In Year 13, the Clearwater Jazz Holiday begins spreading its musical wings a bit. Instead of building the lineup around mainstream swingsters and adding a few contemporary or ethnic touches, the organizers have approached scheduling with eclecticism in mind and, for the first time, added a couple of acts that fall distinctly outside the jazz rubric.
The free festival runs Thursday through Sunday at Coachman Park in downtown Clearwater (schedule, page 3).
"In the '90s, I believe diversity in the lineup is what's called for," said Clearwater Jazz Holiday chairwoman Barbara Werder.
To that end, program director Frank Spena has picked a couple of winners. The Holmes Brothers are a seasoned blues/R&B/gospel outfit who played the New York area club circuit for a couple of decades before signing a recording contract. Their soulful vocal blend and kinetic playing have made them a critics' favorite.
Another noted departure from Jazz Holiday tradition is Deanna Bogart, a Baltimore-based singer/saxophonist, whose music is a stomping mix of blues, raw rock 'n' roll and even a touch of country.
Acts that work the edges of jazz include: Som Brasil, a Chicago-based band that plays authentic Brazilian music; Guisando Caliente, a bay area aggregation that combines Latin salsa with jazz improvisation; Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, a unique outfit that builds a melodic, contemporary sound around its leader's banjo, complemented by harmonica, keyboards, electric bass and electronic percussion. The duo Tuck & Patti performs an intimate mix of jazz standards, R&B and folk. Tuck's virtuoso guitar work wonderfully complements Patti's dusky vocals.
Over the years, the festival's Saturday night closing act has been counted on to stir up a party atmosphere. The spirited Afro-Cuban jazz of Ray Barretto should deliver mightily.
Despite the stylistic expansion, tradition is still well-represented with Jazz Holiday perennial Nick Brignola, guitarist Mark Whitfield, Lakeland resident Nat Adderley and a few other Florida-based acts. Singers have always gone over well for festivalgoers, many of whom are not jazz aficionados. The Ritz, a Boston-based group, has a bright ensemble vocal sound.
Belinda Womack and Fred Johnson have established themselves as the top jazz singers in the bay area.
Through the years, Clearwater Jazz Holiday has become something to depend on. It isgenerally free of agonizing stage delays. Coachman Park is a user-friendly environment where concertgoers can spread out blankets or set up lawn chairs.
A variety of concessionaires sell food and drink, but well-stocked picnic baskets dot the landscape.
Although the park has accommodated some enormous crowds through the years, it has avoided the crush of humanity that can characterize other free festivals of this sort. In short, the jazz fest has remained a cozy family event.
Chairwoman Werder said that fund-raising in these hard economic times has become tougher. Jazz Holiday lost two major sponsors this year: Jewel Osco and the bay area's only commercial radio station to feature jazz, "The Wave, 102.5," which changed format to adult-oriented rock ("The Point").
To keep the money coming in, and ultimately keep the event free, Werder said a new souvenir collectible will be added to the menu of T-shirts, sweatshirts, posters and hats.
The festival's new cloisonne pin, roughly 1 inch long, is a black piano design with white keys in a red border and a gold outline. The cost will be $3, plus tax.
"Most international festivals use the pins as a way to establish a collectible item," Werder said.
Also for the first time, organizers will display an aquarium-sized bowl to solicit cash donations. "Funding is tight," Werder said.
By Thursday, the money struggles will be mostly forgotten as the varied sounds of jazz take over.
6-7 p.m. _ Citiheat
7:15-8:30 p.m. _ Jazz Xperience
8:45-10 p.m. _ Tuck & Patti
6-7 p.m. _ Belinda Womack & Kool Reflektions
7:15-8:30 p.m. _ The Holmes Brothers
8:45-10 p.m. _ The Ritz
12:15-1:30 p.m. _ Guisando Caliente
1:45-3 p.m. _ A. K. A
3:15-4:30 p.m. _ Jazz Spectrum
4:45-6 p.m. _ Midnite Brass
6:15-7:30 p.m. _ Nick Brignola
7:45-9 p.m. _ Nat Adderley
9:30-11 p.m. _ Ray Barretto
1-2 p.m. _ The Command Band of the Air Force Reserve
2:15-3:15 p.m. _ Deanna Bogart
3:30-4:30 p.m. _ Mark Whitfield
5-6:15 p.m. _ Som Brasil
6:30-7:45 p.m. _ Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
8-9:15 p.m. _ Richard Elliot & Fred Johnson