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Las Cruces Bulletin newspaper


The Red, White & Blues

Blues festival set for Aug. 9

By Zak HansenLas Cruces Bulletin

For nearly a decade, the Mesilla Valley Jazz & Blues Society (MVJBS) has dedicated itself to promoting blues and jazz music in southern New Mexico.

As two of the most quintessentially U.S. art forms – both styles originated on our shores – what could be more American than an evening of great food, flowing wine and live music?

From 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9, the lush foregarden of St. Clair Winery & Bistro, 1720 Avenida de Mesilla, will come alive with jazz and blues music during the MVJBS’ first-ever Red, White & Blues Festival.

Featuring performances from Marc and Tina Schwartz joined by James Shearer, 24/7 Blues Band and Muddy Hands Blues Band, the MVJBS’ first Red, White & Blues Festival promises to be a great evening full of food, fun, wine, dancing and, of course, jazz and blues music under the sinking summer sun.

Blues duo Marc and Tina Schwartz have been performing together since they first met at the Soap Creek Saloon in Austin, Texas, in 1983. Performing a variety of blues styles includingMississippi Delta, Carolina Piedmont and Texas Pineywoods on acoustic and steel guitar – with a bit of ukulele – the duo will be joined by New Mexico State University professor and renowned tuba player James Shearer on the low notes.

Known for its high-energy live performances – and wisecracking stage antics – 24/7 Blues Band plays a mix of standards and originals. The fivepiece – Gary Stamper on vocals and guitar, Ron Grose on bass and vocals, Gary Lambert on keyboard and vocals, Larry Blevins on sax and vocals and Ian Stamper on drums – will play from 6 to 8 p.m., the evening’s second act.

Closing out the evening from 8 to 10 p.m. is the Muddy Hands Blues Band, formed in 2011 in Las Cruces. With Ben Altairano on vocals and harp, Chris Wood on drums, Bill Godby on guitar and Norwood Yamini on electric bass, the group plays a mix of Chicago blues, Texas shuffle and Memphis blues – tunes from Muddy Waters, BB King, Jimmy Reed, Slim Harpo and others.

Gathering this variety of talented jazz and blues musicians is par for the course for the Mesilla Valley Jazz & Blues Society, which holds performances at least monthly, but this type of summer festival is a first for the group.

“We’d been doing blues performances throughout the summer for the past couple of years, and decided it would be more exciting and draw more of the community if we did it as a festival, involving more people in it and more than one band,” said James Helder, festival coordinator.

This desire to incorporate a larger swath of the community and expose a greater audience to these quintessential American musical forms speaks to the very heart of the organization. The mission of the MVJBS, a nonprofit founded in 2006, is to promote the appreciation of jazz and blues art forms in the Mesilla Valley and the creation increased opportunities for established and aspiring area musicians alike.

The society meets the third Sunday of each month, and each meeting features live music from some of the region’s best and brightest jazz and blues players. In addition to holding these monthly concerts, the group organizes several larger events each year, including the annual Mesilla Jazz Happening, held the first weekend of October on the historic Mesilla plaza.

The MVJBS furthers its mission of preserving these indigenous American art forms through scholarship funds including the Blues Bob Burns Scholarship, which goes to instrumentalists interested in attending NMSU to study music, and the Helen Sachs Memorial Vocal Jazz Scholarship, given to vocal jazz students at either NMSU or University of Texas-El Paso.

Tickets for the Red, White & Blues Festival are $10 in advance and $15 at the door, and may be purchased at St. Clair Winery & Bistro; White’s Music Box, 200 N. Main St.; Mountain Music, 2330 S. Valley Drive; and Hubbard’s Music-NMore, 108 Wyatt Drive.

For more information about the festival or the MVJBS, visit

Zak Hansen can be reached at 680-1958 or zak@

Marc Schwartz, above, will be joined by his wife, Tina, for a performance of country and acoustic blues as the lead act of the Red, White & Blues Festival from 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9, at St. Clair Winery & Bistro. 24/7 Blues Band, below, will also perform.

Jim Shearer will join Marc and Tina Schwartz for a special performance.

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