Music Clubs & Positive Acts of Congress

The 17th Street Music Club in Tucson started with an idea that was developed 15 years ago, when the former 17th Street Market and World Music Store opened its doors to local musicians and songwriters by creating a performance space and hosting all types of music events.

The World Music Store became a popular spot for concerts, open mic performances, songwriting contests and drum circles, and became a destination for purchasing world instruments, guitars, and drums. At one time it carried the largest inventory of local artist music CDs in Tucson.

Hot Jazz Jubile

Located just east of downtown, this 12,000 square foot complex now hosts the 17th Street Music Club, a private club and gathering place for musicians and music lovers providing its members with premier access to concerts and events, workshops and seminars, performance opportunities and music lessons for all age groups.

WoodSongs Coffeehouse Tucson has events there on the last Tuesday of each month and it is an all acoustic Listening Room experience for musicians and their fans of all genres. There is no food or bar service and the focus of the venue is truly to listen to the musicians.

The Hot Club of Tucson at WoodSongs Coffeehouse: Matt Mitchell (gtr),Nick Coventry (vln) and Evan Dain (bs) (photo by Doug Bowers)

We went to not only see the Hamilton Beech quintet perform but the Hot Club of Tucson was featured at the second set. Doug Bowers (gtr), Arlene Tomlinson (bs), and Suzette Sommerer (vln) together with Lou Courtney (bj) and Matt Teller (mando) form the Hamilton Beech group and we saw them at the All Frets Reunion in August. Doug is also the President of the Tucson Frontporch Music Association, a public charity.

UpBeat Records

The Hot Club of Tucson has been together for quite a number of years and has a steady gig at the downtown Hotel Congress for their Sunday brunch from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm. Nick Conventry (vln) is also with the Black Market Trust, Evan Dain (bs) is also with the Wildcat Jazz Band, and Matt Mitchell (gtr) swing in the style of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. This trio of accomplished musicians was fun to watch and their interplay was superb. A group together for such a length of time becomes a single entity and their responses to each other are magical.

Expressing the acoustic gypsy jazz of their inspirations, the trio took on several well-known compositions and transformed them into Django-style presentations. It was truly a pleasure to witness their creativity and dedication to this art form. This style also known as Le Jazz Manouche typically features an acoustic guitar, violin, and double bass but an accordion and/or clarinet are often added with various other bands.

A few miles west, the previously mentioned downtown Historic Hotel Congress was built in 1919 and has several venues for music lovers. Once known as the place where the notorious John Dillinger was captured on January 24, 1934, the Hotel is now known for its music scenes. The Club Congress came about in 1985 and is a showcase for national and local bands, performance artists, poets, and DJs. The Century Room, opened in February 2022, was carved out of the Copper Hall, the Hotel’s banquet and special events facility. It boasts a beautiful bar that emphasizes jazz artists and vinyl recordings featuring iconic musicians of the past and present. The Plaza Stage was extensively expanded and embellished over the past few years and it is an adjacent outdoor partially-covered attraction with food trucks and full service bars available. It has the largest seating capacity of the three venues.

Ron Hinkle (bj), Marco Rosano (p), Kevin Ravellette (cl), Sly Slipetski (tuba), Guy Senese (cnt), Kenji Lancaster (dr) Zayden Morgan (tb)

We went to the Century Room this week to see the Mysterious Babies Traditional Jazz Band that plays every Wednesday evening. When the local “lindy-hop” dance club visited, the Swing Cats enjoyed the music and took to the floor with great enthusiasm. Traditional jazz is after all dance music and it is fitting that the dancers bring that mood back to the entire audience in attendance. The intimate setting is perfect for recreating the atmosphere of the era. Music Director Arthur Vint (dr) has done a tremendous job in pursuing not only local musicians but those he knew from his New York residency prior to returning to his hometown a few years ago.

A few days later we gathered at the Plaza Stage to see Tommy Castro and the Painkillers with special guest Deanna Bogart. Tommy (gtr/v) and his three band members (gtr, dr, p) concentrate on a form of electric blues and R&B in a rock and roll style and in 2008, Tommy won the BB King Music Award for Entertainer of the Year. The band has also won a Band of the Year award and an Album of the Year award. Fellow musician, Randy McDonald (gtr) has been with the band for over 30 years. At 68, Tommy is still going strong and is a talented performer with many upcoming concerts across the United States and Europe. Guest artist Deanna Bogart (sx/p) accompanied the quartet with a wailing tenor and her delta-style piano playing was reminiscent of Marcia Ball or Jon Cleary.


Back at the Century Room after the Plaza Stage, we caught the last set of New York tenor saxophonist Roxy Coss and her three bandmates from New York: Calli O’Doherty (p), Russell Hall (bs) and Bryan Carter (dr). She also played the soprano sax on several of her own compositions. The Grammy-winning Ms. Coss is on the Board of Directors for the Jazz Education Network, which will have its 2024 annual convention in New Orleans in early January. She is also on the faculty of The Juilliard School and is the President and Founder of the Women in Jazz Organization.

Between WoodSongs Coffeehouse and the Hotel Congress, live music is abundant in Tucson and getting more and more attention from its local citizens. Music is just what we need during these uncertain times and being with friends while enjoying it creates priceless moments!

After 48-1/2 years, Shelly Gallichio is a retired Real Estate Associate Broker in Tucson, Arizona and despite growing up in Chicago, fell in love with the clarinet and the New Orleans sound at the age of three—she intends to spend the next 48-1/2 years seeking that sound! Reach her at [email protected]

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