Wednesday, May 9, 2012

One step at a time

Sérgio Mendes
The Punta Gorda Wine & Jazz Festival, a local Chamber of Commerce production with a loyal following from near and far, continues to evolve. This is a good thing.

The event began seven years ago as a one-day showcase for smooth jazz, i.e., instrumental pop. The headliners in February were alto saxophonist Mindy Abair, British guitarist Peter White and The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman. But the festival also added a midday Sunday mainstream jazz brunch this year that quickly sold out – and showed that festival attendees have big ears. (A hearty thanks to the brunch sponsor and moving force, Brian Presley of Presley Bean Financial Services, for making the event happen.)

The Sunday brunch, featuring eight local performers, preceded a second afternoon concert at Laishley Park by local island rocker Jim Morris. The latter show was poorly attended. That was no surprise since the weather was iffy and you can hear Morris in town gratis at one venue or another just about every week.

The schedule for the eighth annual festival is just out, and while it still relies heavily on the smoothies, organizers have added a strong new element to the Saturday bill and recast the Sunday concert at Laishley Park on Charlotte Harbor.

The lineup for Saturday, February 16, 2013 includes trumpeter Rick Braun, saxophonist Richard Elliott and Sérgio Mendes of Brazil ‘66 fame. Mendes (pictured) brings a new flavor to the festival with his blend of bossa nova, jazz and funk. The mainstream brunch is back on Sunday the 17th and will be followed by Abair in her fifth consecutive Punta Gorda appearance.

The festival truly will have evolved in a big way when there is also mainstream jazz in the main stage mix at the park.

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