After a two-year absence, the Tucson Jazz Society returns to St. Philip’s Plaza, opening its three-concert Jazz Under the Stars series on Sunday with singer Delphine Cortez and the Joel Robin Quartet.

She’s from Chicago. He’s from New York City. Fate put them on a bandstand together in Phoenix 17 years ago. They have been spreading their own sophisticated blend of classic jazz flavors across the Southwest ever since.

“Delphine is an extraordinary vocalist who sings with passion and conviction,” said Robin. “Because she makes every song her own, even the familiar favorites have a fresher tone.

“This will be a very musical evening,” Robin said. ”A tasteful mix of jazz standards with a few contemporary tunes mixed in.”

Cortez was a Midwestern girl who became a staple on Chicago’s own Rush Street in the 1970s, singing regularly upstairs at Billy’s Restaurant and downstairs in Blondie’s Lounge.

She found her own expression extending the jazz styles of Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Nancy Wilson. To these she has added songs from newer artists such as Spencer Day, Al Jarreau and Michael Franks.

Robin grew up in New York City at a time when four jazz radio stations were broadcasting daily. “I absorbed jazz by osmosis,” he likes to say, and became a piano player the same way.

Professionally, Robin takes a special pride in being the thoughtful accompanist. This suits him well, working with such an expressive singer as Cortez.

The other members of Robin’s band are Jerry Donato, sax, Mike King, bass, and Cleve Huff, drums.

Later this month

Oct. 13 is singer Kitty Margolis, accompanied by Daniel “Sly” Slipetsky, piano, Scott Black, bass, and Fred Hayes, drums.

With more than 20 years in the business and five albums in her discography, Margolis keeps music writers searching for new adjectives to describe her innovative swing through the classic jazz songbook.

“Margolis sings with conviction, pleasure and creative edginess,” wrote DownBeat magazine.

“When I listen to Kitty Margolis sing,” said New York jazz writer Will Friedwald, “I can’t help thinking about how solidly she fits into the great tradition perfected over the last 50 years of improvising, modern jazz vocalists; the tradition of such colossi as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Mel Torme, Mark Murphy, Anita O’Day and, most appropriately, the late Betty Carter.”

series wrap-up

Equally sophisticated in his own way is singer and entertainer Joe Bourne, appearing at St. Philip’s on Oct. 20 with “The Music of Motown and Other Gems of That Era.”

Now based in Tucson, Bourne spent a major portion of his career living and working in Europe. His musical influences include Nat King Cole and Lou Rawls. Bourne’s interpretation of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” has won awards in Germany, Ireland and Bulgaria.

Chuck Graham has written about the Tucson arts scene for more than 30 years.