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SHEILA E., PERCUSSIONIST/SINGER, was born Sheila Cecelia Escovedo in Oakland Calif.. Sheila’s youth testifies to her love of music, from performing with her dad, percussionist Pete Escovedo, at the age of 5, to playing in a local band during high school, to touring with her uncle Coke Escovedo’s group Azteca in Colombia as a teen. Growing up, Sheila was introduced to all types of sound by her musical family members and family friends (her godfather was Latin star Tito Puente). Early in her career, Sheila met Prince, and after singing on his hit “Erotic City,” the two worked together to produce her first album. The title track on The Glamorous Life, made the U.S. Top 10, and the entire album, which combined Latin, jazz, R&B, pop and rock, reached number 28 on the U.S. Billboard 200. A musical powerhouse, Sheila has worked with some of the most influential acts of the past five decades: Ringo Starr, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Beyoncé, Herbie Hancock, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan and more. She’s recorded seven solo albums, acted in several films and pursued philanthropic projects that are near to her heart.
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Wednesday, Jan. 17 Saxophonist Lew Tabackin Trio, Scottish Rite Temple, 7:30 p.m.
LEW TABACKIN, FLUTIST AND TENOR SAXOPHONIST, is an artist of astonishing vision. His electrifying flute playing is at once virtuosic, primordial, cross-cultural, and passionate. His distinctive tenor sax style includes the use of wide intervals, abrupt changes of mood and tempo, and purposeful fervor, all in the service of showing the full range of possibilities of his instrument – melodically, rhythmically, and dynamically. Born in Philadelphia, he moved to New York City after his Army service in 1965. A few years later he married Toshiko Akiyoshi and moved to Los Angeles, where they formed the award-winning big band known as the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra. In 1982 they returned to NYC, and Since then he has solidified his position as a major tenor saxophone and flute artist, both in live concerts and on recordings. In 1990 Lew released his first disc for Concord, Desert Lady, featuring Hank Jones, followed by the acclaimed I’ll Be Seeing You. Lew has also been associated with George Wein’s Newport All-Star Band, the New York Jazz Giants, and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band. He continues to tour the world as a soloist, playing clubs and jazz festivals with his own groups. He is joined by Boris Koslov on bass and Mark Taylor, drums.
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Friday, Jan. 19 The Mingus Dynasty “Tijuana Moods” and the Tucson Jazz Institute Ellington Band; Fox Theatre, 7:30 p.m.
THE MINGUS DYNASTY, a nimble and expert ensemble, was the first band Sue Mingus organized after her husband Charles Mingus’ death in 1979. Although big bands like the Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey bands had continued to perform after their leader passed on, a similar legacy never existed for smaller ensembles. Because Mingus always said he was first and foremost a composer, and because he left behind over 300 compositions that deserved to be played, a band carrying on his music became a natural, if unanticipated, mission. For the sake of authenticity, the first Dynasty bands were expected to include only musicians who had actually performed with Mingus—except for the bass player of course. Today, nearly 40 years later, the rich legacy of Mingus music ignites the bandstand while new generations of musicians—many of them not even alive during the composer’s lifetime—add their individual voices and continue to interpret and build on his compositions. The band comprises Abraham Burton, tenor saxophone; Alex Sipiagin, trumpet; Ku-umba Frank Lacy, trombone; Helen Sung, piano; Boris Kozlov, bass and Donald Edwards, drums.
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) and in 2017 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 awards include first place in the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival earning them a spot to perform at the 2012 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. 20 Spyro Gyra, Rialto Theatre, 7:30 p.m. SOLD OUT!
