Swingin’ Jazz in Chandler, AZ

The theme for this year’s Arizona Classic Jazz Society Festival was “Come, Swing with Me” and we certainly did! Held again at the San Marcos Golf Resort in Chandler, Arizona, the Festival showcased the composers, arrangers, lyricists and performers of the era. An early November weekend was met with beautiful, sunny weather and the hotel’s accommodations are always a highpoint.

The dance floors at three of the four venues were well utilized and at one point the Lindy Hop Exchange held mini-dance lessons for all to enjoy and contests for those limber enough to display their energetic steps. Dancers from both within Arizona and surrounding states applauded one another with intricate moves and balance-defying paces. The Inter City Strictly Lindy contest took place on Saturday. It is always fun to watch! The Phoenix Lindy Exchange was celebrating its 21st year as the Home of Happy Feet. Dabney Hopkins started the Exchange and he and his wife, Karen, are fixtures on the dance floors. With various partners, they encourage and inspire all their “students and members” to get out there and do their best. On Friday afternoon they led the second line parade with parasols behind Cheryl’s Vintage Jazz, St. Louis Stompers and Queen City Jazz Band. They rambled all around through the halls and outdoor pathways while snaking through the venues and patios!

Red Wood Coast

Thursday night started out with Something Doin’ – The Big Little Ragtime Band – and its tribute to early Ragtime. Former Queen City Jazz Band member, Maurie Walker (bj) gave some renditions of a “patrol”—a regular march with a tempo bass line. Ragtime itself is a forerunner of jazz and its most common trait is syncopation. To “rag” a piece was to syncopate its melody. Hank Troy (p) deftly displayed the methods of the genre as the left hand plays the bass line on the first and third beats, and the chords on the second and fourth beats. The right hand then embellishes the melody with syncopated rhythms. Additional current Queen City members John Bredenberg (bj/cl) and Bill Clark (tuba) completed the line-up for the opening numbers.

Pianists extraordinaire Stephanie Trick and Paolo Alderighi are always a festival favorite and with their four-hand playing, they are a delight! One set had them with Nicole Pesce (p) from WE 3 + 1 and that was a mind-blowing experience for the audience. Another set with Danny Coots and Sam Rocha recreated some of Erroll Garner’s famous tunes of the times.

Danny Coots (dr) and his groups include The Jazz Quintet with Marc Caparone (tp/cnt), Brian Holland (p), Steve Pikal (bs) and John Otto (reeds) and Groovus with Brian and Steve. Their Fats Waller tribute was exceptional! It was exciting to hear John Otto again after not seeing him since our trip to Lacey, Washington over seven years ago.

Hot Jazz Jubile

The St. Louis Stompers with Steve Lilley (cnt), John Gillick (dr), Michael Lilly (reeds), David Majchrzak (p), Jon Siddle, (tb) and David Zink (sousa) came together for a Neolithic Swing presentation. Steve titled it that way to include transitional bands and swing giants such as Dorsey, Goodman, Berigan, Hawkins, Whiteman and others during the late 1929s and mid- 1930s.

St. Louis Stompers – Dave Majchrzak (p), Mike Lilley (sopsax/cl), Steve Lilley (cnt), John Gillick (dr), Jon Siddle (tb), David Zink (sousa)

Queen City Jazz Band featured Early Dance Band Arrangers while Wende Harston (v) provided vocals to some of the well-known instrumentals. Bill Clark (tuba), Kevin Bollinger (tp), John Bredenberg (reeds), Tony Pantelis (dr), Eric Saffeldt (tb), Rory Thomas (bj) and Hank Troy (p) stayed in the theme. No one does “Ma Rainey” like Wende!

Wolverine Jazz Band with John Clark (reeds), Bob Barta (bj), Tom Boates (tb), Dave Didrikson (dr), Matt DeChamplain (p), Jeff Hughes (cnt) and Rick MacWilliams (tuba) did a Swinging in All Styles set paying tribute to a variety of swing bands. Their extraordinary front line is very tight and a pleasure to enjoy!

The Clarinet Trio – Katie Cavera (gtr), Evan Dain (bs), Dan Levinson (cl), John Clark (cl), Danny Coots (dr) obscured, Otis Mourning (cl)

Cheryl’s Vintage Jazz had a Western Swing set highlighting Bob Wills – the King of Western Swing. Leader Cheryl Thurston (p/v), Marc Caparone (tp/cnt), Katie Cavera (bj/gtr), Danny Coots (dr), Evan Dain (bs), Dan Levinson (reeds) and Howard Miyata (tb) got in the “swing” of things with appropriate costumes too! They recreated some of the “Wills” effects with some high-pitched wails and even a few yodels.

I didn’t get to see the Brass Nickel Jazz Band but their clarinetist Otis Mourning, was part of the Clarinet Trio with John Clark and Dan Levinson. He was terrific and the trio was outstanding together with Cheryl’s Vintage Jazz.


Tucson’s own Wildcat Jazz Band with Rob Wright (bj/gtr), Rob Boone (tb), Chris Constantine (dr), Evan Dain (bs), Rick Peron (tp), Marco Rosano (reeds) and Ray Templin (p) channeled some Ellington with their set – It Don’t Mean A Thing—but of course they had “that swing.” We get to see them at other times throughout the year especially for their Mardi Gras sets in Tucson.

Howard Alden (bj/gtr) sat in with several bands during the weekend and always adds his wonderful talents to the ensemble. He is a master of those instruments and never ceases to amaze me!

Tom Rigney & Flambeau always draw a crowd for their rousing sets and are extremely popular. With time constraints we only caught one of their last numbers on two sets and the Orange Blossom Special is truly special! Tom makes the number look easy and his expertise is to be admired.


WE 3+ 1 is another crowd pleaser and Nicole Pesce (p) knows a thousand songs by heart! With Sheila Early (dr), Suzanne Lansford (vln) and Renee Grant Patrick (v) the quartet is well- received by an enthusiastic audience.

Add local bands Sentimental Breeze and the Sun City Stompers to the groups we didn’t get to see at the festival, but we do hear several of their members throughout the year at various events in Southern Arizona.

The Sandra Bassett Motown Experience

The Sunday finale showcased the Sandra Bassett Motown Experience although with some initial technical difficulties. With four singers and other different instrumentation, the microphones had to be adjusted from the previous sets. With about a half hour delay the group was then rocking to their Motown beat! Many members of the audience were rocking as well and the enthusiasm spread throughout the ballroom. Sandra is the CEO of the Phoenix Center for the Arts and has offered to not only provide some grant-writing services to the Society but may bring her jazz band to the Festival next year. I will look forward to that!


The Sunday evening Afterglow takes place in one of the smaller venues with dinner and dancing to Cheryl’s Vintage Jazz. The food served at the San Marcos is always delicious and the evening takes on a more relaxed mood. The musicians are upbeat but somewhat sad that the weekend is ending as are the attendees. The room was filled with lots of cheers and “here’s to next year” proclamations amidst clinking glasses and hugs and smiles.

A few of us ventured out to the lobby after dinner to share some additional time together before calling an end to the festivities. Time well spent, with friends and music—how heavenly!

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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