Pick of the Week

Music From the Kitchen

Twenty-two years ago in Tucson, a group of friends gathered in each other's kitchens on Friday nights for potlucks and jam sessions. The group grew over the years and became the Tucson Kitchen Musicians Association, a nonprofit with more than 300 members.

Since 1985, TKMA has held the Tucson Folk Festival. According to executive director Beth Judd, the first was held in Reid Park on one stage. Earlier this year, there were 111 performances on four stages. Approximately 400 musicians are involved with the festival, and the estimated attendance is more than 12,000 during the course of the weekend.

The next festival is scheduled for May 5 and 6. The confirmed headliners are Sisters Morales--who perform contemporary folk and traditional Spanish music, and Trout Fishing in America--a folk-rock band recently nominated a third time for a Grammy.

TKMA receives grants from the Tucson Pima Arts Council and the Arizona Commission for the Arts, but also holds fundraisers throughout the year. Judd says there is a fall and spring fundraiser, along with a holiday concert.

This year's holiday concert takes place from 6:30 to 11 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 16, at Unitarian Universalist Church's Goddard Hall, 4831 E. 22nd St. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; performances begin at 6:45 p.m. Tickets are $8 general; $6 for TKMA, KXCI, Tucson Friends of Traditional Music and Desert Bluegrass Association members; $3 for children younger than 14. Turkey chili, a vegetarian dish and desserts will be served; add $5 for dinner. Proceeds benefit the 22nd Annual Tucson Folk Festival. For more information, call 792-6481 or visit www.tkma.org.

Judd says the musicians will play 45 minutes each and represent the music performed at the festival. "There is no one type of style," she says. "(At the festival), there's bluegrass, swing jazz, a cappella, acoustic folk and singer/songwriter."

At the holiday concert, Tim Wiedenkeller will take the stage at 6:45 p.m. He will be followed by the Old Soul Sisters, Jo Wilkinson and Beverly Seckinger, Poor Django's Almanac, John de Roo and Los Hombres.

Wiedenkeller performs acoustic music combining classical, jazz and vocals. He is most known for playing the banjo. Originally from Southern California and a self-proclaimed lifelong surfer, Wiedenkeller also composes and records film and television scores.

The Old Soul Sisters is an all-female vocal ensemble, specializing in folk music. "We specialize in authentic folk music from around the world," says director Gabrielle Pietrangelo. "The songs we sing are about freedom and relying on a higher power. ... Our main flavor is (that) we take spirituals and do our own arrangements."

Another California native, Jo Wilkinson, sang as a solo artist in Los Angeles for 30 years. She's been in Tucson for the past four years and is the lead vocalist in Tucson's Four Corners. Beverly Seckinger will accompany Wilkinson. Seckinger is a bassist and member of the Wayback Machine.

Adding some acoustic swing jazz to the mix, Poor Django's Almanac performs music in the fashion of Django Reinhardt, the late Belgian jazz guitarist. The group is led by guitarist Allin Kibben of the Hot Club of Tucson.

John de Roo, a finalist in the 2004 and 2005 Tucson Folk Festival songwriting competition, writes songs "with emotional claws." He accompanies his singing with harmonica and guitar playing. He writes on his MySpace page that he "owned the first Sex Pistols record in town ... skipped school to play blues guitar in junk shops ... kissed a lot of trees, slept with my guitar ... ."

Rounding out the night will be Los Hombres, a trio of bluegrass musicians. They are known to play "blistering fiddle tunes."

Judd, a bluegrass guitarist who has performed country and folk music, says Tucson is a "real hot bed of wonderful talent." She got involved in the Tucson Kitchen Musicians Association after attending the first folk festival. She's held various positions in the organization and coordinates the festival with Elise Grecco.

While she admits her work with TKMA is a "very expensive, time-consuming hobby," Judd says she has a passion for music. She appreciates the community support received over the years, but acknowledges the organization is looking for more volunteers, sponsors and donations.

"Every year, we (TKMA and the festival) do worry that we are not going to make it another year, as the need for enough people to make the commitment of their time without remuneration is always a challenge," she writes in an e-mail.

Judd says that she grew up loving community events, and the festival reminds her of a musical carnival where everyone is enjoying themselves. What keeps her going is her love of community service.

"I believe the event is a service to the community. It goes along with my values of giving something back. ... I feel, along with many others who continue to give of their time and skills, a stewardship for the event and know that if it folded, it would be almost impossible to re-create."