SPYRO GYRA is an unlikely story of a group with humble beginnings in Buffalo, NY who has continued to reach an international audience over 40 years, resulting in sales of over 10 million albums and having played over 5,000 shows on six continents. They have accomplished this due to a forward looking approach combined with the work ethic of an underdog, always challenging themselves to do something new while never resting on past success. It has proven to be a recipe for longevity for this jazz group while music has gone in and out of styles in ever shorter cycles. Spyro Gyra are contemporary jazz icons who observed their 40th year as a band in 2014 with shows that showcased their breakthrough Morning Dance album. After that year of looking back, they decided to spend 2015 concentrating on their more recent material, playing many songs from their post 2000 releases. The audience reaction was so positive to their recent material that bandleader Jay Beckenstein decided that their albums from that period deserved a little more focus. So, in order to spotlight this innovative and productive period, Spyro Gyra released The Best Of The Heads Up Years in 2016. They released their last, their 30th, album of new material The Rhinebeck Sessions in 2013, which JazzTimes called “inspired.” Travis Rogers of the Jazz Journalists Association picked it for Jazz Album Of The Year. Something Else Reviews called it “Their finest album since their early 80s heyday” and made it a TopTwenty pick for the year. George Harris of the Jazz Weekly enthused, “I gotta tell ya, these guys still sound GREAT.” “My hope is that our music has the same effect on the audience that it does on me,” says group leader Jay Beckenstein. “I’ve always felt that music, and particularly instrumental music, has this non-literal quality that lets people travel to a place where there are no words. Whether it’s touching their emotions or connecting them to something that reminds them of something much bigger than themselves, there’s this beauty in music that’s not connected to sentences. It’s very transportive. I would hope that when people hear our music or come to see us, they’re able to share that with us.”
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Sunday, Jan. 21 Johnny Gibsons Jazz Brunch with Jeff Haskell, Jason Carder and Brice Winston 10 a.m.-2 p.m. No Cover charge.
Sunday, Jan. 21 Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and bassist/vocalist Jay Leonhardt, Club Congress, 7:30 p.m. SOLD OUT!
Wycliffe Gordon, trombonist, was born a musician’s son in Waynesboro, Georgia. He began playing music at age 12, drawn early to jazz by an extensive record collection bequeathed to his family. Wycliffe hard-swinging, straight-ahead style earned him Downbeat’s Critics Choice Award for Best Trombone (2016, 2012-2014), as well as their Rising Star Award for Tuba (2014). Named Trombonist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association nine times since 2001, Wycliffe tours regularly as a soloist and leads the Wycliffe Gordon Quartet. He has recorded 20 solo albums and eight co-leader albums including Hello Pops, A Tribute to Louis Armstrong and Dreams of New Orleans. Wycliffe has been featured on the Kennedy Center Jazz series and his work has been celebrated extensively via radio, television and film, including Wycliffe’s appearance as a soloist in Ken Burns’ documentary, Jazz. A composer and arranger, Wycliffe’s work is frequently commissioned: his arrangement of NPR’s All Things Considered theme is heard daily worldwide and he received the ASCAP Plus Award in 2016 and 2015 for his contributions as a composer. He has authored three educational books and is a dedicated instructor, having served as a resident at numerous institutions, and, formerly, as a faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music.
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Jay Leonhart, bassist and vocalist, has been recognized as a very accomplished bass player for a long time now. He has been named the Outstanding Bassist in the Recording Industry three times and is always mentioned when the discussion turns to the outstanding. At age 13, while playing banjo with his brother in a Dixieland band in Baltimore, Jay watched and listened to the bass player and knew that the bass was the instrument he would play forever. Since that time Jay has been privileged to play with the likes of Judy Garland, Duke Ellington, Thad Jones, Buddy Rich, Jim Hall, Peggy Lee, Mel Tormé, Marian McPartland, Kenny Barron, Sting, James Taylor, Papa Joe Jones, Roy Eldridge, Jim Hall, Louie Bellson, Dick Hyman, Luciano Pavarotti and many more. Over th e years, Jay Leonhart has been writing and singing his own very individualistic songs about his life as a bass player. He now performs his music worldwide to very receptive audiences. Jay now appears primarily with his trio, which plays regularly at Birdland in New York, when not gainfully employed elsewhere.
