Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Clearwater Jazz Holiday Lineup Announced: Yawn

Did you hear the one about the long-running jazz festival that celebrated its 30th anniversary with a full slate of major, legendary players?

Sadly, that's not the story with the Clearwater Jazz Holiday, which, for its 30th anniversary, could have, should have, celebrated the great American art form known as jazz.

Instead, the Holiday chose, for its Saturday night headliner, silky sax guy Boney James, whose music is located just a few steps above the dreaded Kenny G. in terms of jazz credibility. And for Friday night's headliner, a guy cut from the same cloth: showy trumpeter Chris Botti.

Yep, smooth jazz -- wake me up when it's over -- again rules the day at the Jazz Holiday, during a year when hopes were raised that the festival could have returned to its status as one of the Tampa Bay area's premiere cultural events.

It's almost as if the folks planning these lineups can't tell the difference between "contemporary jazz" -- prefab, bland, predictable -- and the real thing. Or, worse, that they don't care.

Sunday night it's the Neville Brothers - funky, jazzy, soulful, grooving, always a great time. I love the Nevilles. But, again, they don't constitute actual jazz.

Earlier that day, hawk-eyed observers will be able to find a patch of actaul straightahead acoustic jazz, with a performance by gifted Florida-based pianist Marcus Roberts' trio, with a New Orleans rhythm section -- bassist Roland Guerin and drummer Jason Marsalis.

That trio's set will be followed by a performance by a truly amazing upright and electric bassist, Brian Bromberg, whose concerts tend to focus on the contemporary jazz side of what he does.

It's nice to see the bill include some good local players -- groups led by percussionist extraordinaire Gumbi Ortiz, trombonist Tom Brantley, and saxophonist Mike MacArthur and guitarist Nate Najar, to name a few.

The Jazz Holiday promises to be a relaxing weekend with pleasant tunes and nice breezes on the downtown Clearwater waterfront.

But by no stretch of the imagination is it a major jazz festival, a 30th-anniversary bash celebrating the history of an event that, over the years, has featured legendary artists -- Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Dave Brubeck, Stephane Grappelli, Nat Adderley, Dizzy Gillespie, Poncho Sanchez, Stan Getz, Buddy Rich, and Woody Herman.

It could have been so much more. Sigh.

Here's the lineup:
Thursday, October 15th
5:00pm Gates Open
5:30pm to 6:30pm Tom Brantley Collective
7:00pm to 8:00pm Mike MacArthur & Nate Najar
8:30pm to 10:00pm Special Announcement - Coming Soon

Friday, October 16th
4:00pm Gates Open
5:00pm to 6:00pm
The Organic Trio
6:30pm to 7:30pm
Joe Baione Quartet
8:00pm to 9:00pm Nicole Henry
9:30pm to 11:00pm Johnson, Pope, Bokor, Ruppel & Burns, LLP welcomes Chris Botti

Saturday, October 17th
2:30pm Gates Open
3:15pm to 4:30pm Gumbi Ortiz and the Latino Projekt
5:00pm to 6:15pm Les Sabler
6:45pm to 8:30pm Clearwater Jazz Holiday 30th Anniversary EXTREME Tribute
9:00pm to 10:30pm MarineMax welcomes Boney James
10:30pm Fireworks presented by Homeowners Choice, Inc.

Sunday, October 18th
2:00pm Gates Open
2:30pm to 3:30pm Ruth Eckerd Hall / Clearwater Jazz Holiday Youth Jazz Band with BK Jackson
4:00pm to 5:30pm Marcus Roberts Trio
6:00pm to 7:30pm Brian Bromberg's "IT IS WHAT IT IS" Band
8:00pm to 10:00pm Mercedes-Benz welcomes The Neville Brothers


Scott Garrity said...

Thanks for taking a crap on a great event. Maybe it's the snobbery of "True Jazz" fans that are pushing people away from it. Jazz used to mean a free form musical type that is all inclusive and non-discriminitory. Guess that definition is not true anymore. Despite your snobby insight I will be there enjoying the varied interpretations of the artform.

Anonymous said...

Guess your not allowing any comments. What a nazi.

Philip Booth said...

Thanks for noticing, Scott.

You're misinformed about the definition of jazz. I wouldn't want to put it in a straitjacket, but jazz never has meant "a free form musical type that is all inclusive and non-discriminitory (your spelling)."

And if you're talking about "varied interpretations of the artform" - you certainly didn't hear much of that at the
30th edition of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday.

Sadly, at some point in the history of this once-great festival, the folks in charge of the music selection decided that, when it comes to the headliners, they must be of the "smooth jazz" variety - that is, prefab, contrived, predictable, barely distinguishable from pop/rock without vocals.

In other words, they decided to exclude and discriminate (in headlining positions) anything except smooth jazz.

This year is the worst-case scenario, with smooth-jazz acts in THREE of the headlining positions, and a non-jazz (but good) band in the fourth position.

So maybe they, and you, are just being "smooth jazz" snobs?

I was there for tonight's performance by the Marcus Roberts Trio, and the group turned in a performance of high-level jazz, the kind of world-class music that fans of good jazz see at places like the Village Vanguard in NYC.

I couldn't help thinking: This is great jazz, played by very gifted players and improvisers? Why is there so very little of this on our area's biggest jazz festival?

Philip Booth said...

hi, Anonymous. Not sure what you're talking about, but thanks for reading.