At 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Clearwater Jazz Holiday chairwomanNancy Kaylor stood behind the stage area, hands on hips, looking pensively at the sky. It had been another smooth-as-glass day at the 11th annual festival, but now dark clouds were creeping in and rain threatened.
"I'll relax again when this clears," she said with a faint grin.
The precipitation scare passed without so much as a drizzle _ just another sign that the Clearwater Jazz Holiday has someone, or something, to watch over it. A picturesque sunset ushered in a beautiful night. The crowd covered the length and breadth of Coachman Park.
On paper, nine nearly continuous hours of music seems like a marathon, but Saturday's portion breezed along, serving up a myriad of jazz stylings.
And if the day needed a pick-me-up in its seventh hour, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band was just the ticket. The eight-piece New Orleans brass band made its third appearance at the festival. And probably not its last.
It's simple, really: The Dozen makes the crowd feel good. With its raw horn voicings, limber "second line" grooves, spirited soloing and singing and party exhortations, the band knows how to push audience buttons.
After a handful of tunes, many among the throng were up dancing and clapping. About halfway through set, some of the more enthusiastic members of the crowd started a conga line, which swelled and snaked through the park.
Buoying all the playfulness is a serious musicianship, embodied by Kirk Joseph, who stands in the back and swings for his life on the cumbersome sousaphone.
The Dozen mixed Crescent City standards such as Going to New Orleans, Big Chief and I Used To Love Her with funky blues and potent, relentless swing numbers. It was another triumphant Clearwater appearance for the ensemble.
Saturday kicked off with the USF Faculty Jazz Ensemble, followed by tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi. Hisquartet played an hour and a quarter of cool, modern acoustic sounds, mixing standards and originals. Favoring medium tempos, the set was more thinky than emotional. But Bergonzi played a series of long, probing solos that toyed with the tunes' harmonies. The saxophonist's set demanded fine-tuned attention _ which was probably more than most in the crowd were willing to give at the day's early juncture.
Singer Roseanna Vitro, from Houston by way of New York, played a set that had one foot in urbane bop and the other in gritty blues. She had pure, crystalline pipes, solid range and a talent for versatile interpretation, pouring drama into the churchy ballad A Precious Love, skittering through the quick swing of It Can Happen to You, getting down and dirty on the blues, Black Coffee.
Vitro also had impeccable taste in sidemen. Pianist Kenny Werner dazzled with his array of styles and textures _ from racing runs on Kenny Rankin's In the Name of Love to a tender interlude on My Foolish Heart. Perhaps his most sterling moment came in Black Coffee, when he began with a spew of herky-jerky, dissonant notes and slid into somehaughty trills straight from the blues bag. It was a solo filled with gusto and humor.
Not funny at all was Christopher Hollyday's abbreviated set. Scheduled to play until 7:30, the precocious 20-year-old alto saxophonist wrapped it up _ after an encore nonetheless _ 20 minutes short.
While he and his quartet were on stage, Hollyday shined most of the time. Instead of toting along a group of seasoned sidemen, Hollyday was astute enough to assemble a working band of fellow youngbloods. Their show was driven by post-adolescent fervor. At points, it seemed as if smoke were going to seep from Hollyday's horn. He did not fare as well on the McCoy Tyner ballad, Twilight Mist. His sound lacked romance.
The duo Tuck and Patti offered a change of pace from several hours of bop-based jazz. Patti sings in a big, dusky voice and Tuck makes like a one-man-band on a hollow-body electric guitar. The twosome certainly put out a lot of sound, most of it quite arresting. Tuck and Patti's only shortcoming was that their style tended to be jittery at times.
The Clearwater Jazz Holiday concludes today.