A new performing arts organization, Mesa Jazz and Blues Theater, is kicking off its 2022-23 season this fall with a star-studded show and celebration.
The nonprofit organization was created for the education and preservation of America’s music: Jazz, blues and R&B, according to a release.
Mesa Jazz and Blues Theater will feature top-level local musicians as well as nationally and internationally recognized artists at reasonable ticket prices, the release states.
It will also provide educational clinics and opportunities for young talent and youth groups to perform.
The grand opening extravaganza is at 6:45 p.m. Oct. 2 and will begin with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The Rhythm Edition Band will kick off the evening, performing some of its comedy tribute skits, followed by Jeff Burkett as Sir Elton, as well as a performance by the Motown Queen, Sandra Bassett.
The second act will continue with the Beth Lederman Jazz Trio, who will then be joined by jazz singer Dennis Rowland, formerly with the Count Basie Orchestra. The final performer will be legendary blues singer Big Pete Pearson and his band. The entire line-up will join the stage for a finale number. The evening will conclude with a joint birthday celebration for Big Pete Pearson and founder, Bill Travis, who will be 86 and 89 respectively.
Mesa Jazz and Blues Theater’s founder, Bill Travis, is a lifelong musician with a vast network of connections in the industry. After being drafted into the Army in 1953, he was accepted into the 4th Armored Division Band. Following the Army, he studied aviation and eventually became a captain for Pan Am Airlines, where he had a 28-year career until retirement.
His love of music stayed with him over the years. After retirement he formed a 17-piece band, the Bill Travis Swing Orchestra, that performed for a decade. Since then, he has been involved in various musical endeavors, including the booking of artists for other theater groups.
As a longtime resident of Mesa, Travis realized the city did not have a theater for live music that specialized in top-level jazz and blues music.
“I felt there was a void to be filled, so I decided to form the Mesa Jazz and Blues Theater as a nonprofit corporation. We’re awaiting the approval of our 501(c)3 non-profit status so that we can expand the organization, as well as youth educational opportunities through donors and sponsorships,” Travis said in the release.
Mesa Jazz and Blues Theater’s home venue is a theater space inside the Connect Church facility at Brown and Higley Roads, which they rent for the concerts. The 300-seat venue features a top-of-the-line sound system and a state-of-the-art LED stage lighting system.
In addition to the grand opening extravaganza, Mesa Jazz and Blues Theater has performances scheduled through April 2023. A sampling of artists includes Nicole Pesce, The Sugar Thieves, Jackie Lopez, Rita Lim, and Chadwick Johnson, as well as a special four-day event with legendary drummer Mike Clark. This multi-day event features two concerts, a drum clinic and meet-and-greet opportunities.
Mesa Jazz and Blues Theater is inside the Connect Church Facility at 5255 E. Brown Road in Mesa. Tickets are on sale for the entire season, and for most performances. They range from $24.50 to $39.50. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to mesajazzblues.com or call 480-226-1630.