Tucson Jazz Festival Will Get Downtown Hopping for the 2nd Year

January 13, 2016

Local trumpet player Tony Frank will host several jam sessions during the Tucson Jazz Festival Jan. 10-28.

Local trumpet player Tony Frank will host several jam sessions during the Tucson Jazz Festival

by Brad Poole

Back in the 1980s, Tucson had a thriving jazz scene.

There were scores of shows every year, both local and drawn in from across the country, and musicians and fans had their fill of jazzy entertainment. Things have contracted considerably in the scene here since then, but the Tucson Jazz Festival – a 10-day extravaganza that includes concerts, classes and even brunch – aims to revive things, said director Yvonne Ervin.

“I think we’re definitely filling a void,” Ervin said.

Shows are scheduled from Jan. 14-24 for the  Rialto Theater, Fox Theatre, Club Congress, and TCC Music Hall. Top acts include Kermit Ruffins, King Solomon Hicks, Lizz Wright, Poncho Sanchez, and Monterrey Jazz Festival on Tour.

The historic Rialto theatre will host several concerts by jazz greats.

The historic Rialto theatre will host several concerts by jazz greats.

There will be jam sessions at several local bars and restaurants after many of the shows, and plans are afoot for live jazz on the streetcar.

The festival, now entering its second year, was the brainchild of Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who contacted Ervin to help organize the event. It fits nicely between the holidays and Tucson’s busy February tourist season, which includes the Tucson Gem and Mineral Showcase and the Tucson Rodeo.

Rothschild stepped in to try to plug that January event gap.

“Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, January is a great time to explore all that Tucson has to offer, and the Tucson Jazz Festival is a wonderful addition to it,” Rothschild said in an open letter posted on the festival website.

The festival starts Jan. 14 with a Rialto Theater show featuring the Tucson Jazz Institute Ellington Band, which won the 2014 Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition, performing with Jimmy Heath.

Snarky Puppy will play the Rialto Theatre on Friday, Jan 15.

On Jan. 18, the Jazz Festival celebrates Martin Luther King Day with a free Downtown festival featuring jazz on two stages, local Latin jazz bands, and smaller concerts in businesses across Downtown. Food trucks, beer, and wine will be available, and the Community Food Bank will be on hand to collect donations.

The title sponsor for the festival is HSL Properties, and other key contributors include the Jim Click Automotive Team, Tucson Jazz Society, Nuanced Media and Norville Investment. More than two dozen other organizations, companies and individuals also got behind the effort.

For more information about the Tucson Jazz Festival, show dates, and ticket information, see TucsonJazzFestival.com of find them on Facebook.

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