TAMPA — If you're attending the Gasparilla Parade this Saturday, keep an eye – and ear – out for the black, red, and white float whose passengers will be playing live smooth jazz.
Yep, you read that right – live jazz.
Sponsored by the West Wing Boutique Hotel, the JazzTyme Gasparilla Float will feature nine musicians playing throughout the length of the parade.
Artists include Marcus Anderson, Kyle Schroeder, Dee Lucas and Nathan Mitchell. Actor Quinton Aaron, known for his starring role in the movie The Blind Side, also is scheduled to appear.
They'll keep the party going at an after-party at the hotel.
It's the first float of its kind to participate in the parade and is sure to get lots of attention – just as Ken Gray, JazzTyme's spokesman, was thinking when he came up with idea.
With jazz's popularity on the decline nationally, it's up to lovers of the genre to do whatever they can to keep the music at the forefront – even if that means putting it on a float in a parade bombarded by pirates, Gray said.
"This was an opportunity for us, really exposing the city to jazz again," he said. "(Parade attendees) will get a feel for smooth jazz with common hits."
Bob Seymour, president of the Tampa Jazz Club, applauded Gray's creativity.
In Tampa Bay, there are few venues for aficionados to hear jazz played live and connect with artists, so a float that brings the music to the people, "is a really nice surprise," he said.
One of the musicians who'll be taking the stage is Nathan Mitchell, a keyboardist who has lived in Tampa Bay since 2010.
Mitchell, who's latest single Inspiration is currently No. 22 on the Billboard smooth jazz charts, said he never thought he'd make his Gasparilla performance debut playing on a float.
"It's an honor," he said. "To have a (Billboard-charting song) accompany this, that's a good feeling."
The float will give Mitchell a chance to expand his fan base, but he's looking for something greater.
He built his reputation as a dynamic side man for such R&B acts as Nick Colionne, Lin Rountree, Paul Brown, Dawn Robinson (En Vogue), Irene Cara, Stokley of Mint Condition and the Commodores.
In 2012, he released For All Eternity, which featured My Angel, a heartfelt tribute to his wife, who passed away of cancer in 2010.
The Gasparilla Parade could represent another milestone.
"My goal is not to win fans, my goal is to inspire people," Mitchell said. "I would love for Tampa to support my music. However, I'm more interested in sharing my talents, to see people blessed by my musical gift."
Contact Kenya Woodard at email@example.com.