Friday, January 15, 2021

Posted By on Fri, Jan 15, 2021 at 2:00 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY PHOTO
Courtesy photo
DJ Jahmar is one of the busiest DJs in town, and it will take more than a pandemic to stop him. When he’s not working with the non-profit Deejays Against Hunger, he’s filling local clubs with authentic, rhythmic reggae. But even during COVID downtime, Jahmar is keeping active with livestreams and recording new music. Jahmar’s latest album, Zona Riddim, features collaborations with a wide range of vocalists and clean club instrumentals.

“I started working on the Zona Riddim album in March 2020 right when COVID hit because all of my DJ residences were banned due to city ordinances,” Jahmar said. “I still wanted the world to hear my music, so I decided I was going to release an album.”

Zona Riddim features a variety of guests across its eight tracks, all of which work off a similar instrumental in the Jamaican tradition. And it’s a tradition familiar to Jahmar, who has worked as a DJ for more than a decade, learning from his father Papa Ranger, a longtime KXCI reggae DJ and owner of the now-shuttered Twelve Tribes Reggae Shop. 

“In Jamaica we do reggae albums different, we do Riddim albums,” Jahmar said. “A Riddim is a compilation of artists on the same beat/instrumental but with different songs.”

Jahmar’s warm, energetic beats are a versatile template for the guest singers, working beneath autotuned rap and cleanly sung vocals. The album features both international and local reggae figures, including Josh David Barrett from the Wailers, Safaree from Love & Hip Hop, Denzel White, Los Rakas and Bobby Hustle.

These collaborations add to Jahmar’s goal for the album: to represent Jamaican culture and reggae music on the West Coast, and to keep people moving to his music no matter the circumstance.

Zona Riddim is available on music streaming platforms like Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal and more. For more information, visit

Posted By on Fri, Jan 15, 2021 at 11:26 AM

French/Tucson singer Marianne Dissard has released the latest in her cover series, a complete re-working of Ritchie Valens’ “Come On Let's Go!” with a music video to boot.

Dissard and producer Raphael Mann deconstruct the rock ‘n’ roll classic, upping the sensuality in a way only a French singer like her can. What was originally a sweet, energetic tune has been reinvented with deep drums, wild saxophone and pauses to complete silence to stretch out the romantics.

But of course, the star of the show is Dissard’s vocals in her signature chanteuse style, highlighting the blunt message of the song: “wanting to fuck someone.” However, things are bound to get more complex in a pandemic.

"It's not so much reworking any of the songs, but trying to find the core concept or message of a song and working from there," Dissard said about the series. "That's the trick with covers: You have to find something that's already there and take it to where you as the artist can bring something new and fresh."

The track fits well in her series of “drastic re-imaginings” of classic tracks during pandemic times, and also features Tucsonan Naim Amor on guitar. Dissard’s collections of pandemic re-imaginings are slated to be released as an album in summer 2021. Other covers in the series include Phil Ochs, Bobbie Gentry and Carly Simon.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Posted By on Wed, Jan 13, 2021 at 11:46 AM

COVID cancellations continue into the new year with the organizers for the annual Tucson Jazz Festival announcing that the 2021 festival is off.

Although this year's event was scheduled to take place outside in Armory Park, and with a smaller lineup and timeframe than previous years, the organizers have decided even the reduced event isn't feasible with Arizona claiming the worst viral spread in the nation.

"While we hoped by March of 2021 we would be able to host the Festival in a safe, enjoyable manner, it is now clear it's just not worth the risk," said festival executive director Khris Dodge. "We all look forward to the time when we can gather and enjoy live music together, but for now our priority must be the safety and well-being of our community."

The event organizers are currently working on plans for the 2022 festival, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 14-23. For more information, visit

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Posted By on Thu, Dec 31, 2020 at 2:55 PM

Tucson Weekly columnist Brian Smith’s article about the late guitarist Doug Hopkins, co-founder of the Tempe rock band Gin Blossoms, is being turned into a feature film. Smith originally wrote the article for the Detroit Metro Times in 2007, before he and his wife Maggie turned it into a screenplay titled "Lost Horizons." The film is now in pre-production and will be produced by Sarah Platt and Mike Tankel. The director and cast have not yet been selected.

