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Verizon's music deal

Published Sep. 9, 2005

Verizon Communications is teaming with legendary jazz producer George Wein for a live music festival in New York, Los Angeles and the Tampa Bay area.

The Verizon Music Festival will be held Aug. 8-11 in New York City, Sept. 28-Oct. 2 in Los Angeles and Oct. 24 to 27 in the Tampa Bay area. Venues will include Coachman Park and Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater and Skipper's Smokehouse in north Tampa.

The bay area was included because it is one of Verizon's largest service areas, said Bob Elek, Verizon's Tampa spokesman.

The sponsorship also heightens visibility for the company formerly known as GTE.

Exactly who will be playing won't be announced until summer. Each concert will feature marquee and emerging talent in jazz, R&B, Latin, world music and soul. Wein promises to use his legendary clout to enhance the festival.

A jazz impresario, he has worked with such greats as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis.

Wein founded the Newport Jazz Festival some 40 years ago, an event considered the beginning of the music festival era. Now in his 70s, he continues to produce some 1,000 music events annually, including the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

October will be a busy month for music lovers. And especially at Coachman Park, where Verizon will hold a free concert Oct. 27.

The Clearwater Jazz Holiday will be at Coachman Park the weekend before _ Oct. 18-21. Now in its 22nd year, the annual festival draws crowds of 60,000 to 75,000 over the four-day weekend.

Is this a jazz overload in an area not known for embracing jazz?

"The more music the better," said Wayne Garcia, chairman of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday.

The two festivals have differences, said Garcia. The Clearwater Jazz Holiday is strictly jazz acts. And it is completely free.

The Verizon festival will be a combination of free and ticketed shows.