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Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017 1 month ago

Live music returns to Sarasota Farmer's Market

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Sarasota Farmer’s Market serves up fresh, hot music every month.
by: Marty Fugate Contributor

Sarasota Farmers Market is a great place to pick up meats, fruits, veggies and cool artisanal products. One weekend a month, it also serves up a nice jam. Of the musical variety.

To Sarasota resident Rebecca Desimone, the sound is always fresh.

“I love the energy live performers bring to shopping at the farmers market,” she says. “There’s nothing like hearing the strains of ‘Oye Como Va’ while you’re searching for that perfect plant.”

Sarasota’s outdoor market has had a musical soundtrack since 2009. That beat goes on, thanks to an honor roll of locally based bands and musicians.

Bryan Spainhower weaves intricate musical tapestries in the jazz-rock fusion legacy of Mahavishnu Orchestra. Jen & Ray paint in shades of the blues — when they’re not coloring outside genre lines. Lady Jazz stirs up a spicy gumbo of New Orleans jazz. Taking inspiration from the big band era, Sarasota Jazz Project fills the air with the fat sounds of a 17-piece jazz ensemble. Big Night Out favors the flavor of Latin jazz with a dash of R&B. Dean Johanesen follows in the gypsy jazz footsteps of Django Reinhardt and other old-school, roots musicians.

“Dean’s been with us since the beginning,” says Phil Pagano, the farmers market’s executive director. “He helped get this thing started. But every musician we work with really loves being part of the farmers market experience.” 

Big Night Out, one of several bands that frequents the market, specializes in Latin, island and R&B music. Photo by Max Kelly

What do they love about it?

A random sampling of musicians loved the combination of wide-away people and smoke-free air.

“I like the idea of playing outside a bar occasionally,” says Johanesen, laughing. “It’s also a great way to spend a Saturday morning. I like the mix of crowds you get at the market. It’s a cross-section of the whole community. People are super friendly and there’s always a bunch of kids. I love seeing kids dance around to the music and get infected by it.”

George McLain, co-founder of the Sarasota Jazz Project, digs the early morning vibe. “Early morning’s the perfect time for big-band jazz,” he says. “People are fresh in the morning. They’re out enjoying the market; they’re in a good mood and they make a great audience.” He adds that, “It’s a nice break from smoky nightclubs.”

That gets a big “amen” from Bruce Glasberg, the trombonist and bandleader of Big Night Out.

Frank Alverez sings as the Big Night Out horn section performs. Photo by Max Kelly

“It’s literally a breath of fresh air,” he says. “And it’s really nice to think that people are starting their day with our music. We like to get the market in a party mood. There’s nothing like getting people to meringue at 10 in the morning.”

The party’s been going on for years. And it’s been a moveable musical feast. Sometimes by the Mermaid Fountain. Sometimes at the edge of the plaza near Salute! Restaurant.

Then downtown construction shut the music down a few months back.

“The customers didn’t like it,” notes Pagano. “A lady asked me, ‘When’s the next music event? I told her that downtown construction has pushed the music aside. She said, ‘Well, I tell everybody who comes to town that this is one of the best markets in the country — and the music’s a big part of it.’ I went to the city the next Monday and said ‘We need to figure out a plan.’”

And they did.

The city quickly permitted a section of First Street from Lemon Avenue to the entrance of Whole Foods. Once a month, they block it off, set up a stage and line up chairs. Then the musicians start cooking.

Big Night Out will take the stage from 9: 30 a.m. until noon Saturday, Dec. 30.

“The show will go on,” says Pagano. “We couldn’t be happier.”

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