There's a new king in town. This weekend, the city of Chandler, once a cotton-growing capital, hosts jazz royalty at the Chandler Jazz Festival. "We turn downtown Chandler into Bourbon Street," says city spokesman Bart Salzman. From Friday, April 25, through Sunday, April 27, bands groove in five restaurants and a resort hotel, all within a few minutes' walking distance of each other. It's the "N'awlins" experience without the cover charge. Even the main events at the historic San Marcos Hotel are free.
Of course, you can't celebrate Mardi Gras without some negotiable currency, and we mean beads. Collect 'em by walking the jazz beat from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights, when merchants hand them out, or catch the mini Mardi Gras parade, led by a Dixieland band. Just like in the Big Easy, parade participants throw beads and other goodies to the crowd.
Once you've got 'em, flaunt 'em at the many topnotch performances. In addition to the bands playing the restaurant gigs, Tony Vacca and the Youth All Stars start the festivities in the San Marcos Pavilion on Friday at 7:30 p.m., followed at 9 p.m. by trumpet virtuoso Jon Faddis, his genius augmented by our own Arizona Big Band. And don't miss the tribute to Phoenix's own Prince Shell, renowned pianist, composer and arranger feted by the Ted Goddard 10tet on Saturday night. On Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. in Dr. A.J. Chandler Park, get your sweetie in the mood with a swing dance featuring the 15-piece Glenn Miller-style Sun Lakes Big Band.
Bebop across town for another music festival, this one a fusion of jazz, blues and Latin music at the Glendale Jazz and Blues Festival. Expert at blending hometown and downtown, Glendale brings top acts to its historic city center: Margo Reed, Khani Cole, Sistah Blue, and Carvin Jones, to name a few. Andy Gonzales of festival opener Barrio Latino is excited about playing the hometown venue. "I love it. I'm from Glendale -- we get to see family and friends, and they get to see us." Gonzales notes that when he was growing up, "Glendale didn't have the cultural events it has now." (Yup. We remember when checkers tournaments in the park supplied the main attraction.) These days, any happening in Glendale is an indulgent affair. Smoke a good cigar, nosh heavenly chocolate or taste a fine Chardonnay while you listen to music on two stages: Latin and blues in Murphy Park and jazz at the adjacent City Hall amphitheater.
Stroll by four dozen arts and crafts booths, and spend an interlude sampling the festival food. Count on Glendale to make you feel at home and bring you the world at the same time.