On a recent Wednesday, Frank Williams talked cigars in the parking lot with his trombone player. He then strolled into the auditorium at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to put on his show.
As soon as he walked through the door, people began waving and hugging the cool man in the black hat.
He took the microphone. "Hello, hello, yes, yes, yes. The first thing we need to do is to establish that in jazz, it don't mean a thing if it don't have no swing. Now, one, two, ready go," said Williams, who, along with a jazz quartet, was presenting a music workshop to families connected with the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Tampa. It was part of his work as founding instructor for the Clearwater Jazz Holiday Foundation's Education Outreach Program, an effort to expose kids to jazz through historical narration and music.
On Sunday, during the last day of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday at Coachman Park, Williams will put on another hat for the foundation. As director of the Ruth Eckerd Hall Clearwater Jazz Holiday Youth Jazz Band, he will showcase elite student-musicians ages 10-18. The youths are all members of the jazz program at Ruth Eckerd's Marcia P. Hoffman Performing Arts Institute, and many have received scholarships from the foundation.
"My plan is to start, finish and not fall apart anywhere in the middle," joked Williams, who is well-known in the Tampa Bay area in large part for his 30-year career as Boca Ciega High's band director.
The Jazz Holiday's opening night Thursday was to include Gladys Knight and the O'Jays. This weekend, the eclectic list of performers include saxophonist Mindi Abair, Buddy Guy, Sheryl Crow and the Avett Brothers. The festival, which runs through Sunday, is expected to draw more than 40,000 people.
Over the years, organizers have developed a strategy to lure more people to Coachman Park by offering additional musical genres. However, jazz aficionados like Williams will always be at the center, according to Steve Weinberger, the CEO of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday Foundation.
"He's magnetic," Weinberger said. "Frank Williams is one of the most prominent and well-known music and jazz educators in the bay area."
Contact Piper Castillo at email@example.com. Follow @Florida_PBJC.