Lizzy & the Triggermen to bring swing to Hotel Congress stage Friday

Lizzy and the Triggermen will bring their smooth swing performance to the Hotel Congress Plaza stage during the Tucson Jazz Festival.

The 10-piece swing jazz band from Los Angeles will play on Friday, Jan. 19 at 7 p.m.

“I’ve had a very circuitous path to jazz,” vocalist and songwriter Lizzy Shapiro said.

Shapiro is a singer with a timeless voice and she rules the stage with swagger and grace. She is accompanied by her bandmates, the Triggermen. She began singing with opera, but found it wasn’t a fit for her. Shapiro said the songs in operas are written for specific types of voices.

“I completely changed directions and went into screenwriting and acting and one of my shows got done and was nominated for EMMY awards, which was so awesome. But I found I really missed music and performing. But as I looked at the current genres, I mean, even Broadway has gone more pop – and I don’t sound good singing those styles of music,” she said.

One day, she was asked to sing for a wedding – which was 1920’s themed – and she went on a deep-dive into jazz.

“I found this really obscure song called ‘If You Want The Rainbow (You Must Have The Rain),” Shapiro said. “And it was a lightbulb moment for me.”

Shapiro had her idea and her inspiration to start a big band and play jazz but “as reality began to sink in,” she became “more deflated.” As she was getting ready to give up, she took the subway in New York City one night.

“I was sitting next to this man in the subway and I noticed he had handwritten sheet music on his lap,” Shapiro said. “And at the top of it said ‘If You Want The Rainbow (You Must Have The Rain).'”

Shapiro said she and the man started talking and when she expressed her dream to start a band, he gave her his business card and the rest fell into place. Seven years ago, Lizzy and the Triggermen came to be.

Shapiro writes the songs and their musical director Dan Barrett, who played lead trombone for Benny Goodman during his career, shares his expertise with the band.

“It’s a lot of work — even soundchecks take so much planning and work when you have a big band,” Shapiro said. “But when you hear the full horn section and the rhythm section — it’s so visceral.”

For Shapiro, a new jazz age could be in the future.

“A lot of people see jazz as something so esoteric and intellectual, but swing music is so visceral and accessible,” Shapiro said. “Songs could be about some hard and dark topics but it’s so jubilant. And we get a lot of young Gen Z folks who come out to the shows and I think that there’s a hunger for music that sounds human.”

Just as slow fashion and slow food become part of the landscape in a world that moves at a fast pace, Lizzy and the Triggermen bring the essence of “slow music.”

“I started gardening during the pandemic and I saw that I could either grow a tomato for three months or go to the store and buy a tomato, which would take me five minutes,” Shapiro said. “Now, I don’t even know if I ate the tomato I bought at the store but I took so many pictures of the one tomato I grew in my garden and sent it to everybody. I ate that tomato as if I had just climbed Mount Everest. Our music is so difficult to make and it takes a lot of work – we can’t release EPs all the time –  and it’s such a novel thing in our modern era.”

Shapiro said she hopes people who come to her show feel they had an experience they remember.

“I think great live performances have a way of imprinting on you and you kind of carry them with you your whole life,” Shapiro said. “I hope people leave our show feeling somewhat different from when they came. The best shows we’ve ever had, people tell us they feel they got away for a bit.”