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The music of Clearwater Jazz Holiday, Part 1

There was a time when Clearwater’s Annual Jazz Holiday was devoted to one thing and one thing only: Jazz. Attendance was free, you packed your own dinner & drinks in a cooler, and you set up your lawn chairs for a weekend of free jazz in the park. A few years back, Clearwater Jazz Holiday initiated a musical diversification plan. Instead of 4 straight days of jazz, they decided to devote each festival day to a different musical theme or genre. They also started charging $25/day admission (or $16 online in advance) and prohibiting coolers. Judging from the size of the crowds, this was a smart move. So rather than lament over the loss of all that jazz, I have decided instead to celebrate the changes with a 2-part photoessay on the musical styles of this year’s Clearwater Jazz Holiday.

Day 1: Old School R&B

Day 1 brought Old School R&B legends The Commodores and Kool & The Gang to Coachman Park. Both groups had multiple hit songs in the 1970’s and early 80’s, and they are still a lot of fun to listen to.

The Commodores
The Commodores played a diverse set, including both funky hits like Too Hot ta Trot and Brick House, and R&B ballads Easy, Three Times a Lady, and Nightshift.
Kool & The Gang
Kool & The Gang had the crowd on their feet with classic hits Hollywood Swinging, Ladies Night, and Celebration. They actually started in 1964 as a jazz band before gaining popularity in the 1970s with their R&B/pop songs. They briefly returned to their roots at this year’s Clearwater Jazz Holiday, performing a couple of jazz songs in addition to their later pop hits.

Day 2: New Orleans Jazz

Day 2 brought three different jazz(ish) bands from New Orleans: Flow Tribe, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. I say jazz(ish) because all of these bands seemed to combine jazz with other musical styles, leading to more innovative modern sounds. It was great to listen to.

Flow Tribe
Flow Tribe. Compared to the bands that hit the stage later that evening, Flow Tribe is relatively unknown. Their music is an interesting combination of musical genres, which I’m learning is a common trait of New Orleans music.
The legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band playing at Clearwater Jazz Holiday
The legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band playing at Clearwater Jazz Holiday. Their whole set was great, but I especially loved the Motown medley they did at the end.
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. I strongly believe that it’s not a jazz holiday without some brass, and Trombone Shorty really brought it. I really loved how they combined Jazz and Rock in their set. These guys are great musicians.

It’s been a great two days of music, and I’m looking forward to what’s to come. I’m also running around sampling as much of the festival food as I can because this afternoon I will be talking to Steve Fiske on The Taste of Tampa Bay radio show about all the great food at Clearwater Jazz Holiday this year. Tune in to 860 AM The Answer today (Saturday, October 15th) at 3 pm to hear all about your festival dining options.

Jennifer Ring

Jennifer Ring is a freelance writer & photographer living in the Tampa Bay area, on Florida’s west coast, home to some of the best beaches in the state.

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