy Gillespie. After a foray into the pop world during the 1980s, she relocated to Paris and began to turn her attention back to jazz. Signing with the Universal Music Group as a producer (she produces all her albums), Dee Dee released a series of critically acclaimed titles beginning with Keeping Tradition in 1993. All but one of Dee Dee’s self-produced albums have received GRAMMY nominations. As a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, Dee Dee continues to appeal for international solidarity to finance global grassroots projects in the fight against world hunger. Bridgewater is the recipient of an NEA Jazz Masters Fellows Award with honors to be bestowed at the Kennedy Center in April 2017.
Tucson Jazz Institute Ellington Band with Lewis Nash to open for Dee Dee Bridgewater
Lewis Nash, drummer, is the drummer of choice for an incredible array of artists from the masters of the music to the hottest young players of today; he is equally in demand as a clinician and educator. “Rhythm Is My Business” is the title of his debut recording as a leader, and rhythm is a booming business as far as Lewis is concerned. Currently, while he continues to perform and record with a wide variety of artists, Lewis leads several of his own exciting groups, from duo to septet. Outside of his many touring and recording accomplishments, thanks to the sponsorship of Sonor drums, Zildjian cymbals, Remo drumheads and Regal Tip drumsticks, Lewis has become a sought after jazz educator. His lectures, clinics and workshops are as much in demand as his bandstand and studio work. Lewis Nash: Rhythm is indeed his business!
Tucson Jazz Institute Ellington Band, directed by Doug Tidaback, comprises high school musicians from southern Arizona who study at this award-winning community music school. This big band (one of six at the TJI), loved for their swinging, diverse and energetic big band sounds, was the #1 High School Big Band winner two years in a row (2013 and 2014) of the prestigious national Jazz at Lincoln Center Essentially Ellington Competition presided over by Wynton Marsalis. They were in the top three in 2015 and 2016. Other recent awards include first place in the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival (2012) earning them a spot to perform at the festival and they were named the Best Community Jazz Band in the 35th Annual Student Music Awards in Downbeat magazine in 2012 and 2013. Their alumni attend some of the most prestigious schools in the nation (many on scholarship) including Julliard, the Manhattan School of Music, The New England Conservatory, Princeton, USC and Swarthmore and have gone on to major careers in jazz music.
Saturday, Jan. 21—Tower of Power—Rialto Theatre, 8:00p.m.
Tower of Power, funk, R&B, soul and jazz band, originally formed as The Motowns in 1968 by members Emilio Castillo (saxophone and vocalist) and Stephan “Doc” Kupka (baritone sax), performed around Berkeley and Oakland, Calif. By 1970, Tower of Power, had grown to include Greg Adams (trumpet/arranger), Mic Gillette (first trumpet), Skip Mesquite (first saxophone), Francis “Rocco” Prestia (bass), Willie Fulton (guitar) and David Garibaldi (drums). East Bay Grease, their first album, debuted in 1970. In ‘72, Tower of Power’s sophomore album, Bump City was released. By this time, the continuously growing band roster had expanded to include Rick Stevens (lead vocalist) and Brent Byars (percussionist/conga/bongo). Tower of Power, the band’s eponymous third album, was released in 1973 peaking at number #15 on the Billboard Pop Album Chart and was certified gold and it produced the Billboard Hot 100 singles “So Very Hard to Go” “This Time It’s Real” and “What Is Hip?” In 2013, Ray Greene joined the band as new lead vocalist. Tower of Power has recorded with artists such as Elton John, Smokey Robinson, Rod Stewart and Dionne Warwick.
Opening for Tower of Power: ArcoIris Sandoval and Lonnie Plaxico
ArcoIris Sandoval is a jazz pianist, composer and Fulbright award recipient currently residing in New York City. She obtained her Master’s degree in jazz piano performance from the Manhattan School of Music, and has won several ASCAP young composer awards as well as being a semifinalist at in the Montreux Solo Jazz Piano competition, a participant in the Mary Lou Williams Festival, Betty Carter Jazz Ahead, and the Metropole Orkest Arrangers Workshop featuring Richard Bona. One of her arrangements was recently performed by the Metropole at the 2016 BBC Proms tribute to Quincy Jones. She has also performed at major festivals throughout the world including a tour in China, the Telluride Jazz Festival, the Tucson Jazz Festival, the Vancouver Summer Festival, and many others throughout Europe, India, South America and Mexico. She is currently the co-founder and co-director of The DOME Experience and is actively performing with several ensembles including with Human Kindition, Lonnie Plaxico, the Mimi Jones Band, The Erica Seguine/Shannon Baker Big Band, the Greg Ruvolo Big Band, the Camille Thurman 4tet, as well as her own ensemble, Sonic Asylum.
Lonnie Plaxico, bassist, composer and producer, was the middle child in a family of Chicago musicians. By age 12, he had taught himself to play the electric bass and was soon venturing into Chicago’s jazz, funk and blues scene, turning professional at age 14. In 1980 Lonnie moved to New York and soon began to appear with such artists as Chet Baker, Dexter Gordon and Wynton Marsalis. His first extended tenure was with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, performing on 12 of Blakey’s albums in four years. In 1986 he joined Jack DeJohnette’s Special Edition, continuing with that group until 1993. Presently, Plaxico is the musical director and featured bassist for Cassandra Wilson. Plaxico’s recording and performance catalog is equally impressive. He has appeared with such luminaries as Sonny Stitt, Junior Cook, David Murray, Alice Coltrane, Stanley Turrentine, Joe Sample, Abbey Lincoln and Dizzy Gillespie. He has also recorded five critically acclaimed albums as leader.
Sunday, Jan. 22—Dixieland Jazz Brunch with The Road Runners—Hilton El Conquistador, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Not to be confused with our new hockey team, the Tucson Roadrunners, The Arizona Roadrunners is a jazz ensemble comprising the faculty, students and graduates of the Tucson Jazz Institute and they perform the music of Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, King Oliver, Duke Ellington and others.
Members of the Roadrunners:
Doug Tidaback: trombone/leader
Max Goldschmid: saxophones/clarinet
Miranda Agnew: trumpet
Gavin Tidaback: trumpet/vocals
Simeon Roth: saxophone
Scott Black: bass
Sly Slipetsky: piano
Nathan Hooker: drums
Sunday, Jan. 22—Howe Gelb Future Standards Record Release Party—Club Congress, 8 p.m.
Howe Gelb was born and raised in the coal-mining town Wilkes-Barre, Penn. He moved to Tucson in the late 1970s where he met Rainer Ptacek and formed Giant Sandworms. They relocated to NYC for a year and Giant Sand emerged as Howe returned to Tucson; and recorded a half dozen albums with the band in the 1980s. After his divorce from bassist Paula Brown, he moved to the Joshua Tree area. He returned to Tucson after discovering Joey Burns and inviting him into Giant Sand. They recorded eight more albums in the 1990s and, after Rainer died, the band split in two with the rhythm section becoming Calexico. After the turn of the century, he recorded several more Giant Sand albums and award-winning solo releases. In the past five years, Giant Sand grew to Giant Giant Sand before disbanding. Howe’s latest musical endeavor is the release of Future Standards, a jazz-tinged trip reflecting Frank Sinatra, Thelonious Monk, Mose Allison and Dave Brubeck.