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WHILE STEPHEN PLAYS HOOKY ...

Despite the fact that music editor Stephen Seigel, fully smitten by the charms of Austin, impetuously decided to extend his stay there by a few days post-SXSW, you can still expect him back at Soundbites headquarters next week. In the meantime, dear readers, you are stuck with yours truly.

And it's lucky for us all that such a diverse and exciting lineup of musical acts has concerts in Tucson on their to-do lists.


CHANNELING CHANO AND DIZZY

The collaborations of conga master Chano Pozo and bebop trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie are legendary, and their union in the late-1940s helped give birth to what we now call Latin jazz and Afro-Cuban music. Pozo played congas with Gillespie's band for several years.

Invoking the spirits of Gillespie and Pozo, contemporary conguero Poncho Sanchez, and trumpeter, bandleader and composer Terence Blanchard released an album, Chano y Dizzy!, last fall in tribute to the work of their musical forefathers.

In his 30-year recording career, the Texas-born, Mexican-American Sanchez has seen the release of more than two-dozen recordings as a leader. He also played in vibraphonist Cal Tjader's band during the late-1970s and early-'80s.

Blanchard was born in New Orleans, where he still lives, surrounded by jazz, as well as music of the Caribbean and Latin America. During his early career, he played with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, and Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. His many albums include a couple of dozen film soundtracks. An active composer for film, he has often worked with Spike Lee, and his trumpet-playing has appeared in more than 50 scores.

Many years ago, I was lucky enough to attend a sublime performance by Blanchard and his hard-bop band in the intimate environs of Cushing Street Bar. He's a world-class talent.

Now, Sanchez and Blanchard—Grammy Award winners, both—are taking their show on the road, performing such classic Pozo tunes as "Manteca," "Tin Tin Deo," "Guachi Guaro" and "Ariñañara," as well as Gillespie's "Con Alma" and "Groovin' High."

The tour will feature the two of them, backed by Sanchez's dynamic Latin-jazz band. Their tour hits Tucson for a date at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 24, at UA Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd. Tickets cost from $22 to $42, with discounts available. Call 621-3341 for more information, or visit www.uapresents.org.


CHARMING COUNTRY CLASSICS

Canadian singer-songwriter Ian Tyson may not have the biggest catalog or the most-notorious history in music, but he has written some of the most-beautiful songs in the country, Western and folk-music canon.

You can't hear such tunes as "Someday Soon" or "Navajo Rug" and not be charmed by Tyson's emotionally laden lyrics, effortless melodies and stark, beautiful arrangements. In the 1960s, he was half of the folk duo Ian and Sylvia, who gave the world many fine tunes; probably the most well-known of them is "Four Strong Winds," which has been covered by more than 100 artists, including Neil Young, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Marianne Faithfull and Waylon Jennings.

Still vigorous at 78 years old, Tyson continues to tour and record regularly when he's not working on his ranch in Alberta. His most-recent release was last year's EP From the Stone House.

Tyson is scheduled to play at 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 23, in the excellent acoustic environment at the Berger Performing Arts Center on the campus of the Arizona Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, 1200 W. Speedway Blvd. Ticket prices range from $20 to $45. For more information, call (520) 455-5053, or visit www.gopattywagon.com.


FRENCH CHANSONS MEET "POST-ROCK"

The local duo of singer Marianne Dissard and guitarist Matt Mitchell will play with the support of a full band next Thursday at Café Aqui.

Dissard (French by birth, Tucsonan by choice) is a writer, filmmaker and singer known for her charismatic performances of chansons from the golden age of French cabaret and salon music—you know, stuff by Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel and the like. She often sings with the endlessly talented guitarist Matt Mitchell, doing his best Django Reinhardt. And for this gig, they'll be joined by a sorta-all-star lineup: Nick Coventry on violin, Connor Gallaher on lap steel guitar, Thøger Lund on double bass, and Sergio Mendoza on drums.

The gig will begin with an opening set by the Oso Street Outreach Band, an amazing Santa Barbara, Calif.-based quartet that also features Coventry. With guitar, bass, drums, violin and occasional group vocals, this group plays a combination of Americana, art-rock, folk, Latin rhythms and Eastern European music that has been called "math-rock world music," a testament to their intricate and eclectic arrangements. Their third album, Harm Reduction (released in 2010), is thrilling and well worth the investment, which you can't say about most of the albums released these days.

This concert, at 8 p.m., next Thursday, March 29, promises to be a rich event, and the intimate, casual space at Café Aqui, 1317 S. Sixth Ave., should serve it well. The admission price is right, too: It's free, but donations are likely to be accepted. Call 623-3767 for more information.


GREETINGS FROM GREENLAND

The delightfully off-beat and sometimes-dissonant pop songs of Inuit singer-songwriter Nive Nielsen, a native of Greenland, are coming our way.

On her soon-to-be-released debut album, Nive Sings!, Nielsen and her band, the Deer Children, play playful, heartfelt and haunting original folk-rock tunes that are enlivened by splashes of noise, the occasional horns, a little ragtime, ukulele and even a musical saw. In her press materials, the strikingly beautiful Nielsen says that she is a real-live Eskimo, but that she does not live in an igloo.

Her album was recorded in San Francisco; Montreal; Bristol, England; and Tucson. It features some cool talent: It was produced by John Parish, mixed by Tchad Blake, and features guest musicians from The Black Keys, Tom Waits' band, and Giant Sand's Howe Gelb.

Nielsen and the Deer Children will play at 9 p.m., Friday, March 23, at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. Also on the bill will be local heroes Howe Gelb, Marianne Dissard and Kaia Chesney. Tickets cost $8, and concertgoers of all ages will be admitted. Call 884-0874 for further details, or visit www.solarculture.org.


SHORT TAKES

Mira Awad and Noa prove through their music that Arabs and Israelis can find peaceful, common ground. Noa is Israel's leading recording artist, playing percussion, guitar and piano. Awad, a Palestinian actress, singer and songwriter, was born in Galilee and is a devoted advocate of women's rights. Both women are successful recording artists on their own, and they've collaborated on the most excellent album There Must Be Another Way, which grew out of their world-renowned single of the same name. They'll perform together at 6:30 p.m., Sunday, March 25, at UA Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd. Tickets range from $22 to $42, with various discounts available. Call 621-3341 for more information.

Fresno, Calif., alternative chamber-rock band Fierce Creatures will play at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Friday, March 23, along with opening acts Spiders Can Fly and The Monitors. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. Cover is $5, and you can head to plushtucson.com, or call 798-1298 for more info.

The Mississippi-based soul-blues singer and guitarist Johnny Rawls will return to Tucson for a gig at 8 p.m., Friday, March 23, at Suite 147 at Plaza Palomino, 2970 N. Swan Road. Tickets cost $15 in advance, $18 at the door, or $10 for students with ID. To learn more, call 319-9966, or visit www.rhythmandroots.org.

More by Gene Armstrong

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