Jazz at the Airport

August 8th, 2007

Sarasota-Bradenton Airport: a Tuesday in August, 11 a.m. The temperature on the tarmac is 94 F. and rising. But inside the arrivals hall there’s a buzz—and it’s coming from something much cooler than air conditioning. For the month of August, arriving passengers (and those waiting to meet them) will be soothed by some of the finest jazz on the Gulf Coast.

Non-aeronautic diversions are nothing new for airports: bookstores, shoe-shine stands, 15-minute massage therapists… SRQ’s stars are swimmers, Mote Marine’s live leopard sharks. But now, the sharks have competition.

Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau executive director, Larry White is a big jazz fan. So big he has included the cavernous spaces of SRQ as a venue for the Bureau’s “Jazz on the Islands” series.

Twice each day through the entire month of August, from 11:00 a.m.—1:00 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m.—5:30 p.m., incoming passengers will be surprised to hear live jazz played by some of Sarasota’s most sophisticated musicians.

While it’s not yet apparent exactly how airport jazz is being received (a lot of arriving passengers come through talking on their cell phones), we gleaned the following comments between Tom Carabasi’s driving samba beats: “…a lot better than Fort Myers,” and “this place [SRQ] is a country club compared to Tampa.”

Dean of Sarasota jazz pianists and program coordinator, Michael Royal, has enlisted a Who’s Who of local performers. Rick Peterson, Tom Carabasi, Marc Mannino, Mark Neuenschwander, and Gary Goetz will rotate throughout the month, goodwill ambassadors for both arriving and departing passengers. Meanwhile, we defy anyone to find more mellow TSA agents than those at SRQ.

As we get farther into the rainy season here, sudden downpours can douse even the hottest outdoor concerts. So it’s exciting that Larry White’s creative, out-of-the-box thinking has tapped two of our great resources: a pool of extremely talented musicians and our superlative (and underutilized) airport.

Now, let’s figure out a way to perpetuate the program so that high-season travelers can also experience the theraputic benefits of jazz on the concourse.

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