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    Music to take center stage tonight

    The four-day Clearwater Jazz Holiday kicks off tonight in Coachman Park. And this year, the weather should be nice.

    By MAUREEN BYRNE

    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 19, 2000


    CLEARWATER -- A Latin group, a pianist and a singer will compete against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tonight.

    Of course, the Bucs are playing the Detroit Lions in Tampa. But as the game kicks off, thousands of jazz fans plan on missing it to see the first night of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday in Coachman Park.

    The 21st annual jazz event, one of the area's largest music festivals, will open with performances by Orquesta Infinidad, a local group; Eric Reed, who made his name as a member of Wynton Marsalis' group; and Dee Dee Bridgewater, considered one of the most versatile jazz singers of her generation.

    Event organizers are hoping folks will prefer soulful straining of saxophones, staccato guitar sounds and scat singing over fumbles, passes and touchdowns.

    "I think the true jazz fan will be at the park," said Karen Vann, executive director of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday. "There probably will be a lot of portable televisions, though."

    The music will begin at 6 p.m. Admission is free.

    The jazz actually begins before the opening act. A Dixieland jazz band will play at 5 p.m. at Station Square Park on Cleveland Street downtown, where a King Sax and a Queen Diva will be crowned. Ten community and business leaders have vied for the titles, which will be given to the man and the woman who raised the most money. The money will go to the Clearwater Jazz Holiday Foundation, the Clearwater Main Street Association and thecharities of the winners' choice.

    Vann and festival volunteers spent Wednesday taking care of last-minute details. Under blue skies, workers assembled the stage and restaurant employees set up booths.

    According to the National Weather Service in Ruskin, festivalgoers can expect pleasant weather during the four-day event. "For the most part, we do expect sunshine," said meteorologist Barry Goldsmith.

    There may be some showers earlier in the day on Friday, but nothing too severe, Goldsmith said.

    And nothing like the blustery weather during last year's Jazz Holiday, when Hurricane Irene threatened the bay area before taking a more easterly course.

    Clear skies and mild temperatures should mean a large turnout at the festival. Organizers say attendance has reached nearly 100,000 for the four-day run, but since tickets aren't sold, it is impossible to determine an exact number.

    Seventeen musical acts, from well-known guitarist Stanley Clarke to vocalist Patti Austin, will perform.

    Festivalgoers can bring lawn chairs and blankets. A sweater or light jacket is recommended, too. Food, beer and wine will be sold.

    Coolers, pets, recording equipment, in-line skates and skateboards are prohibited in the park.

    Today's schedule

    Orquesta Infinidad:
    6 to 7:15 p.m.

    Eric Reed:
    7:45 to 9 p.m.

    Dee Dee Bridgewater:
    9:30 to 11 p.m.

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