By Philip Booth
The tagline tells it all: "There's nothing 'smooth' about it" is the theme — and mission — of the first Ybor Jazz Festival, which continues through Sunday at the Hillsborough Community College Ybor Campus.
The festival, culminating in a Sunday show featuring acclaimed singer Kevin Mahogany, above, was conceived partly in reaction to other festivals more beholden to commercially oriented contemporary jazz, a.k.a. "smooth jazz."
"We felt that there needed to be not only a jazz fest on the Tampa side of the bay but also a festival focused on the music and the musicians in intimate venues designed for listening," said Keith Arsenault, festival director and manager of HCC Ybor's Mainstage Theatre and Studio Theatre. Both venues will play host to the festival's concerts.
The festival, which kicked off Wednesday night, features a mix of small groups and big bands, singer-fronted ensembles and instrumental acts.
Tampa writer and bassist Philip Booth will play the Ybor Jazz Festival with Trio Vibe.
Tonight: At 8 p.m. at the Mainstage, gypsy jazz group Impromptu, with guitarists Larry Camp and Nikolai Baltic, will headline a concert also including vocalist Denise Moore and Then Some, Latin fusion group Carlos Marchena & Company and Trio Vibe. At 6 p.m. at the Studio Theatre is a two-saxophone group with tenor players Jeremy Powell and Jeremy Carter joined by pianist Kym Purling, bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Mark Feinman.
Friday: Singer Rose Bilal is at the Studio Theatre at 6 p.m. And at 8 p.m. at the Mainstage is the Jim Morey Band, Confluences and saxophonist Valerie Gillespie's trio.
Saturday: The fest opens with a full day of free concerts and workshops. That evening, HCC's faculty artists play the Studio Theatre. At 8 p.m. at the Mainstage, the Dan McMillion Jazz Orchestra is led by the high-octane trumpeter who plays in a high-register, screaming style reminiscent of Maynard Ferguson.
Sunday: Latin jazz group En Clave plays an early afternoon concert at the Studio Theatre. At the Mainstage, Mahogany will be joined by the Helios Jazz Orchestra at 4 p.m. "(Mahogany) has the swing and energy of Joe Williams on bluesy charts and a rich, dark crooner sound on ballads, like Johnny Hartman," said Helios director David Manson, also a trombonist and composer.
If you go: It's all on the Hillsborough Community College Ybor Campus. Tickets vary, $5 to $30. For information, call the info line at (813) 259-6490.