"I’ve been wanting to tell this story in a film for many many years, but it finally came to fruition lately with my wife Maggie as writing partner," Smith said. "I knew Doug really well. He was a good friend, the kind who was never not there. I knew the shy, empathic, totally brilliant, cockeyed and writerly side to him. I loved him dearly. As did many people who knew him. He left a long, long shadow. Really, that love for him was the launching point for the script."

Hopkins co-founded Gin Blossoms in 1987. The band rose to fame after the release of their second studio album, 1992’s New Miserable Experience, which eventually went multi-platinum with singles like "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You." Smith’s original Metro Times article detailed Hopkins' songwriting prowess, as well as his alcoholism, interpersonal struggles, and untimely death.

“The alcoholic side of him is there, and it can be brutal, and it is brutal, but there is also the tender, kind, generous, and absolutely witty and brilliant side to the man that needed to be told,” Smith said. “Also, the guy was a genius at whittling down complicated human truths into a three-minute pop song, such sadnesses beneath the surface. So precious few songwriters, before or since, could do that as well as Doug. That’s truth. Yeah, this all makes his story so hard to tell, and also makes it really layered and strangely beautiful.”

Brian and Maggie have collaborated on multiple projects before. Maggie directed a documentary based on Brian’s Tucson Weekly column “Tucson Salvage,” and they have also started a local press, R&R Press.

"Am I excited about the film in pre-production? Absolutely. Maggie and I are really excited because, for one thing, it is really difficult getting a film made," Smith said. "I am also really nervous because Maggie and I really want it to be accurate to Doug’s heart, to capture the essence of the man’s beauty, and tragedy."

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Posted By on Thu, Dec 17, 2020 at 12:47 PM

Scott Kerr, a.k.a The Vinyl Wizard - KMKR 99.9
KMKR 99.9
Scott Kerr, a.k.a The Vinyl Wizard

If you hung out anywhere around Fourth Avenue or downtown Tucson in the past decade, you're most certainly familiar with multi-instrumentalist and KMKR DJ Scott Kerr, a.k.a The Vinyl Wizard.

Kerr, 51, passed away in November.

His friends at KMKR 99.9 FM are celebrating Kerr's beautiful and musical life with a Facebook Live event, featuring DJ sets by DJ Herm Guzman, remembrances from Tucson's creative community and a virtual benefit auction featuring Scott's massive collection of musical gear, instruments, costumes and other mementos. Proceeds will go to the Kerr family and KMKR Radio 99.9 FM.

The event kicks off at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 18.

Click here for more information about the auction and celebration of the Vinyl Wizard's life. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Posted By on Wed, Dec 9, 2020 at 1:30 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY PHOTO
Courtesy photo
Jessica Tanner wrote and developed the nine songs on her debut album over multiple years – but with their soft melancholy, it’s fitting for them to release during this period of extended isolation. Tanner, who goes as Asphalt Astronaut on her solo folk release Antares, drew inspiration from heartbreak, astronomy and Fourth Avenue.

Originally from Tucson, Tanner moved to Phoenix when she was young, but returned here to attend the University of Arizona. The songs on Antares serve as a kind of timeline for Tanner over the past few years: changing her major, moving through relationships, speculating on perspectives. And with an extended quarantine, she suddenly had the time to put all the pieces together.

Entirely self-written, recorded and produced, Antares is a lonesome album, but it would be a disservice to simply call it depressing. With a soulful voice and simple instrumentation, Tanner does share her personal woes, but jumps between characters and perspectives in the stories she sings. While most of the songs come off as listless, the jumps between acoustic guitar- and piano-driven tracks add color—or perhaps another shade of gray.

Although the album wasn’t released under her own name, Tanner leaves little between herself and the listener.

“I try to be a pretty open person,” Tanner said. “I know a lot of artists will come up with a persona, but that didn’t feel fitting. It’s very autobiographical, so it would have felt disingenuous to introduce myself as someone other than who I am.”

The songs have never been performed live. In fact, Tanner says she only recently felt comfortable singing in front of friends and family. She admits it might come as a surprise to many of her friends that she’s recorded an album at all. But her dark, mellow voice hints at experience—or at the very least comfort—with her singing and storytelling abilities. Antares’ rawness does result in some production hiccups, but more than anything else they manage to add to the album’s style.

“On one hand, I almost didn’t put anything else because I was thinking: ‘How is this different than a million other people who are doing an acoustic recording?’” Tanner said. “But this is what I needed to do.”

