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Sparse crowd gathers for Jazz Bowl

Fans brave the cool weather and wait through a delay to hear the musical performances.

By EILEEN SCHULTE

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 28, 2001


CLEARWATER -- Blame it on the sunless, cool weather or stiff entertainment competition, but it was a sparse though enthusiastic crowd of about 6,000 who attended an all-musical alternative to the crowded Gasparilla festivities in Tampa Saturday afternoon.

Unlike the annual Clearwater Jazz Holiday, there was enough room on the open grassy areas of Coachman Park for kids to kick a soccer ball back and forth. There were no lines at the portable toilets.

It was called the Jazz Bowl, a laid-back Super Bowl warm-up featuring three-time Grammy-award winning musician Dr. John, veteran saxophonist and Tampa native David Sanborn, and legendary singer Roberta Flack.

The event was part of Clearwater's three-night Super Celebration at Coachman Park on the downtown waterfront. Almost all the concertgoers who paid $15 in advance or $20 to see the performers were adults; few teens and children showed up to see the stars who took the stage.

The gates opened at noon, and Dr. John was supposed to begin playing at 2:30 p.m. But something held the production up, and the show still hadn't begun after 3 p.m. At 3:19 p.m., the chanting began: "Dr. John, Dr. John." Still, the celebrated New Orleans musician went unseen by the audience.

Finally, at 3:50 p.m., Dr. John appeared in a black hat and maroon jacket, and began playing Iko, Iko, a classic backed up by Herman Ernest, David Barard and Renad Toche, and songs from his latest album, Duke Elegant.

"I love it," said Sandy Galloway who traveled from St. Petersburg with her husband, Harry, to see the show. "We are very longtime fans -- 30 years. This is the first time I've seen him in person."

After singing favorites like Right Place, Wrong Time, Dr. John exited the stage and ate a heaping plate of food at the entertainer's hospitality tent.

"(The show) was cool," he said, adding he might get to see the Super Bowl if he gets back to New York where he is mastering a new album, Creole Moon, in time.

Next up was David Sanborn, dressed in black, who began his set with Chicago Song. Afterward, he introduced another song, and goofed.

"This tune is from a recording from a record...what am I talking about? There are no more records," he told the crowd. "Get into the 21st century, Dave."

After retreating from the stage, Sanborn ate cake in his trailer, waiting to watch Roberta Flack do her show.

"It was a little chilly," he said. "It really gets cold. It was like being in a marching band."

As for the Super Bowl, he said he was rooting for the Giants because he lives in New York City.

Roberta Flack rushed in just moments before she was to take the stage. After a brief prayer circle with her staff and players, she climbed up and began to sing.

She's a New Yorker, but she doesn't care who wins today's game.

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