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JOEY ALEXANDER, a native of Bali, Indonesia, taught himself to play piano by listening to classic jazz albums his father shared with him. An amateur musician, Joey’s father soon recognized his son’s gift for jazz, as his technique and ability to grasp complicated musical concepts was beyond someone of his years. Due to the lack of jazz education where he lived, Joey began attending jam sessions with senior musicians. From there, his musical intuition flourished, as did his love of playing jazz. In recognition of his talent, UNESCO invited Joey to play solo piano in honor of his jazz idol, Herbie Hancock, who provided early enthusiastic support to Joey’s budding career. The world has taken notice of this phenomenal and exciting pianist with the astonishing technique and soulful sound. Joey has been featured at festivals worldwide including Jakarta’s International Java Jazz Festival and the Copenhagen Jazz Festival. With his third studio effort, Eclipse, his most personal statement to date, Joey takes another giant step forward, demonstrating his aptitude as a composer, bandleader and musician, hinting at the many artistic paths open to him in the decades ahead.
The Tucson Jazz Institute Ellington Big Band directed by John Black, with assistance by TJI owners Brice Winston and Scott Black, is comprised of high school musicians from the greater Tucson area including Nogales who study at this award-winning community music school. This big band (one of 6 at the TJI), loved for their swinging diverse and energetic big band sounds, is the #1 High School Big Band placing in the top 3 8 years in row including(including last May 2018) of the prestigious national Jazz at Lincoln Center Essentially Ellington Competition Award presided over by Wynton Marsalis. They were named the Best Community Jazz Band in the Annual Student Music Awards in DownBeat Magazine in May 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2017. The Tucson Jazz Institute teaches middle school students on Saturdays and high school students on Sundays. They study jazz improvisation in small group classes (combos) and swing era music in big bands. TJI has about 100 students and gives many children an outlet they would not have otherwise. Over 90% of their graduates get substantial college scholarships. Their alumni attend some of the most prestigious schools in the nation including Julliard, the Manhattan School of Music, The New England Conservatory, Princeton, USC and Swarthmore (many on scholarship) and have gone on to major careers in jazz music.
Co-founded in 1982 by master guitarist Chieli Minucci (pronounced Key-eli Mee-noo-chee) and the late percussionist George Jinda, Special EFX helped pave the road for contemporary jazz in the 80s and continues to set the standard. With over 30 years as torchbearers of innovative music, the latest release from this pioneering group, Deep As The Night, is the latest chapter in the enduring story of Special EFX. Chieli reflects on the band’s longevity: “One of the reasons we have been able to maintain our popularity is because we have evolved over the years. When the band first started we had a heavy world music influence. Later we highlighted more of an acid-jazz sound, as well as some progressive fusion-rock thrown in for good measure. When people hear our music, they can expect to hear a little of everything!” Eric Marienthal is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music where he studied with the legendary saxophone professor, Joe Viola. He has since gone on to perform in over 75 different countries, recorded 14 solo CDs and has played on hundreds of records, films, television shows and commercial jingles. Violinist Regina Carter, a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship Genius grant, combines dazzling technical proficiency and profound compositional and improvisational gifts with a fresh, aggressive approach to her instrument and a multicultural perspective, challenging preconceptions regarding the instrument.
Mike LeDonne is a world renowned jazz pianist and Hammond organist. Oscar Peterson named him as one of his favorite pianists of this era. Since moving to New York City in 1978 he has worked with a wide spectrum of Jazz greats from Benny Goodman to Sonny Rollins, Bobby Hutcherson and many others. He spent 11 years as pianist and musical director for vibes legend Milt Jackson, and has been working with Benny Golson since 1997.
He formed his organ band “The Groover Quartet” in 2000 for a residency, that has lasted 18 years and counting, at Smoke Jazz Club in New York City. Since then the band has recorded 9 CD’s, several of which went to #1 on the jazz radio charts, and has been performing in festivals and clubs all over the world. Mike was nominated for “Best Keyboards” 2012 by the Jazz Journalists Association and won the Downbeat Critic’s Poll as “Rising Star” on organ that same year. Mike is featured on over 150 recordings and has 20 out under his own name.