Monday, November 30, 2020

Posted By on Mon, Nov 30, 2020 at 10:45 AM

While we didn't have a whole lot of new theatrical movie offerings this weekend (although a new Croods movie opened nationwide), there is a most notable streaming offering now playing via The Loft's streaming series, and other streaming platforms such as Apple TV and Amazon.

Here's a review of the new documentary, Zappa:

Zappa isn’t the first posthumous documentary on one of the 20th century’s greatest composers (and personalities), but it’s most certainly the best one yet.

Crowdfunded and years in the making, it’s bolstered by access to Zappa’s immense vault full of unheard audio and unseen video. Directed by Alex Winter (Bill from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and the man who helmed the great cult flick Freaked), it’s a deeply felt, even heartbreaking look at the man who left us way to soon at the age of 52.

The doc begins with footage of Zappa playing his guitar, for what turned out to be the last time in public, in a celebration of the Soviets withdrawing their troops from Czechoslovakia (Zappa died in ’93). The film then goes back to the very beginning of Frank’s artistic life. Winter spends some good time on the early years, including Zappa’s home movies with his family, his obsession with composer Edgar Varese, and time spent at Studio Z, his first recording studio.

After the movie announces the formation of Frank Zappa and Mothers of Invention in ’65, it starts leaning on former band members like saxophonist Bunk Gardner, guitarists Ray White, Steve Vai and Mike Keneally, percussionist Ruth Underwood and bassist Scott Thunes to handle much of the narration. For fans, it’s just a great thing to hear all of the Zappa archival interviews interweaving with current takes from his past bands.

Nice touches include Vai recounting the complexities of “The Black Page,” followed by new footage of Underwood playing it stunningly on the piano accompanied by drummer Joe Travers. Keneally tells the story of illustrator Cal Schenkel’s album covers and, most wonderfully, the original handwritten note from daughter Moon Unit Zappa that birthed the hit single “Valley Girl.”

Early on, Winter often relies upon old monster movie footage to accompany interview audio. At first it’s a bit annoying, but as Frank reveals later in the film, he adored monster movies, so perhaps that was a creative choice Zappa himself would’ve made in telling his story. The same could be said of the often haphazard, zippy editing, which resembles the animated works Zappa directed with Claymation artist, Bruce Bickford, who we get to see making an all-new figure of Frank.

The film’s most heartwarming moment? Home video footage of Baby Moon Unit yawning, followed by Frank yawning while playing with her, all accompanied by the Firebird Suite on the soundtrack. Frank’s wife Gail (who passed away in 2015) gets some good screen time through an archival interview, while his children (Ahmet, Dweezil, Moon Unit and Diva) all appear in older footage.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Posted By on Wed, Oct 28, 2020 at 9:54 AM

Fresh from a win as Tucson's Best Musical Act in last week's Best of Tucson®, Calexico announced  this morning that they are releasing a new album of holiday music coming out on Dec. 4.

"We had a blast making this holiday album sending tracks to friends and band members stretching from The States to Europe, Mexico and Africa as well," said Burns. "It truly is a celebration of diversity and coming together, something that’s been constant with Calexico on album and on tour. Since we can’t play live in concert at a venue near you we thought that we would help with this season’s shift and bring this celebration on album into your living room."

Listen to the first single above or on your favorite streaming services and preorder the album here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Posted By on Tue, Oct 27, 2020 at 4:45 PM

Tucson-based psych/cumbia rockers have released the second single from their upcoming sophomore album Genesis, set to release Feb. 19, 2021. The new track, "May They Call Us Home," features the band's familiar blend of borderlands guitar and trippy production, and ventures further into the esoteric themes teased by the first single "Genesis of Gaea."

The track comes with a new music video, stuffed with a blend of desert imagery, spiritual elements, and surreal editing a la Jodorowsky's El Topo. The video was written and directed by Charlie Stout, and features XIXA traveling through the Sonoran Desert, beckoned by a monk played by Tucson musician Howe Gelb (Giant Sand).

“The song infuses the tones and landscapes of our Sonoran homeland together with the rhythm and melody that we’ve found in chicha music,” said XIXA member Gabriel Sullivan in an interview with FLOOD Magazine. “It is us bringing Spanish and English lyrics together. It is us bringing mysticism and spiritual consciousness together with the earth.”

