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Who’s who and what’s what: A Guide To The Festival

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Jazz takes over downtown Tucson this week with the inaugural HLS Properties Tucson Jazz Festival, bringing 12 days of music from Friday, Jan. 16 to Wednesday Jan. 28.

If you're working downtown on Monday, Jan. 19, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., be sure to catch the free downtown jazz fiesta, which fills the streets with local and visiting performing. For more information on the festival and to purchase tickets, visit tucsonjazzfestival.org.

The festival formally kicks off with Jimmy Cobb with the Joey DeFrancesco Quartet Tucson Jazz Institute Ellington Band on Friday, Jan. 16 at the Fox Tucson Theatre. Cobb is a legendary jazz drummer and NEA Jazz Master and the only living member of the classic "Kind of Blue" band led by Miles Davis. Joining Cobb and DeFrancesco is Tucson's Jazz Institute Ellington Band comprised of high school musicians commuting from Nogales to Phoenix to study at this award-winning community music school. Directed by Doug Tidaback, the band is the number one high school big band winner two years in a row of the national Jazz at Lincoln Center Essentially Ellington Competition Award.

On Saturday, Jan. 17, 8 p.m. at the Rialto Theatre is the Robert Glasper Experiment. Pianist Glasper studied at NYC's New School, and began performing with Christian McBride, Kenny Garrett, Terence Blanchard and Roy Hargrove.

Grammy award winner Dianne Reeves performs Sunday, Jan. 18, 7 p.m. at the Fox Theatre. The vocalist has three consecutive Grammy Awards for Best Jazz Vocal Performance.

On Sunday, Jan. 18, at 9 p.m., Dmitri Matheny Jazz Noir performs at Club Congress. The Canyon del Oro High School graduate, a flugelhornist and composer, first entered the jazz scene in the 1990s.

Pianist Armen Donelian performs at the Arizona Inn on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 8 p.m. in the Tucson Room. Donelian apprenticed in 1975 with Mongo Santamaria, where he presided over the piano chair once filled by Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. Donelian has also explored his Armenian roots in his music and recorded for several labels with the Middle Eastern jazz ensemble Night Ark.

On Wednesday, Jan. 21, 7:30 p.m. clarinetist Dave Bennett pays tribute to Benny Goodman with the Jeff Haskell Trio (presented in conjunction with the UA School of Music).

Gabriel Espinosa and Hendrik Meurkens perform Thursday, Jan. 22, 7:30 p.m. at the Rialto Theatre. Espinosa, a Mexican bassist, and Meurkens, a German harmonica player and vibraphonist, recorded on the Zoho label Celebrando and Samba Little Samba in 2014.

The Hot Sardines, a 1920s-style jazz band, takes a blustery brass lineup, layers it over a stride-piano virtuoso in the Fats Waller vein, and ties the whole thing together with a female vocalist whose style is from another era. The group performs Friday, Jan. 23, 8 p.m. at the Fox Tucson Theatre.

JD Souther performs with special guest Billy Childs on Saturday, Jan. 24, 8 p.m. at the Fox Tucson Theatre. Souther is often called an architect of Southern California sound having co-written many of the Eagles hits including "Heartache Tonight," "VictimOf Love," "New Kid In Town," and Don Henley's "The Heart Of The Matter."

Tony Malaby performs with his group Paloma Reico at the Screening Room on Saturday, Jan. 24, 10 p.m. The tenor saxophonist and his group recorded the self-titled 2009 disc on New World Records. The blend of this group varies greatly from many of Malaby's other projects, in large part due to the presence of Ben Monder's electric guitar and the soundscapes he conjures, complemented by the off-kilter swing from bassist Eivind Opsvik and drummer Nasheet Waits.

The Big Band Brunch takes place at Westin La Paloma on Sunday, Jan. 25, 11 a.m. with a tribute to Frank Sinatra performed by Joe Bourne and the Big Band Express. Bourne was named best entertainer by Tucson Lifestyle magazine readers in 2012. Big Band Express was founded in 1994 by Tom Patrick and Dave Plank to promote and perform big band music in Tucson and southern Arizona.

Guitarist Dave Stryker joins Allan Harris and Tucson Hard Bop Quintet on Sunday, Jan. 25, 7 p.m. at the Fox Tucson Theatre. Harris, a vocalist, guitarist, arranger, writer and producer, has been described as "a relaxed and tasteful crooner" by Stephen Holden of The New York Times. Guitarist Stryker , who 26 CDs as a leader and another 80 as a sideman, has been voted as a top Jazz guitarist in the 2014 Downbeat Critics and Readers' polls, and the magazine did a feature on him in their June 2014 issue.

On Tuesday, Jan. 27, 7:30 p.m., the Rachel Eckroth Trio performs at the Screening Room. Eckroth, a pianist, vocalist and composer, was born and raised in the greater Phoenix area. She released her first solo album, Mind. She is the pianist for the Meredith Vieira Show's house band and performs in the Tucson Jazz Festival with Jerome Jennings on drums and David Cutler on bass.

The festival officially ends Wednesday, Jan. 28, 7:30 p.m. at the Fox Tucson Theatre with the great Burt Bacharach (see page 22 for Eric Swedlund's interview with the music legend). His songs have been recorded by many jazz musicians, such as Stan Getz, Wes Montgomery, Diana Krall, McCoy Tyner and the Metropole Orchestra. If you don't know this man's work, then you've been living under a pop-music rock. You just might find yourself singing along, and that wouldn't be a bad way to end a satisfying music festival.

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