Having grown up in a household of jazz enthusiasts, Rowland developed an appreciation for jazz music at an early age. At the age of five or six Rowland heard the vocals of Joe Williams of the Count Basie Orchestra, which has influenced his approach to singing ever since. In the early 1970s, Rowland worked as a singer and actor in Detroit. In 1977 Count Basie hired him to sing on tour, filling the same role his idols Joe Williams and Jimmy Rushing had occupied. For Rowland, it was a dream come true, and he toured with Basie for the next seven years. During his time with Basie, he had the chance to share the stage with Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett.
Dennis Rowland is still best-known for his association with the Count Basie Orchestra but he has been working hard in recent years in building up his solo career. He remembers hearing Joe Williams’ “Every Day” with Count Basie on record regularly when he was five or six and it made a strong impression. Rowland worked as both an actor and a singer locally for a few years in the mid-’70s. The young singer was in Williams’ spot during the last seven years (1977-84) of Basie’s life, touring the world with the classic orchestra. After that period ended, Rowland worked as an actor on stage, settled in Phoenix, Arizona and began recording as a leader for Concord in 1995. Trying to branch beyond the swing/blues/standards repertoire, Rowland’s second Concord album (Get Here) had some R&B-ish numbers and selections open to the influences of pop and funk. His main strength, however, rests with his swinging style and appealing voice which is best displayed on his third Concord disc, Now Dig This, a tribute to Miles Davis.
Born and raised in the ‘Valley of the Sun’ (Phoenix, AZ) Diana Lee has found her inspiration through instrumentalists, vocalists and music of all genres. To hear her is to be seduced by her true unique interpretation.
The daughter of proprietors of a prominent music store, Diana Lee plays nearly every instrument there is. She sang even before leaving her mother’s womb and became professional by age 17. Her first original recording was 1985’s,”Call on Your Friends”. After touring the southwest she collaborated with Donnie Dean on guitar establishing several rock & soul albums and recordings. She has performed and toured with countless superstars all over the world such as, Reba McEntire, Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, Neil Sedaka, David Foster, Stevie Wonder, George Benson.
Billed by the Phoenix New Times as “the premier live hip-hop band in town,” The Stakes have become an institution in Arizona’s local music scene. The band reflects the diverse colors and experiences of the young and the revolutionary, with a realism and authenticity that brings together their unique brand of hip-hop. Their stories and visions come to life onstage through the collaboration of self-made rappers, university-educated performers, cover artists, and gospel musicians, creating an intoxicating blend of energy that will bring you to your feet.
The cultural cross-section represented by The Stakes’ lineup is reflected in their music, which draws from influences ranging from hip-hop classics like The Roots and Tribe Called Quest to soul and pop icons such as Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson to jazz and even classical composers.
Recently, The Stakes were honored to record with the legendary Tower of Power horn section, which has recorded on more than 300 albums including countless A-list acts. This recording and music video serve a fundraiser, with 100% of proceeds benefiting Chicanos Por La Causa’s charitable services.
The Stakes have performed at cultural institutions across Arizona, including the Tempe Center for the Arts and The Nash, as well as a number arts and culture festivals including the Goodyear Lakeside (as the headline act), Tempe Arts, Chandler Jazz, Viva Phoenix, Apache Lake, Arizona Hip-Hop, and Sidepony music festivals as well as the ASU Homecoming celebration and Tour de Fat. In 2017, The Stakes won the Phoenix New Times March Music Madness Battle of the Bands. Most recently, they performed a weekly residency at the Monorchid on Roosevelt Row, which featured a different local guest artist every week and lasted from October of 2019 until the COVID lockdowns in March.
AKA “Sassy” of Sassy and the Sneak Attack, singer-songwriter Venessa Mendez is influenced by a variety of genres including jazz, hip hop, soul and funk. In addition to her performances at the best of Arizona’s music festivals, Venessa has opened for many national acts, including Roger Cline and the PeaceMakers, 50 cent, and Gill-Scott. Venessa and her guitarist bring their talents to HTC’s Pavilion opening for The Stakes on January 14.
PHOENIX AFROBEAT ORCHESTRA [PAO] proudly carries the musical and social torch that was first lit by the powerful duo of FELA KUTI and TONY ALLEN, original inventors of the Afrobeat sound. Led by funky heiress Camille Sledge, the 16-strong orchestra is comprised of the most ambitious and outrageous musicians in Phoenix today – making it the hottest super-group on the hot city scene!
Beginning with a strict repertoire comprised of classic Afrobeat music, PAO has now penned an abundance of original material that melds the eclectic heritage of the ensemble with that classic Afrobeat style. The outcome is a truly powerful sound that pays homage to the masters while maintaining a fierce individuality. Details of upcoming releases are in the works now, so keep your ear to the pavement.
From concert hall to street fair, fashion show to fundraiser, PAO has shared the stage with such musical icons as George Clinton and The Roots, as well as lesser-known masters as wide-ranging as Turkuaz and Morris Alan.
Arouna Diarra, originally from Burkina Faso, West Africa, is an accomplished n’goni & balafon player. Performing a tradition of folk songs reflecting topics from war to building love for one another, Arouna sings with spirit, nostalgia, and great joy, in his native language, Bambara. Arouna brings a dynamic repertoire to the table, full of timing changes and improvisational prowess. He plays the kamale n’goni, a 14-string harp-like instrument (which he makes himself), with a melodic and percussive sensibility.
Arouna was born into a family composed of musicians, poets, and storytellers. Arouna, a twelfth generation musician was destined to bring traditional West African music into the modern day, further developing it while remaining true to it’s roots. Whether performing on stage at Red Rocks, the jungle of Costa Rica, or intimate community settings Arouna and his band bring joy, harmony, and a connection to traditional folk music.
HÄANA is a one-woman orchestra, combining music + tech + art with Nordic/Icelandic influences set to a broken beat. Her original productions are like a dynamic film score, crafting her sounds featuring electronica influences, synthetic sonority, and vocal textures. The resulting sonic palate takes listeners on a journey whose destination is a crossroads between classical and contemporary, organic & man-made, familiar and mysterious.