I didn't expect the new Jazz by the Bay not to suck.
That doesn't sound like a resounding endorsement of Gulfport's newest music festival, does it?
It was a first year event and a great idea, but the roads of this town are littered with great ideas that never grew legs or gained support, no matter how supportive the community. The larger, much more established Clearwater Jazz Holiday had disappointed me, too — while I loved the music, it was no longer Jazz. Who were these guys to think they could do it right?
As it turns out, they were the right guys to do it right.
Let me try again: Jazz by the Bay shocked me with how good it was.
I had to be there, see — I'm on a board of the Gulfport Historical Society and we sold the booze. It's also why I probably shouldn't review the event, because I clearly have some bias, but I'll be honest — I didn't volunteer to review the event until I was there and it was quite clear the organizers meant what they said in the meetings: This was to be a real jazz festival, and if you pay attention to local music festivals and jazz, you knew what they meant.
The day started with the Lakewood High Jazz band, and while these are kids, they aren't kids about music: Right now they're raising money to play in New York.
From there, the jazz kept coming and it kept going higher. It reminded me of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday back when the now-massive event actually had jazz. Among the lineup? A former bassist for Duke Ellington, local favorites the Tomkats and Kat Hefner. Solid jazz for nine hours, and the sad thing?
Not many people knew about it. Maybe 200 people showed up, but, as the organizers know, first year events can be tough.
Too bad, because the show had spectacular jazz and even more spectacular talent. On the water. Gulfport needs more days and events like this.
"Why isn't anyone else here?" one of my neighbors asked me. "It's a perfect day, a beautiful setting..." his voice trailed off. "Is anyone reviewing this? I want people to know how good it was, and what a great time they missed."