By SEAN DALY
Times Pop Music Critic
For the first time in its 33-year history, the Clearwater Jazz Holiday, which starts today and runs until Sunday, will charge admission: $10 per day for anyone over the age of 12.
Organizers blame dwindling corporate sponsorships, and while that may be the case, some folks are still unhappy.
Adding to the grumbling is a recurring, and tedious, debate about the lineup: Should the talent list be strictly jazz artists or should the event follow the popular-music trend of genre-smooshing and barrier-breaking? Purist jazz fans once again griped at some of this year's headliners — pop-blues guitarist Bonnie Raitt and alt-folkies the Avett Brothers especially.
As a music critic, it's hard to get too worked up about the complaints. Seriously, $10 for all that music? At Clearwater's gorgeous Coachman Park? To see Esperanza Spalding? Bargain!
And if this were a pure jazz-only event, you have to wonder if it would have made it 33 years at that size, at that venue and with that clout and reputation. We're not living in a jazz world anymore. Sorry, but that's the truth. You have to blend, adapt.
This year's Jazz Holiday lineup is fantastic actually, and it's much more in tune with jazz than you might think. Here's a quick look at the four-day lineup.
Bonnie Raitt 8:30 p.m.
The slide-guitar siren is 62 and still one of the sexiest musicians around, her virtuosic blues as slinky and real as it gets. She's touring behind fine new album Slipstream, her first LP in seven years. If you go to the Jazz Holiday to appreciate tongue-wagging musicianship, well, start your waggin', my friends.
Maia Sharp 6:30 p.m.
Carol Stein & Friends 5 p.m.
Gates open 4:30 p.m.
Mindi Abair & Friends featuring Jeff Golub and David Pack 8:30 p.m.
St. Pete's own sax-blower, Abair has model looks and all-world chops, plus a nose for sly marketability. In the 2011 season of American Idol, judge Steven Tyler watched a full-band performance from contestant Paul McDonald. After he was done, the famously randy Tyler asked, "Forget you; who's your sax player?" Abair later joined Aerosmith on a summer tour.
Down to the Bone 6:30 p.m.
Common Ground Reunion 5 p.m.
Gates open 4:30 p.m.
Esperanza Spalding Radio Music Society 9:15 p.m.
Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence + the Machine, Mumford & Sons: In 2011, Esperanza Spalding of Portland, Ore., beat all of those pop faves for the best new artist trophy at the Grammy Awards. Jaws dropped when her name was announced, but the Recording Academy wasn't that crazy: With her voluminous 'do and active standup bass, Spalding is a mesmerizing jazz-fusion storm all parts Diana Krall, Corinne Bailey Rae and Marvin Gaye.
Kurt Elling 7:15 p.m.
Tia Fuller Quartet 5:30 p.m.
El Nino Garcia and the Latin Knights 3:45 p.m.
Pat Close & the Groove 2 p.m.
Gates open 1:30 p.m.
The Avett Brothers 7:30 p.m.
No, the Avetts are not a jazz band, although they can get ragtimey now and then. But rest assured the shaggy North Carolina trio is one of the hottest It Bands the Jazz Holiday has ever landed — and for only $10! (See story)
Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds 5:30 p.m.
The Cave Dwellers featuring the Reinhardt Brothers 4 p.m.
Ruth Eckerd Hall/Clearwater Jazz Holiday Youth Jazz Band with Mindi Abair 2:30 p.m.
Gates open 2 p.m.