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Jazz fest jam session lives up to its name

The jazz musicians were there. Crowds of jazz fans, packed shoulder to shoulder, were there. Good music, good conversation and a feeling of camaraderie were there. The only thing missing was the traditional smoke-filled room often associated with jazz clubs _ few cigarette smokers were to be found among the approximately 350 people gathered Friday night for an after-hours' jam session in the Surf Club at the Holiday Inn Surfside.

The session, an offshoot of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday festival, attracted festival performers as well as locals.

Don Brookshire of WAVE (102.5 FM) radio, a sponsor of the jam session, said he was pleased with the outcome.

"It's always a situation of who's willing to play," he said. "We have some artists here who've been on stage or just come into town. They say it's nice just to sit and hear the music."

Kenny Drew Jr., who was in charge of keeping the music moving during the jam, recently won the Great American Jazz Piano competition at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Drew and his rhythm section performed, with other artists joining them throughout the evening.

At one point, Drew and Joey Calderozzo faced each other, each performing on a keyboard to the delight of the audience.

The sets were structured loosely. "That's the whole idea of a jam, is to give anyone who dares to mount the stage an opportunity to get up there and make it or break it," Brookshire said.

"The wonder of that is that you get a player from the local scene who will get the opportunity to sit up there with a national _ who may be his idol _ and get a chance to prove himself."

Vocalist Roseanna Vitro, who was scheduled to perform Saturday at the jazz festival, attended the jam session.

"I go listen to music in New York all the time," she said. "It is good to hear other players and what they're doing. It is really exciting," she said of the music. "I love to hear a good instrumentalist."

Jim Snook, beverage manager of Holiday Inn Surfside, said the jam sessions were moved from a large banquet room, where they were staged last year, to the more intimate Surf Club this year.

"People like to be around other people," Snook said. "In the Surf Club, it's more of an intimate atmosphere and it is better acoustically for the jazz musicians.

"We are really happy with the turnout. The musicians play all night out there (in Coachman Park) and then donate their time here."

The 1990 Jazz Holiday concludes today with performances scheduled from 2 to 10 p.m.