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Jazz Festival swings, bops, taps and rolls back to Tucson

Every year in late January, folks from all over descend on Tucson for a very special, multi-week gathering. No, not they aren't here for the gem show, though certainly some of the event's attendees will stick around for that too. Instead, they're here for the third annual Tucson Jazz Festival.

The festival will feature local, national and international acts, with highlights including performances by such world renowned artists as Spyro Gyra and jazz/latin/pop percussonist (and Prince and the Revolution alum) Sheila E.

Envisioned by Mayor Jonathan Rothschild as a family-friendly destination festival to bring winter visitors to Tucson and showcase talented musicians, the festival is now in its third year, with local property company HSL Properties serving as the show's main sponsor, along with presenting partners including UA Presents and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra.

Another highlight of the 10-day festival will be the free outdoor Downtown Jazz Fiesta, a 12-hour-long music showcase that takes place on January 15, a Monday when many families will be off of work and school for the Martin Luther King Day holiday.

Hypnotic Brass, a seven-piece brass ensemble from Chicago kicks off the festival at the Rialto Theatre on Thursday night. The group is notable both for their playing prowess and their immaculate jazz pedigree, as the band includes the sons of Earth, Wind and Fire trumpeter Phil Cohran. 

New York-based jazz and vocal collective the Hot Sardines, veterans of the festival's 2015 debut, return to the festival for Friday night's showcase at along with award-winning Tucson pianist Robbie Lee. 

The Tucson Symphony Orchestra showcases trumpeter Arturo Sandoval on Jan.  13 and 14 at the TCC Music Hall. 

Legendary percussionist/drummer/vocalist Sheila E. caps off the festival's first week with a special performance at the Rialto Theatre on Sunday night.

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From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday, the  Downtown Jazz Fiesta will take place on multiple indoor and outdoor stages throughout Downtown.

Tuesday, January 16, vibraphonist Warren Wolf performs with the UA Studio Jazz Ensemble.

Wednesday night, tenor saxophonist Lew Tabackin and trio take the stage at the Scottish Rite Cathedral.

On Thursday, January 18, Grammy-winning pianist and vocalist Diane Schuur plays the Fox Theatre, accompanied by special guest saxophonist Ernie Watts. Pianist Bill Charlap opens the show.

The Tucson Jazz Institute Ellington Band joins the Mingus Dynasty in playing on Fri., Jan. 19 at the Fox. 

Festival headliner Spyro Gyra performs the next night at 7:30 p.m. at the Rialto Theatre.

On Sunday, Jan.  21, the festival wraps up with a "jazz brunch" at Johnny Gibson's Market featuring Jeff Haskell, Jason Carder and Brice Winston and a finale performance by Wycliffe Gordon and Jay Leonhardt later in the evening at Club Congress.

Tickets and more information can be found on the festival's website at tucsonjazzfestival.org

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Tucson Jazz Festival 2018 

Thursday, Jan. 11

  • Hypnotic Brass - Rialto Theatre, 7:30 p.m 

Friday, Jan. 12

  • The Hot Sardines Fox Tucson Theatre, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 13

  • Matt Holman Group - Club Congress, 7:30 p.m.
  • Arturo Sandoval and the TSO  - TCC Music Hall, 7:30 p.m

Sunday Jan. 14

  • Arturo Sandoval and the TSO (Matinee Performance) - TCC Music Hall,  2 p.m.
  • Doc Jones Band with Neamen Lyles - University of Arizona Main Gate Square. 5 p.m. 
  • Sheila E. - Rialto Theatre, 7:30 p.m.

Monday Jan. 15 (Downtown Jazz Fiesta)

Rio Nuevo Stage (Toole & Fifth Ave)

    • Jovert - 11 a.m. 
    • Bad News Blues Band w/ Heather Hardy - 12:15 p.m. 
    • Zona Libre - 2 p.m.

    Connect Coworking Stage (33 South Fifth Ave) 

  • Tuesday, Jan. 16

    • Warren Wolf w/ UA Studio Jazz Ensemble, UA Crowder Hall, 7:30 p.m.

    Wednesday, Jan. 17

    • Saxophonist Lew Tabackin Trio, Scottish Rite Temple, 7:30 p.m.

    Thursday,  Jan. 18

    • Diane Schuur Quartet w/ Ernie Watts/Bill Charlap Trio - Fox Theatre, 7:30 p.m.

    Friday, Jan. 19

    • The Mingus Dynasty w/ Tucson Jazz Institute Ellington Band - Fox Theatre, 7:30 p.m.

    Saturday, Jan. 20 

    • Spyro Gyra - Rialto Theatre, 7:30 p.m.

    Sunday, Jan. 21

    • Jazz Brunch - Johnny Gibson's Downtown Market, 10 a.m.
    • Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon w/ Jay Leonhardt - Club Congress, 7:30 p.m.