Citizen Staff Writer
This weekend, jazz musicians will be setting up their gear at Plaza Palomino on the southwest corner of North Swan Road and East Fort Lowell Road, for the all-free Tucson Jazz Fest featuring six hours of straight-ahead jazz in a format that guarantees all jazz all the time.
“Each band plays an hour, with 15-minute breaks to change bands. During the breaks, Nick Stanley will play piano,” says Tony Frank, the festival director. Frank is also a trumpet player, bandleader and the founder of TucsonJazzRadio.org, one of the festival sponsors.
Also pitching in to help provide a free event are the merchants of Plaza Palomino and community radio station KXCI 91.3 FM.
“Every major city has an annual free jazz concert,” Frank says emphatically. “Detroit has the best one. But I wanted this to be a free jazz gift to the community.
“This is our art form. It belongs to all of us, so I wanted everybody to come, not just the people from the foothills.”
The Tucson Jazz Fest lineup is a blend of polished professionals and enthusiastic students. Brass instruments lead the professional lineup.
There is Tuba Madness with bottom-end virtuosos Daniel “Sly” Slipetsky and Hank Feldman. The two have recorded an album together, “Vida Rica,” and plan on some dueling banjo-type competition jams worthy of those dancing hippos in Walt Disney’s classic “Fantasia.”
Slipetsky appears more frequently around town as a pianist but has played both instruments since his early student days. Feldman is a career educator and former director of the University of Arizona marching band.
Taking the co-headliner role is Trombone Madness featuring trombonists Rob Boone, Andrew Thompson and Jose Barnett. All three ‘bone men have deep performance experience in jazz, as well as with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. Boone is a member of both the Original Wildcat Jass Band and Big Band Express. Thompson and Barnett pump up the trombone line for the Latin jazz band Descarga.
Slipetsky will double on piano for Trombone Madness. Boone will double on piano for Tuba Madness. Accompanying all that brassy madness will be Jack Wood, bass, and Doug Davis, drums.
Representing the emerging talents are members of the Pima Community College big band led by saxophonist Mike Kuhn and guest trumpet artist Glenn Gross, the Central Arizona College Jazz Ensemble led by trumpeter Rick Moore, and the Tucson Jazz Society’s own student big band JazzWerx led by touring tenor saxophonist and recording artist Brice Winston.
While the entrepreneurial Frank has produced other daylong jazz festivals in the Baked Apple over the years, this one is particularly special. He is dedicating the event to his mother Leah Betts and to his friend Steve Emerine. Both died recently.
“My mom and I always worked together on the celebrity fundraising golf event Swing For Life,” Frank says. “We produced them annually for 10 years. She was such a positive influence for me.”
“Steve was one of my mentors, and he was always the first guy to throw $10 in the tip jar at my gigs,” Frank continued. “He’d never ask me, ‘How are you doing?’ He’d ask, ‘What are you thinking?’ He had that spirit right up to the end.”
IF YOU GO
What: Tucson Jazz Fest
When: noon-6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Plaza Palomino, North Swan Road at East Fort Lowell Road
Price: admission is free
Info: 203-7901, or e-mail email@example.com
The performance schedule is:
noon – JazzWerx led by Brice Winston
1:15 p.m. – Central Arizona College jazz ensemble led by Rick Moore
2:30 – Tuba Madness with Hank Feldman and Daniel “Sly” Slipetsky
3:45 – Trombone Madness with Rob Boone, Andrew Thompson and Jose Barnett
5 – Pima Community College big band led by Mike Kuhn with Glenn Gross