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Village Jazz Series kicks off 7th season
Musicians who perform the propulsive syncopated rhythms known as jazz music are returning this year for the seventh season of the Village Jazz Series.
Presented by Yuma Palms Regional Center, the series is held in The Village, located in front of Harkins Theatres at 1321 S. Yuma Palms Parkway. The festival will include 15 performances held from 6 to 8 p.m. each Thursday between Jan. 17 and April 25. The shows are free to the public; attendees are encouraged to bring their own portable seating.
Each show (see schedule below) will feature a different genre of music, including big band, Dixieland and progressive jazz performed by both student musicians and internationally known artists.
Each event will be recorded live by KAWC 88.9 FM and played back in a one-hour “Best of the Village Jazz Series” program to air one week after each performance.
“This is not only unique to Yuma, but is unique anywhere that you would have an ongoing series of free concerts like this on a regular basis that is devoted to jazz in its various forms,” said Steven Hennig of the Yuma Jazz Company, who has organized and hosted the series since it was created in 2007.
“It is something that would otherwise be very hard to find in Yuma, and very unusual to find anyplace I know of — to have an ongoing series of events like this.”
The musicians performing this year are “really outstanding,” Hennig said, adding Yuma residents and winter visitors alike should attend the performances “because the music is great, the talent level is very high, and the atmosphere is truly cosmopolitan. People are always commenting that attending the series makes you feel you are in a much bigger city. It is just outstanding all the way around!”
The series has “certainly been improving since its humble beginnings in 2007,” Hennig continued. “We have been able to bring in some more high-profile people to perform, have a wider variety of groups and have a longer series.”
When it began, there were just four performances as compared with 15 this year, he noted, adding that the audience has also increased substantially.
“I think it has become something people expect to be able to go see and they enjoy coming out. The weather is generally great, and it is a really nice atmosphere out there.”
Performers this year include Holly Hofmann, who is “regarded as one of the best jazz flutists in the world,” Hennig said.
Hofmann will be joined by her husband, Mike Wofford, an internationally revered pianist who has been chosen by Down Beat Magazine as “one of the outstanding pianists of our time.”
Hofmann also served as Ella Fitzgerald's musical director until she died in 1996.
“It is amazing to be able to go and hear people like that for free!” Hennig said.
Returning to perform this season will be the High Society Jazz Band from San Diego, “one of the most entertaining groups on the Dixieland festival circuit,” Hennig said. “High Society excited audiences last year as a trio and will be performing as a quartet this time around.”
Popular guitarist, singer and songwriter Pete Pancrazi of Phoenix will return for two appearances during this year's series, and standout guitarist Garrett Ortego will be sharing his distinctive style in Yuma as well.
Local musical groups performing during the series include the Yuma Jazz Company Quintet, Yuma Big Band, Border Town Big Band, and husband and wife duo Jason and Elle.
Student jazz groups from Gadsden Middle School, Yuma, Gila Ridge and Cibola high schools and from Arizona Western College will also perform.
“Since its inception, the Village Jazz Series has provided performance opportunities for dedicated student musicians,” Hennig said, noting the Yuma Palms Regional Center will award one of the high school seniors performing this year a $500 college scholarship.
“The awarding of the scholarship will be facilitated by Jazz Southwest, a local nonprofit group formed to increase the awareness and availability of jazz in southwest Arizona.”
The series will also function as a fundraiser for the Western Region of Arizona Odyssey of the Mind (OM). During each show, Yuma Palms employees will auction off deck furniture that has been hand-painted by Yuma-area artists. One hundred percent of the proceeds will be donated to OM.
All performances from 6 to 8 p.m.
• Jan. 17 - Yuma Big Band
• Jan. 24 - Yuma Jazz Company
• Jan. 31 - Pete Pancrazi Quartet
• Feb. 7 - Gila Ridge High School and Gadsden Middle School Jazz Bands
• Feb. 14 - Jason & Elle
• Feb. 21 - Yuma Jazz Company's Latin Jazz Eruption!
• Feb. 28 - AWC Jazz Band and the Yuma Jazz Company Trio
• March 7 - Flutist Holly Hofmann and pianist Mike Wofford
• March 14 - Pete Pancrazi Quartet
• March 21 - High Society Jazz Band
• March 28 - Border Town Big Band
• April 4 - Garrett Ortego Trio
• April 11 - Jason & Elle
• April 18 - Yuma and Cibola High School Jazz Bands
• April 25 - Yuma Jazz Company and Friends
Chris McDaniel can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6849.