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Bands to do battle for Jazz Holiday

Three preliminary contests for a spot in the festival's lineup will be held across the Tampa Bay area over the next three months.

By MAUREEN BYRNE

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 6, 2000


CLEARWATER -- Think you have what it takes to play at the 21st annual Clearwater Jazz Holiday?

If so, you and your jazz comrades can compete for a spot on the festival's lineup through a battle of the bands series.

Called the Clearwater Jazz Holiday Band Search, the contest will offer three separate venues featuring four bands each, said Karen Vann, executive director of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday.

"We always want to showcase local talent," Vann said Monday. "We're willing to go to them to find it."

Details still are being worked out, she said, but the three preliminary contests will be spread across the Tampa Bay area during the next three months. Each of the three winners will open one day of the Jazz Holiday on Oct. 19, 20 and 22. The U.S. Air Force Band will be the opening act on Oct. 21.

The contest is a first for the Clearwater Jazz Holiday. But organizers had more on their minds than scouting local talent when they conceived the idea. They're hoping the battle of the bands series will give them more year-round exposure.

"Jazz Holiday does not want to be just an event in October," Vann said. "We want to promote jazz all year long."

The summer series is one way to do that, said Chuck Sullivan, president of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday Foundation, a non-profit organization that oversees the annual festival in Coachman Park.

"Part of our mission statement is to promote jazz," he said.

Jazz station WSJT-FM 94.1 is co-sponsoring the contest. Program director Ross Block said the audience, along with a panel of judges, will be able to choose the three winners.

In previous years, local jazz bands sent demo tapes to a music-selection committee that decided the opening acts. Vann said the 20 bands that already sent tapes still are in the running. The committee will listen to all the contestants before narrowing it to a field of 12.

The national pool of talent for this year's Jazz Holiday will be announced June 30 at a special event at Ruth Eckerd Hall. The $50-per-ticket affair will include a concert by saxophonist Boney James. The festival's commemorative poster also will be unveiled at the concert.

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