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Jazz musicians light up Main Gate Square

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A jazz band performs a free concert at Main Gate Square. Every other Friday, University Boulevard becomes a concert venue for anyone to come and experience great jazz musicians.

A warm July evening is perfect for a fun jam session. This week, the Butch Diggs jazz band performed a free concert at Main Gate Square on University Boulevard. Every other Friday during the summer months, jazz bands are scheduled to fill the streets with dynamic music for all to enjoy.

Butch Diggs consists of five fantastic jazz artists who incorporate their talents into six well-known jazz compositions. Some of the popular songs they perform are “Summertime,” “Jean Pierre” and “Chameleon.” 

At the jazz concerts, you can find chairs filled with an eager audience facing a large stage in front of Main Gate Square just across from CVS and Pei Wei. Above the audience, back-yard lights were twinkling brightly against the sunset sky.

Butch Diggs, the lead musician and saxophone player of the band, has always admired the  genre and the concerts held on University Boulevard throughout the year. 

A live jazz concert at Main Gate Square during the Friday night jazz series. This band, similar to Butch Diggs' band, performs relaxing music for an eager crowd of locals on University Boulevard.

“My passion for playing is the best way I can connect with people because I’m sharing a part of myself,” Diggs said. “I love jazz because it’s the root of gospel. I would say jazz focuses more on the music composition than the vocals.”

This summer was Diggs’ fourth performance at Main Gate Square. He hopes the audience grasped the meaning of his music. 

He said if you listen to the instruments, they have a personality of their own. Diggs and his band members like to show versatility with their instruments and jazz tunes.

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“Each jazz song we perform, a member of our group has a chance to showcase themselves,” Diggs said.

Yon Yakobian, the percussionist for Butch Diggs, played the bongos on Friday.

“My favorite part about playing the bongos is that you can fit them into almost any genre of music,” Yakobian said. “Typically, I play for four different bands from traditional Spanish to pop covers. One of my favorite parts about performing is bringing happiness to people for a short amount of time.”

He mentioned that the more he played with his friends on stage, the more fun and comfortable the performances became. 

“We’ve been doing this for about four years now and we’ve really become family,” Yakobian said. “We hardly rehearse because we have become so comfortable with each other musically and as friends.”

Richard Katz, the keyboard player of Butch Diggs’ band and also a UA alumnus from 1996, incorporated jazzy keyboard tunes to the concert.

“Improvisation with my keyboard is one of the best parts about performing,” Katz said. “When you learn to create your own music, you are playing in the moment and you’re playing how you feel, rather than reading off of the music. I keep coming back because I love the people and the culture of Tucson. It’s nice being outside around the college scenery and playing some great jazz music.”

Steve Harris, the bass guitar player, combined his guitar knowledge and improvisation skills when performing multiple exciting solos for the concert.

“I’ve played in the concert about three or four times before with Butch Diggs and other bands like The Coolers who played last month,” Harris said. “Being on stage is great when you get to perform with your friends. It’s a great instrument for accompaniment and I get to make other musicians look good.”

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Audience members Dona Weist and Karen Austin decided to watch the concert along with a nice patio dinner provided by Sinbad’s restaurant, just footsteps away from the concert. 

“Wow! I think they are truly fantastic,” Weist said. “In fact, one of the pieces they performed was one of the first jazz pieces I showed my daughter. This was the first time I came to listen, but I heard about the show on NPR.”

Austin also chimed in to say that Tucson is a huge music and jazz city, and that there will always be talented people here.

The audience at one of the free jazz concerts held every other Friday evening at Main Gate Square. These concerts are a chance for patrons to eat, drink and relax on University Boulevard accompanied by great jazz music.

The jazz concerts are free and open to the public every other Friday, starting at 7:30 p.m. Encourage your friends and family to participate in an evening of jazz while summer lasts.

For more information about the concert schedule, please visit Main Gate Square's website.


Follow Savanah Modesitt on Twitter.



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