Reprising an artistically excellent and sold-out show in Crowder Hall this past spring, music director Jeffrey Haskell conducts the Tucson Jazz Collective, an all-star local big band, with the Tucson Jazz Festival Orchestra and vocalists including Ann Hampton Callaway, Katherine Byrnes and Joe Bourne, pianist Angelo Versace and guest trumpeter Terell Stafford on the orchestrations that the great Nelson Riddle created for Ella Fitzgerald (Ella Swings Brightly), Nat King Cole (Mona Lisa), Frank Sinatra (Witchcraft) and Linda Ronstadt (What’s New?). Jeff spent a total of six years as principal conductor for Linda Ronstadt who had done three albums of Riddle arrangements. Fabulous Riddle settings of songs like “Night and Day,” “Lush Life” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” will be unearthed from the Riddle Collection at the University of Arizona Fred Fox School of Music and presented onstage at the historic Fox Theatre for an unforgettable performance.
ANN HAMPTON CALLAWAY is one of the leading champions of the great American Songbook, having made her mark as a singer, pianist, composer, lyricist, arranger, actress, educator, TV host and producer. Voted recently by Broadwayworld.com as “Performer of the Year” Ann is a born entertainer. Her unique singing style blends jazz and traditional pop, making her a mainstay in concert halls, theaters and jazz clubs as well as in the recording studio, on television, and in film. She is best known for Tony-nominated performance in the hit Broadway musical Swing! and for writing and singing the theme song to the hit TV series The Nanny. Callaway is a Platinum Award winning writer whose songs are featured on seven of Barbra Streisand’s recent CD’s. The only composer to have collaborated with Cole Porter, she has also written songs with Carole King, Rolf Lovland and Barbara Carroll to name a few.
KATHLEEN GRACE is an internationally recognized jazz vocalist, songwriter and educator. She is a member of the jazz faculty at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles where she has directed the CreSCendo vocal jazz ensemble and currently heads the solo vocal jazz combo program. Grace has toured worldwide appearing at venues as varied as the Montreaux Jazz Festival, The Kennedy Center and the SXSW Music Festival. Known as an artist that blurs boundaries between genres, Grace is also a studio performer and most recently appeared with Portugal the Man on the American Music Awards, and will be featured on Jim James’ (My Morning Jacket) solo 2018 album. Her forthcoming release “Tie Me To You” is a collaboration with pianist, keyboardist and songwriter Larry Goldings and features violinist Gabe Witcher (The Punch Brothers) and David Piltch (KD Lang).
Larry Goldings is a Grammy-nominated pianist, keyboardist, composer, and songwriter. Among jazz enthusiasts, Goldings’ organ trio with Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart has been recognized for charting new ground, with synergistic playing and hard-swinging yet thoughtful music. Larry has recorded 18 albums as a leader, hundreds more as a sideman, and has collaborated on a long-term basis with Maceo Parker, Jim Hall, Michael Brecker, and John Scofield. Goldings has been recording and touring with iconic singer-songwriter James Taylor since 2001, and is the featured musician on Taylor’s One Man Band CD/DVD, the culmination of a two year world-wide tour with James and Larry in duet. In 2007, Goldings received a Grammy nomination (Best Instrumental Jazz Album of the Year) for his live album Trio Beyond – Saudades (ECM) with John Scofield and Jack DeJohnette. His compositions have been recorded by Pat Metheny, Michael Brecker, John Scofield, Toots Thielemans, Jim Hall, Gaby Moreno, Bill DeMain, Jane Monheit, Spencer Day, Curtis Stigers, Mike Viola, Lea Michele, Sia, and others. The 2014 UK Songwriting contest awarded Larry, along with Dannielle DeAndrea and David Batteau, “Best Song” in the Jazz/Blues category for the composition, “High Dreams.”
