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Street rhythms, a calendar of our own, good cheese

By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2002

As the first few notes rise out of Max Pierre's tenor saxophone, you recognize the tune almost instantly.

As the first few notes rise out of Max Pierre's tenor saxophone, you recognize the tune almost instantly.

It's When I Fall In Love, the Nat King Cole standard revised by Celine Dion and Clive Griffin for Sleepless In Seattle. Pierre's jazz rendition is lustier than the Dion-Griffin version, and perfectly suited for some nightclub where the smoke would envelop each note.

For Pierre, however, there is night but no club. His tunes reverberate off the Selmon Expressway's Morgan Street overpass instead of the walls of a dimly lit bar.

You may not know Pierre by name, but there is a good chance you have heard him play. He is a regular for fans flocking to Lightning games from lots north of the arena. Ordinarily dressed in a T-shirt, pants and tennis shoes, Pierre insists his appearance is deceptive.

"People misjudge me. I'm not homeless," said Pierre, with dollar bills dangling out of his saxophone case. "I'm nowhere near that. I'm an artist making a living off my art."

Although he said he has been in backup bands for stars such as Tony Bennett and Natalie Cole, Pierre now chooses the streets because his heart is in jazz and it's "hard to get work as a jazz musician."

* * *

You can see a festive Gasparilla pirate with a safety pin in his nose, a Tampa view of a sunset space shuttle launch and a pelican at the Pier.

Simply put, you see our world in David Lubin's Tampa Bay 2002 events calendar. More than 15,000 copies of the 11th annual calendar have been sold by the Tampa doctor who moonlights as a photographer. And work on a 12th is sure to begin this week with the Gasparilla festivities.

The calendar's beauty, besides the pictures, is that it's us. Anyone has a chance to have their likeness featured in the 2003 calendar, and I don't think you have to put a pin in your nose like Bill Miller did at Gasparilla last year.

And even before you appear in the calendar, your likeness might be posted on Lubin's Web site (www.dajalu.com) as part of an event collection. You can purchase calendars through the site or at Lubin's office at 2416 Cleveland St.

* * *

Look, I want everybody to be on their best behavior Tuesday through Friday. The largest religious meeting planners conference of the year will be in town, so we have to be ready.

According to the Religious Conference Management Association, religious organizations hold more than twice the number of conventions and meetings than the entire corporate market, and 400 of those meeting planners will be here as part of the RCMA convention to check things out.

It's a big deal for the Tampa Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau and especially for new bureau vice president of marketing Karen Brand.

So to generate some needed dollars for the economy and to help Karen out, do as Mr. Roarke would say: "Smiles everyone, smiles."

* * *

Vermont-based Cabot Creamery and author Sasha Borchardt distributed copies of Borchardt's Deep Listening coloring books at the Florida Aquarium on Saturday. Borchardt drew on her experiences as a Vermont native and Florida winter resident to design a book aimed at promoting togetherness, tolerance and teaching Florida kids about Vermont.

I'm going to have my older son read it again because he said the only thing he learned was that Vermont has the best cheese.

* * *

The sad thing for saxophonist Max Pierre is that he runs into some trouble when he plays in other parts of the city. Pierre said police try to restrict him to a tiny corner of Centro Ybor where his notes are rattled by the booming bass of the district's party spots. When he ventures out to more suitable areas, some officers give him a stern warning.

"Why wouldn't you want to add to the cultural fabric of the society?" said Pierre, who cites John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Charlie Parker as his favorites even though he is often asked to play Tequila or the theme from the Flintstones.

I agree with Pierre. Anyone who has ever been to a big-city subway station should have an appreciation for street performers. To me, they do add to the character of the city. And Tampa could always use a little more character.

That's all I'm saying.

-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or Hooper@sptimes.com.

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