Monday, February 18, 2013

8th annual Punta Gorda Wine & Jazz Festival

Hot music overcomes chilly weather

Sergio Mendes
This year's Punta Gorda Wine & Jazz Festival was noteworthy for its musical additions, its loyal, enthusiastic and expanding audience, and the degree to which the music made everyone grin and bear unusually chilly and windy weather, and a passing shower. [You can read my full review at]

Most impressive to this observer was the continuing evolution of the festival, which is produced by the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce. The festival began seven years ago as a strictly "smooth jazz" (i.e. instrumental pop) event. Last year, mainstream jazz was added to the mix through a strongly attended Sunday brunch event at nearby Isles Yacht Club.
Rick Braun and Richard Elliott

Brazilian jazz and mainstream jazz  made it to the main stage at Laishley Park for the first time with Sergio Mendes' band on Saturday and the Danny Sinoff quintet on Sunday. Besides Mendes, the festival headliners were trumpeter Rick Braun and saxophonist Richard Elliott on Saturday and alto saxophonist Mindi Abair, who closed the festival weekend on Sunday. 
Mindi Abair

Abair is the festival's darling. The St. Petersburg native has appeared in Punta Gorda for five consecutive years. Her appearance on the Sunday program (added last year for the first time), made great sense in terms of helping build the audience for the full weekend. Wright estimated Saturday's attendance at 1,800, up from 1,500 in 2012.

Chamber President John Wright and Brian Presley of Presley Beane Financial Services, (the latter sponsors the Sunday brunch), said they want to use additional segments to help showcase more of the fine jazz talent that resides in the region as the festival continues to grow and evolve.

Singer-pianist Danny Sinoff's quintet

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