*Tucson-HSL Properties presented the 2nd Annual HSL Properties Tucson Jazz Festival throughout downtown Tucson from January 14-24, 2016.
In its early infancy, the festival has already exceeded expectations. The host city is an idea destination for snow birds (winter visitors), locals and jazz birds (jazz enthusiasts who travel near and far to festivals).
The HSL Properties Tucson Jazz Festival is the only major jazz festival in the United States in the month of January, featuring world-class jazz in historic downtown Tucson.
Clear skies with temperatures in the 70’s, great music, and delicious food in historic downtown Tucson created the perfect ambiance to host the Tucson Jazz Festival. My enjoyment of the festival commenced with the Downtown Jazz Fiesta, a free daylong festival, held on January 18th, Martin Luther King Day. There was continuous music on two stages.
There was something for everyone during this most highly anticipated jazz festival. This was a fun-filled day for the entire family. Several food trucks served up some mouthwatering treats for people to enjoy while strolling around historic downtown Tucson. Bella’s Gelato, Jozarelli’s Italian, Pin Up Pastries, BBQ Rush and Don Pedro’s Peruvian Bistro. Adult beverages (beer and wine) were sold by Hotel Congress.
Nossa Bossa Nova kicked off the festival. Just as the name implies, the group performed a set of music representing Brazil. Their set included the beautiful, infectious grooves of Bossa Nova music. The band performed music from previous CD’s- Beyond Bossa Nova, Standards, Standards Too and Reimagined-Songs of Ellis Regina. The crowd and I were thoroughly entertained on the following tunes “So Danco Samba,” “Corcovado,” “Dindi,” and “So Tinha de Ser Com Voce” to name a few. The band consists of Mike Levy-guitar, Theresa Levy-vocals, Lorenzo Levy-bass and Alejandro Canelos on drums.
My friend Adrian Barton and I were in for a real treat. Thanks to the talents of the Tucson High School Mariachi Band directed by Justin Enriquez. We caught the last half of their set and were really amazed during their performance of Glen Miller medley which consisted of their arrangements of “We Get It,” “Moonlight Serenade,” “Stormy Weather,” and “In the Mood” with a Latin twist.
It was obvious that today’s program was booked with the audience dancing pleasure in mind. It wasn’t hard to find people cutting a rug (i.e.,) breaking out with some picante salsa dance steps. People were grooving and moving to the Latin rhythms courtesy of The Lo Bros., De Pedro and Special Guest Joey Burns, Grupo Manteca and Orkesta Mendoza as they each provided the soundtrack to the delight of salseros (salsa dancers). The dance floor and anyone flat open space featured salseros of all levels, beginners, intermediate and professional dancers.
The Fahrenheit in historic downtown Tucson got hotter and hotter as the day progress. The surge in the weather was due to the fiery Latin rhythms served up generously by the popular local Latin bands. I was thrilled to witness many happy feet, dancing in the streets, to the infectious Latin beats. (Nursery rhymes intended)
The Lo Bros led by Salvador and Christian Lopez contributed to our enjoyment of the fiesta as they revved up the engines with their dynamic set of classics with hot Latin rhythms and Funky sounds. The band spiced up “Ravels Bolero,” “2001 Space Odyssey” and a brilliant arrangement of “Mozart Symphony 50 in G Minor” entitled “Little Symphony” to the delight of a growing fan base. The band continued their set with “Nutcracker” (son), “Also Sprach” (funk), and a tune by Arturo Sandoval “Closely Dancing.”
De Pedro (Jairo Zavala) and Special Guest Joey Burns on bass turned up the throttle during their energetic set. They performed “Como el Viento,” “Don’t Leave Me Now,” “Te Sigo Sonando,”and “Hombre Bueno,” during the brief time I was in attendance. The duet grew into a quintet with the addition of Sergio Mendoza-drums, Jacob Valenzuela-trumpet and Marco Rossano.
It’s getting hot out here! Grupo Manteca followed by Orkesta Mendoza cranked up the heat on all four burners during their respected sets.
Grupo Manteca thrilled the audience with some salsa dura and cumbia with explosive sounds from Puerto Rico, Cuba, New and Colombia with a tasty mixture of cha-cha, Latin jazz and Timba. This tight band entertained the crowd and me with the tunes “Ritmo Remo,” “Nada de Ti,” “Te Quiero con Tigo and a cumbia/salsa medley that got a huge showing of salseros on the dance floor.
Orkesta Mendoza capped off a splendid fiesta with a fiery hot gumbo of Mexican Mambo psychedelic cumbia, ranchero meringue, rumba, and jazz and indie rock. The day was still young if people wanted to continue the party by forming a conga line to some of the local clubs.
The festival already featured performances by Jimmy Heath and Tucson Institute Ellington Band, Snarky Puppy, Byron Stripling, Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour. Upcoming concerts feature Poncho Sanchez, January 21, The Rad Trads, January 22, Lizz Wright, January 23 and the festival concludes with Kermit Ruffins.
If you can’t make it into town this year, plan on joining thousands of snow birds, jazz birds and locals in sunny Tucson for some world-class jazz January 2017. For more information visit http://www.tucsonjazzfestival.org or call (520)-428-4TJF (4853).
Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based music reviewer, writer and photographer. Contact him via: [email protected]et