An annual rite of late summer around these parts is the mass harrumphing about the latest Clearwater Jazz Holiday lineup.
The typical moan from snooty jazzbos is that event organizers — who have the impossible task of being both populist and purist — sacrifice true talent for bold-faced names that blur the genre.
But all you soul-patched hipsters will have a hard time poo-pooing the 32nd incarnation of the free fest, at Clearwater's Coachman Park from Oct. 13 to 16.
At an announcement party Thursday at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg, this year's talent was revealed: saxman Maceo Parker, singer Dianne Reeves, brass prodigy Trombone Shorty, bassist Christian McBride, funk cutie Brian Culbertson and more.
What, no Bruce Hornsby?!
Those are all beloved names in the jazz world, for sure. But with event organizers finally being so loyal to their genre, here's a new nagging question: Will the rest of us bother to show up?
In recent years, Little Feat, the Neville Brothers, Natalie Cole, Tony Bennett, Al Jarreau and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy have helped level out the playlist. Jazz fans want nothing but pure jazz; the rest of us, however, don't. We enjoy jazz, but we also want to bust a move to Dixie Chicken.
(Of course, we should all just shut up and enjoy a free top-shelf music festival on the water. Talk about spoiled brats.)
Still, there are intriguing options for everyone throughout the four-day festival.
Opening day's headliner, Trombone Shorty, has a legend that is mightier than his household fame, as the Crescent City kid has used brass-boogie chops to grow a cult fan base. But a recent ballyhooed stop on Conan O'Brien says he's ready for the big time. Opening for him will be the killer smile of Kevin Eubanks, for so long stuck in the shadow of Jay Leno's chin as leader of The Tonight Show band.
Friday night, Oct. 14, is curious, for sure: Miss Tess, then Brian Culbertson? Who and who? Neither rang a bell, but casual YouTube perusal found both to be highly energetic performers with her gypsy jazz busking and his self-effacing smooth-funk to be kind of sexy and totally crowd pleasing.
Saxophonist Maceo Parker, such a crucial asset to both James Brown and P-Funk back in the day, is an intriguing choice, too, as he allows me to start a really awesome rumor that his best friend, Prince, will show up for a Saturday night jam. Will it happen? You never know …
Sean Daly can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8467. You can also follow him on Twitter (@seandalypoplife).