The Sarasota Jazz Festival has been around since the early 1980s, and organizers expect it could attract record crowds this year.
"It's get bigger and bigger every year," said Carline Ash, the office manager for the Jazz Club of Sarasota, the non-profit that organizes the festival. "I think this year with everything that's going on up north, we're really going to have a lot of people coming to the festival."
Of course, it's the music, not the weather, that's the main attraction, and it's that combination of frigid weather up north and hot jazz in locations around Sarasota, she said, could make the 33rd annual festival the most popular ever.
Officials of the Jazz Club of Sarasota keep up with what's going on in the jazz world much more ardently than the average jazz fan could, so they're able to bring in some of the hottest musicians in the country.
"A lot of people think that if you don't know the name, then they can't possibly be good musicians," said club president Dave Walrath. "That's just not the case."
As an example, he cited Alexis Cole, a jazz vocalist who's slated to perform at 7:30 p.m. at the Players Theatre, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, on Friday, Feb. 28. She's drawn comparisons to some of the finest female singers jazz has ever known, but she's still young and hasn't become a household name yet.
"Ninety-nine out of 100 people in Sarasota don't know who she is," Walrath said. "But we do."
The Anderson Brothers are a New York saxophone duo that is just starting to make serious waves in the jazz world, performing with such giants as Wynton Marsalis, Wycliffe Gordon and Michael Feinstein. Quincy Jones told them "You dudes are the future."
They'll be at the Players Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27.
This year's Sarasota Jazz Festival gets going on Sunday, Feb. 23, with a free concert in Phillippi Estate Park.
The Festival Kick-off Concert is always one of the most popular events at the festival, Ash said. This year, the concert features The Manatee High School Jazz Band at 1 p.m. and the Jeremy Carter Jazz Quartet: at 2:30 p.m.
Phillippi Estate Park is at 5500 S. Tamiami Trail.
One of the most popular parts of the festival every year is the Jazz Trolley & Pub Crawl 6:15 to10:30 p.m. Trolleys leave periodically from the parking lot of Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and make the rounds to seven Sarasota Jazz venues.
There was a time, Walrath said, when the jazz festival relied on the same big-name jazz musicians every year. And this year's festival includes such familiar names as Dick Hyman and Ken Peplowski. But the emphasis is on introducing local audiences to exciting young musicians of the genre.
"People just have to trust us," Walrath said. "And we will not steer them wrong."
Details: Feb. 20-March 1, various locations. Show times: various. Tickets Different for each event. Information: 941-366-1552, www.jazzclubsarasota.org; For tickets to events at the Players Theatre, Information: 941-365-2494, www.theplayers.org.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.