Got more Tucson music news? Email

Friday, October 23, 2020

Posted By on Fri, Oct 23, 2020 at 2:29 PM

The two-day lineup has been announced for the 2021 Tucson Jazz Festival, which will take place Saturday and Sunday, March 20-21, on the main outdoor stage at Armory Park, 220 S. Fifth Ave.

Saturday will include performances by Nayo Jones, Ghost-Note, Cory Wong, and Dirty Loops. Sunday will feature Pacific Mambo Orchestra, Marcus Miller, Dave Grusin + Lee Ritenour, and St. Paul & The Broken Bones.

Social distancing protocols will be instituted throughout the festival, and face masks will be required for all attendees. Reservations for tickets to the 2021 Tucson Jazz Festival are now available.

The following artist info is from the Tucson Jazz Festival:

1 p.m., March 20
Nayo Jones (pronounced Nīyō) is the Chicago-born jazz vocalist based in New Orleans, where she regularly performs with her band, The Nayo Jones Experience. Her vocal range has been compared to Natalie Cole, Nancy Wilson and Whitney Houston. Annually, she can be seen at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and French Quarter Fest. She has toured with Kermit Ruffins as the featured vocalist, headlined at various jazz festivals and most recently joined forces with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.

3 p.m., March 20
Ghost-Note is a band with an explosion of sound pushing funk music into the future. Building on the uplifting, pioneering foundations laid out by James Brown and Sly & The Family Stone, they infuse their music with tastes of Afrobeat, hip-hop, psychedelia and more. The band creates seductive, danceable grooves and offers a contagious feel-good energy to ensure their audiences “let loose and connect.” 

CORY WONG with Special Guest CODY FRY
5 p.m., March 20
Cory Wong considers himself music’s answer to motivational speakers like Tony Robbins. The NY-born, Minneapolis-raised guitarist attended the University of Minnesota and the McNally Smith College of Music. With head-spinning rhythm guitar wizardry, technical ebullience, and laugh-out-loud jokes, he is both a sought-after collaborator and celebrated solo artist.

7 p.m., March 20
Stockholm, Sweden, band Dirty Loops are known for their jazz fusion re-harmonized covers of pop songs like "Baby" by Justin Bieber, "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele, and "Wake Me Up" by Avicii, but don’t let the pop covers fool you. These longtime friends and schoolmates borrow from jazz, jazz fusion, gospel, funk, electronica and disco.

1 p.m., March 21
After 10 years of due diligence, the Pacific Mambo Orchestra gained recognition with a crowd-funded, self-titled debut resulting in a GRAMMY for "Best Tropical Latin Album." This San Francisco based orchestra is leading the rebirth of Latin big band music, using the traditions of the classic mambo-craze orchestras of the '50s. While their repertoire consists of mostly original scores they also include clever arrangements of hit songs, performed in English and Spanish.

3 p.m., March 21
It is said that Marcus Miller has one of the most enviable careers in music, having performed, recorded and toured with legendary artists such as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan and Luther Vandross, in addition to working with various rock legends, hip hop icons and pop stars. Marcus Miller is a multi-instrumentalist, albeit primarily known as an electric bassist.

5 p.m., March 21
Dave Grusin, a 10-time Grammy winner, is a seven-decade music professional: pianist, arranger, composer, record producer and co-founder of GRP Records. Grusin is considered one of the top 10 film scorers of his generation, writing more than 60 film scores, including The Graduate, On Golden Pond and The Fabulous Baker Boys, and receiving eight Academy Award nominations and one Oscar.

Grammy winner Lee Ritenour has been a guitarist for six decades beginning with session work in the late '60s. It was in the studio with the Mamas and the Papas that he earned the nickname "Captain Fingers." He has garnered 19 Grammy nominations, #1 spots on guitar polls, a Lifetime Achievement Award from Canadian SJ Awards, Alumnus of the Year Award from USC and 35 chart songs from more than 40 releases.

7 p.m., March 21
Since forming in 2012, Alabama-based rock & roll soul band, St. Paul & The Broken Bones has released two albums, toured the world relentlessly, opened for the Rolling Stones, and appeared on Letterman. They have become a must-see performance due in part to frontman Paul Janeway’s fearless showmanship, thoughtful lyrics, and dedication to performance. Janeway is supported by co-band leader Jesse Phillips and a full eight-man roster of the best young instrumentalists in the South.