The Tarpon Springs Rhythm Kings are an eclectic bunch, hailing from places near and far, each drawn by a fondness for a kick-up-your heels genre and a call sent out last fall to form a community jazz band.
"We have quite a range of musicians. The youngest people in the band are in their early 20s and the oldest are in their 80s. We have men and women and a few high-powered players," said bandleader Dan Fox, 81, a retired professional composer-arranger.
"They just sound amazing," said Gen Crosby, marketing and communications coordinator for the City of Tarpon Springs Cultural Treasures. "Some of them have played all over the country — the world — and just happen to live here now."
Musicians include Eddie Graham, a regular at bay area music festivals. His "played with" resume includes a laundry list of jazz greats — Stan Getz, Herb Ellis, Benny Carter, Trummy Young, Billy Butterfield, Earl "Fatha" Hines.
There's saxophone player Wayne Pearson, who in his younger days toured Europe and the Eastern Seaboard with renowned jazz drummer Philly Joe Jones and alto sax player Richie Cole.
Trumpeter Dominic Spera built a career playing in TV recording studios and Broadway orchestra pits and also performed in the bands of Lionel Hampton, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Burt Bacharach, Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams and Henry Mancini.
Now, as summer gets under way, and after months of weekly practice sessions, the Tarpon Springs Rhythm Kings are ready to roll as the city kicks off its annual Summer Solstice Performing Arts Festival with a "Great Gatsby Night'' from 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday at the Heritage Museum in Craig Park, 100 Beekman Lane. Free lessons for dances of the Roaring '20s will be available at 6 p.m., and people who attend are encouraged to dress in period costume. Tickets are $12, and $10 for members and students.
Other offerings over the summer include a range of cultural performances and workshops.
"We really have a lot going on and we hope people come out," said Tarpon Springs cultural and civic services director Kathleen Monahan. "Once the summer is in swing, people head to cooler climates. But there are a lot of residents still here looking for something to do. We want them to remember that there's a lot going on right in their back yard."
The following is a sampling of Summer Solstice events. For a complete listing and ticket information, go to tarponarts.org.
• Singing Tree acoustic duo Ray Belanger and Lloyd Goldstein, 7:30 p.m. June 27 at the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center, 101 S Pinellas Ave. Folk music with a classical twist.
• Dreamers and Schemers: An Evening with Great Floridians, 7:30 p.m. June 28 at the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center, 324 Pine St. Celebrate Florida's 500th anniversary and experience history coming alive on stage as experienced actors portray important historical figures.
• A Night at the POPera, 7 p.m. June 30 at the performing arts center. The trio Klassika performs a combination of pop music and opera.
• Lunch & Learn: Scent of Scandal with author and Tampa Bay Times journalist Craig Pittman, 11:30 a.m. July 9 at the Heritage Museum, 100 Beekman Lane.
• Florida Folk, 8 p.m. July 12 at the cultural center. Florida singer-songwriter and bass player Pete Gallagher joins guitarist Pat Barmore and fiddler Elan Chalford to perform original songs and favorite folk ballads.
• Pete Price, Pete Hennings and Mike Jurgensen, 2 p.m. July 13 at the cultural center. The musical trio offers a mix of original songs and well-known standards by the Beatles and the Everly Brothers.
• Fiddler on the Roof, presented by the Gilbert & Sullivan players, weekends July 19 through 28 at the performing arts center.