Cities across the country host annual jazz festivals, but few are as beloved as Clearwater Jazz Holiday, a four-day event that since 1980 has celebrated the heart and soul of American jazz.
“It’s really a signature bay area tradition,” says Steve Weinberger, CEO of Clearwater Jazz Holiday Foundation. “We take a lot of pride in the balance we’re able to achieve each year, programming acts that honor the festival’s rich, straight-ahead jazz tradition but also offering artists with a broad appeal.”
Their efforts to consistently offer something for lovers of many different music genres have paid off. Past festival lineups have featured A-list artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Earth Wind & Fire, the O-Jays and Chicago. This year, an expected 35,000 festivalgoers of all ages will sprawl out on blankets and nestle into lawn chairs to enjoy breathtaking sunsets over the waterfront in Coachman Park in downtown Clearwater while watching some of the top names in blues, Americana, funk and rock.
Weinberger says Thursday night lineups typically feature popular artists most people are familiar with, which drums up excitement for the festival as a whole. Keeping with that tradition, Clearwater Jazz kicks off the festivities Thursday, Oct. 13, with a bang: Grammy Award-winning funk and R&B legends the Commodores play first, followed by highly anticipated headliner Kool & the Gang, a group that has delighted audiences with jazz-infused funk and soul since the ’60s.
Night two is packed with revered, authentic jazz musicians, including Flow Tribe, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Crescent City Dream featuring Dwayne Wright and the Preservation Jazz Hall Band.
“Friday night has a New Orleans jazz theme this year,” Weinberger says. “Horns are prominent in New Orleans jazz, but there’s a special energy to it that’s hard to describe. Just be ready to get on your feet.” Headliner Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue has a hard-edged funk sound steeped in jazz, Weinberger says. After their set, head over to the after party