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No April Fool’s at the Chandler Jazz Fest!

By Dave Cooper

Chandler Jazz Festival

This weekend, April 1 & 2, historic downtown Chandler will be jam-packed with jazz fans attending the 12th Annual Chandler Jazz Festival. The Crowne Plaza San Marcos Golf Resort and neighboring sites will again host this favorite annual Jazz blowout. Presented on multiple indoor and outdoor stages, it's two days of non-stop, highly charged live music, performed by an impressive lineup of top-notch Valley performers and excellent visiting jazz bands. All performances are free.

Friday afternoon at 4:45pm, the legendary Papa John DeFrancesco Jazz Ensemble gets the ball rolling. On the A.J. Chandler Park main stage, Papa John will lay down his signature sounds on the Hammond B-3 organ, accompanied by an equally strong ensemble of jazz professionals. If you like a soulful combination of standards, ballads and down-home blues, check out this proud yet humble Papa.

Also up Friday on the Main Stage, Fred Forney and his Fred Forney Quintet perform. One of the most in demand freelance trumpeters in the Phoenix Metropolitan area, Forney is first call lead trumpet player for star acts like Tony Bennett, Diana Ross, Al Jarreau, Johnny Mathis, David Foster and many others.

Higher Ground Brass Band - 36th Army Band, the only active-duty Army Band in Arizona, stationed at Fort Huachuca, appears Friday on the Main Stage. More than 50 years ago, on July 17, 1944, the 36th Army Band was designated as the 430th Army Service Forces Band. It has been known by several different designations over the years.

AzucarRounding out Main Stage performances on Friday is Azucar, aptly named for the Spanish word "sugar." Azucar, a six-member band, delivers plenty of sweet, authentic Cuban rhythms and popular Salsa-style dance steps like the Rumba, the Cha-Cha-Cha and the Son. Bring your dancing shoes for this one.

Friday evening at 6:00pm, at the Crowne Plaza San Marcos Golf Resort Fountain Courtyard, seductive Latin and Brazilian music will fill the air with Jeff Jones and Mosaic. On Saturday, presented by the Arizona Jazz Society, the San Marcos Fountain will transform into the New Orleans Music Stage, where the Arizona Jazz Society hosts performances from 1:00 until 7:00. The lineup includes the Sun City Stomperz, the 52nd Street Jazz Band and the Original Wildcat Jass Band.

Beginning at noon and playing into the night, Saturday’s Main Stage lineup features a rich assortment of talent and styles. The Chandler Gilbert Community College Band gets it all started followed by Young Sounds of Arizona. Continuing the day’s performances will be the Higher Ground Brass Band and How Cool is Jazz. Kids will love the interactive session with Kazoos for Kids. Rounding out the day are the Mike Vax Quintet, East Valley Yamaha Music School, Jack Radavich Quartet with Special Guest Joe Magnarelli, the Pete Pancrazi Quartet and the Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Jazz Sextet.

Surrounding A.J. Chandler Park and the San Marcos Resort, the festival atmosphere will be bustling with numerous Sidewalk and Merchant Band vignettes, enhancing the live music experience at every turn. This corridor of mini stages will be located at several favorite wine bars, microbrew pubs, local shops and stores. A complete listing of performances and times is available at www.chandleraz.gov/jazz.

Other fun activities during this weekend’s 12th Annual Chandler Jazz Festival include an Art & Crafts Fair. Many exhibits from local artists and vendors will be on display on Friday and Saturday during festival hours in A.J. Chandler Park.

The Parasol Strolling Walk begins at 12:40pm Saturday, carrying on the New Orleans theme, as jazz musicians don colorful sunshades and saunter along the sidewalks on San Marcos Place. The walk begins at the corner of Boston St. and San Marcos Place and ends at Buffalo St. Make sure to join in and receive your free Mardi Gras beads!

While you enjoy the free performances, drop in on the many galleries, restaurants and shops that make Historic Downtown Chandler a great place to visit. There's plenty of free parking available. Blankets and lawn chair are welcome at all the outdoor performances.

The Crowne Plaza San Marcos Golf Resort, the official hotel of the Chandler Jazz Festival, is offering a special rate when you call 1.888.233.9527. Find out more about the 12th Annual Chandler Jazz Festival at www.chandleraz.gov/jazz, including show times, artist biographies, festival history, maps, parking and more.