By Alex Gallagher | April 5, 2022

It’s hard for William “Doc” Jones to believe it has been half a decade since he began his efforts to have his state recognize April as Jazz Appreciation Month and April 30 as International Jazz Day.

When Jones began his efforts to have the genre recognized, he quickly realized it would be challenging to receive bipartisan support in a time when there seemed to be a growing divide between people of contrasting political opinions.

He then realized the perfect way to get members of the state’s House of Representatives and senators to congregate around his cause.

“Five years ago, I began to lobby with legislators to create an event called Jazz at Lunch Time where we shut down the streets between Washington and Jefferson,” Jones says.

Two years later, Jones rolled out his idea — at the perfect time.

“In 2019, there was fighting in the house to get this bill passed,” he says. “But when the music started and the food came out, I saw Republicans and Democrats sit down at the same tables, enjoying the food and enjoying this music.” 

The bill unanimously declared April 30 as International Jazz Day in Arizona.

“I was honored to know that we crossed aisles with jazz,” Jones says. “We had Republicans, Democrats and independents enjoying an hour of music and some good food.”

This year, the support of Jazz Appreciation Month and International Jazz Day has stretched outside of Downtown Phoenix as mayors from across the Valley have banded together to share the swinging sounds of jazz with their residents.

“Our state is the first state where I have been able to get the governor, 10 mayors, the full Senate and the full House behind us, and I am humbled by the support we’ve gotten,” Jones says.

There has been support from Gov. Doug Ducey and Mayors David Ortega of Scottsdale, Corey Woods of Tempe and Jerry Bien-Willner of Paradise Valley to produce events across the Valley throughout the month.

“This is a dream come true for not just me but for jazz and blues lovers, because jazz is the roots for so many other genres of music,” Jones says. “For us to be able to have the state recognizing Jazz Appreciation Month and to have all the cities produce some type of event to promote jazz.”

Festivities will begin in Tempe on Friday, April 8, when the Nayo Jones Experience from New Orleans brings the sounds of Louisiana to the Tempe Center for the Arts and reminds concertgoers of where the genre established its roots.

“This music was born here in America in New Orleans and exported all over the world,” Jones says. “Our music moved from the ’50s, where you could dance to it, to the ’60s, when it became avant garde, and then shifted to bebop, where it became so fast that you had to put your seatbelt on to keep up with it.”

A week and a half later, on Wednesday, April 20, the festivities continue with Jazz at Lunch Time, which returns for a fifth year. This year, veterans will toot their horns for dining and dancing guests. 

As exciting as Jazz at Lunch Time is this year, the month of music and festivities will conclude on International Jazz Day in Scottsdale.

The Saturday, April 30, festival, held at the Scottsdale Civic Center, will feature performances by Cold Shott & the Hurricane Horns, Carlos Riuas & Su Orquesta Mehsal, the Nayo Jones Experience, Jesse McGuire Trio, Jaleo Latin Band, and Grammy award winners Richard Elliott and Rick Braun.

Although the lineup touts accomplished acts, Jones is motivated by the event’s fundraising efforts.

“I’m humbled by the attention we’re getting this year, because I’ve heard from several people, ‘If you’re not making money, why are doing this over these years?’” he says. “To which I reply, ‘It’s bigger than just an event, it’s bigger than the artists we put on the stage,’ and I have been acknowledged by Herbie Hancock and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for my due diligence.”

Proceeds from the festival will also be donated to sponsor music programs for at-risk youth in organizations such as Next Student Academy for the Arts, Molina School of Jazz — which has a program that allows 50 students to have their music lessons and instruments covered for a year — and Jones’ summer music program.

“I’ve been in music education for many years, and I realized once you put an instrument in a kid’s hand it helps with their creativity and how they approach life,” Jones says. “The reason that we do this festival is to raise funds for scholarships for young people that want to play this music.”

Whether jazz fans flock to Tempe, Downtown Phoenix or Scottsdale, Jones encourages all fans to do one thing.

“Put on your partying shoes, because we’re going to be dancing and playing all different styles of this music,” he says. “This is not going to be a sit-down concert where you sit down and have to be quiet like you do at the symphony. It’s going to be a party where we’re bringing the flavor of New Orleans.”

Jazz Appreciation Month

April 8

Tempe Jazz Day featuring the Nayo Jones Experience and Mayor Corey Woods at the Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe, 7:30 p.m. $45/$75

April 20

Jazz at Lunch Time at 1700 W. Washington Street, Phoenix, 11 a.m., charge TBA

April 30

Scottsdale Jazz Festival/International Jazz Day at the Scottsdale Civic Center, 3939 N. Drinkwater Boulevard, Scottsdale, 3 p.m., tickets start at $25