With 350 days of sunshine, Tucson, Arizona, is the place to be this winter for the annual HSL Properties Tucson Jazz Festival held each January. The two-weeks long festival (2020 dates are 1/10-1/20), is highlighted by the free daylong Downtown Jazz Fiesta on MLK day featuring two outdoor stages and performances at multiple venues in downtown Tucson. World-class jazz acts ranging from straight-ahead to contemporary jazz are featured at The Fox Tucson Theatre, Club Congress and other downtown venues.
If you’re ready to experience the best of the desert southwest when it comes to jazz, you’re probably well on your way to booking your VIP tickets. If you still need a little coaxing, here are 5 Reasons to Visit the HSL Tucson Jazz Festival.
A growing city and festival
The HSL Properties Tucson Jazz Festival has become a destination for jazz fans from across the country. The relatively warm weather and world-class acts bring new winter visitors to town. A full 50% of ticket buyers have come from out of town (50+ miles) for all three festivals, fulfilling the promoter’s vision of a “destination” festival. The festival also brings in presenting and promoting partners such as UA Presents and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. The festival is also part of the Desert Song Festival, with two concerts included in their line-up.
The lineup brings the heat
When it comes to its lineup, the HSL Tucson Jazz Festival hits the ground running with saxophonist Maceo Parker who kicks off the festival with his Big Band on Friday, January 10, 2020, at 8:00 pm at Centennial Hall. Featuring many former members of the Ray Charles Orchestra and featuring the Raelettes.
The David Sanborn Jazz Quintet brings the eclectic sounds of the six-time Grammy-winning artist to the Fox Tucson Theater on Saturday, January 11th, 2020 at 7:30 pm.
Musical prodigy, singer-songwriter-saxophonist Grace Kelly brings her unique talents to the stage on Sunday, January 13th, 2020 at the Rialto Theater at 7:00 pm where she will share the stage with #1 best-selling artist Aubrey Logan for an evening of jaw-dropping vocals and musicality. (You can listen to our podcast with Kelly here. Our podcast with Aubrey Logan is here.)
The Rialto Theater promises to bring the heat on Friday, January 17th, 2020 at 7:30 pm as the Afro-Cuban All Stars bring a cast of multi-generational Cuban talent to the stage. Fans of the Buena Vista Social Club will not want to miss this evening of classic and more contemporary Cuban music.
Christian McBride & Inside Straight, and The Tucson Jazz Institute Ellington Band promise to be one of the highlights of the 2020 HSL Tucson Jazz Festival with their show on Saturday, January 18th, 2020 at the Fox Tucson Theater at 7:30 pm.
Bring home a piece of the desert Southwest
If you’re looking for a piece of quirky specialty or authentic handspun local crafts, Tucson is a treasure trove of small boutiques to satisfy your shopping needs.
The Lost Barrio Shops (228 S. Park Avenue, 85719) are a selection of quaint boutiques stocked with quirky Mexicana, Mexican Colonial furniture, and statement pieces from India, folk art, punched-tin decorative pieces, hand-painted tiles, and pottery.
If you’re looking for authentic and high-end American Indian jewelry, Mac’s Indian Jewelry (2400 E. Grant Road, 85719) excels at showcasing exquisite traditional pieces that enchant the most passionate collectors. Customers are surrounded by stunning collections of both vintage and contemporary jewelry made by tribes in the region in this mainstay of the Tucson jewelry scene.
If you’re looking to add to your art collection, take the time to visit The Diana Madaras Gallery (3035 N. Swan Rd. 85712) and Gift Shop which is considered by the locals to be a world-class and a renowned shopping experience that lures customers globally with its exceptional collection of quintessential Tucson art created by its namesake.
There’s no better fest for adding to your record collection
Tucson has seen a strong resurgence in its record stores as the format has experienced almost eight years of double-digit growth across the globe against the tidal wave of digital streaming. The local scene has been strengthened by University of Arizona students who have flocked to local shops to build their first record collections. Local stores are a great place to find rare jazz recordings and new releases.
Wooden Tooth Records
416 E. Seventh St., 207-1588, woodentoothrecords.bandcamp.com
636 N. Fourth Ave., 713-476-8878, facebook.com/hurricanerecordstucson
Desert Island Records
2930 E. Broadway Blvd., 365-3702, desertislandsupply.com
Pdq Records and Tapes
2432 N. Dodge Blvd., 881-2681, pdqrecords.com
Old Paint Records
201 N. Court Ave., 279-7899, oneoldpaint.com
Zia Record Exchange
3370 E. Speedway Blvd., 327-3340, ziarecords.com
Local culinary fare keeps the party going
At the HSL Tucson Jazz Festival, you will find yourself within walking distance of some of the city’s best restaurants and bars for both pre-show and post-show culinary experiences that define the southwest food scene. The Tucson-area features a rich agricultural heritage, thriving food scene, and a distinctive culinary flavor that defines the culture of the Sonoran Desert.
If you’re looking for fine craft beer, Tucson is a city with numerous options to satisfy your needs:
Barrio Brewing (800 E. 16th Street) has been a hotspot for nights out with friends for more than a decade. Barrio is Arizona’s third-largest independent brewer and still exudes a neighborhood feel, which you’ll find right in the glass and on their full lunch and dinner menu.
After a big night out downtown, listening to jazz, you may want something a little quieter to vanish with friends. The Good Oak Bar (7316 E. Congress Street) has an extensive selection of local craft beers, whiskeys, wine, and cocktails, and authentic Tucsonan vibe that you’re looking for.
Tucson likes to boast that it has the best Mexican food in America and with 23 miles of incredible food and a wide variety of dining options. From the local taco trucks to some of the most revered Mexican restaurants north of the border, Tucson takes its cuisine very seriously.
Pro-Tip: Start along Tucson’s 12th Avenue for an authentic taste of the Best 23 Miles and work your way from there.
If you’d like to learn more about the Tucson Jazz Festival, or to purchase tickets now, visit the festival’s website.