Jazz Across the City

The 2023 HSL Properties Tucson Jazz Festival

By Loni Nannini

It’s the smoothest festival in the West: The 2023 HSL Properties Tucson Jazz Festival.

In its ninth season, the festival will feature 28 performances by more than 100 world-class musicians at indoor and outdoor venues Jan. 13-22. 

“Jazz—and music in general—is something that unifies people completely,” said Khris Dodge, the festival’s executive director. “You play music with people together and a room becomes whole, no matter how divided people were before. It is so important in our world today to have something that brings us together.” 

Dodge credits event sponsors for recognizing the festival’s cultural, economic and social merit as the festival expands its footprint.

“The COVID pandemic brought us some pivots that have become permanent,” she said. “Part of our goal with the festival is to create an atmosphere downtown of density– a large number of artists in different spaces that offer different experiences.”

Rooted in historic venues such as the Rialto and Fox theatres and the newly-renovated Century Room at Hotel Congress, the festival is also embracing The Great Outdoors. 

Outdoor experiences include the Plaza Stage at Hotel Congress, the rooftop at The Playground and numerous outdoor pop-up events across the city. 

 “You can enjoy the intimate experience of a nice jazz club and then have a completely different experience sitting outside with the sun on your face on a beautiful day in January,” said Dodge. 

The festival kicks off at Centennial Hall with acclaimed saxophonist and jazz artist Joshua Redman at 8 p.m. on Jan. 13, followed by the Tucson Jazz Fest All Star Jazz Jam on the Plaza Stage at Hotel Congress, Noon on Jan. 14. Performances by classic jazz heavy-hitters—a sextet conceived by two of the greatest jazz artists: Pianist Mike LeDonne and saxophonist Eric Alexander—will commence at the Century Room at 7 and 9 p.m. on Jan. 14. 

Swedish singing and instrumentalist Gunhild Carling will play up to a dozen instruments in the Downtown Jazz Fiesta at Hotel Congress Plaza, 11 a.m. on Jan. 16, and Terence Blanchard, a Grammy- and Oscar-winning composer and musician will perform with the E Collective & Turtle Island Quartet at the Rialto Theatre at 8 p.m. on Jan. 20.

Audiences can see 22-year-old Samara Joy at The Corbett, 219 E. 7th St.at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 19. Matthew Whitaker, who has played for Stevie Wonder and Harry Connick Jr., will take the Fox Theatre Tucson stage with his Quintet at 7 p.m. on Jan. 15. The Fox will also feature legends DeeDee Bridgewater and Kurt Elling from the touring Monterey Jazz Festival at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 21.

The festival culminates with Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers at the Fox Tucson Theatre at 7 p.m. on Jan. 22.

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