Terell Stafford, acclaimed trumpet player based in New York, has been hailed as “one of the great players of our time, a fabulous trumpet player” by piano legend McCoy Tyner. Stafford is recognized as an incredibly gifted and versatile player, he combines a deep love of melody with his own brand of spirited and adventurous lyricism. Stafford’s exceptionally expressive and well defined musical talent allows him to dance in and around the rich trumpet tradition of his predecessors while making his own inroads. Since the mid-1990’s, Stafford has performed with groups such as Benny Golson’s Sextet, McCoy Tyner’s Sextet, Kenny Barron Quintet, Frank Wess Quintet, Jimmy Heath Quintet and Big Band, Jon Faddis Jazz Orchestra, Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Alumni Band. Stafford with the Hamilton Clayton Jazz Orchestra, performed on Diana Krall’s GRAMMY nominated From this Moment On (2006). John Clayton invited Stafford to perform with the Clayton Brothers Quintet and Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. Stafford is a member of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and they were awarded a GRAMMY in 2009 for Best Large Ensemble, Live at the Village Vanguard. Stafford can be heard on over 130 albums. Stafford is the Director of Jazz Studies and Chair of Instrumental Studies at Temple University, founder and band leader of the Terell Stafford Quintet, and Managing and Artistic Director of the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia (JOP). Stafford is renowned in the jazz world as an educator, performer and leader along with countless award nominations, accolades and associated acts.
MAGOS HERRERA is a dazzling jazz singer-songwriter, producer and educator with a 20-year career. Born in Mexico City and currently based in New York City, Magos is regarded as one of the most expressive, beautiful voices and most active vocalists in the contemporary Latin American jazz scene. She is best known for her eloquent vocal improvisation and her singular bold style, which embraces elements of contemporary jazz with Latin American melodies and rhythms singing in Spanish, English and Portuguese, in a style that elegantly blends and surpasses language boundaries. Magos’ career has led her to go on stage around the world, including some of the most memorable venues, such as Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, Chicago’s Millennium Park, and Teatro de la Ciudad de México and Zocalo in Mexico City. Moreover, Magos has participated in leading world jazz festivals, including Montreal’s International Jazz Festival, the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, Barcelona’s International Jazz Festival, and the Puerto Rico Heineken Jazz Festival. In addition to being one of the finest Latin American jazz vocalists, Magos Herrera is well known for championing women’s causes. She currently serves as spokesperson for UN Women, and has taken an active role in the UNITE campaign to end violence against women and “He for She” to promote gender equality.
MAQUEQUE, an assembly of all-star Cuban women musicians was envisioned and created by Jane Bunnett. A multiple Juno Award winner, Jane has turned her bands and recordings into showcases for the finest musical talent from Canada, the U.S. and Cuba. She has been nominated for Grammy Awards, numerous Juno Awards, received an Order of Canada, The Queens Diamond Jubilee medal and most recently Ontario’s Premiers Award for Excellence. An internationally acclaimed musician, Jane is known for her creative integrity, improvisational daring and courageous artistry. Her exploration of Afro-Cuban melodies expresses the universality of music and her ability to embrace and showcase the rhythms and culture of Cuba has been groundbreaking. She has toured the world bringing her own special sound to numerous jazz festivals, displaying her versatility as a saxophone player and pianist. As an educator, spokesperson and social activist, she remains unafraid to explore uncharted territory in her quest for excellence!
ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL was founded by Ray Benson in Paw Paw, West Virginia 48 years ago. Now based in Austin, the band holds 10 Grammy awards, 20 studio albums and 20 singles on the Billboard country charts. The Grammy Award-winning Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys is the band’s most recent release (2015) and marks their third full-length Bob Wills tribute album. Featuring 22 acclaimed collaborations, the all-star lineup includes legends such as Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and George Strait and newcomers like the Avett Brothers, Amos Lee, Old Crow Medicine Show and many other fine talents. Asleep at the Wheel is bringing a fresh look, sound and a new album in 2018. With recent additions Katie Shore (fiddle, vocals), Dennis Ludiker (fiddle, mandolin), Connor Forsyth (keyboard, vocals) and Josh Hoag (bass) Asleep at the Wheel’s newest members have given a newfound energy and their own unique style within the band. Asleep at the Wheel veterans David Sanger (drums) Eddie Rivers (steel guitar) and Jay Reynolds (saxophone and clarinet) round out the now eight-piece band. Between those Texas twin fiddles and boogie piano, you can bet you’ll be dancin’ down the aisles and swingin’ all night long when the Wheel rolls into town!