Randy Brecker came up through New York's and Philadelphia's 1970s jazz-fusion scene as a relentless explorer of funk, rock and Brazilian jazz, recording with the likes of Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Frank Sinatra. But it was his years playing trumpet for late Fort Lauderdale jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius in the Word of Mouth Band, some "good and some bad," that Brecker recalls vividly.
"Jazz players come out, stand still and play, which is what I do. [Jaco] came out and did somersaults," Brecker recalls with a laugh, speaking from his home in East Hampton, N.Y. "Jaco called me to play on his first record, and then I played with him for two years in Greenwich Village when my brother Michael left. God, he was a magnificent musician taken down so young."
Brecker, who rarely performs in South Florida, says Pastorius will be in his thoughts (and perhaps his setlist) when he brings his Randy Brecker Quintet to the inaugural Sea of JazzFest, Jan. 23 and Jan. 24 at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater.
The festival, put together by the Creative City Collaborative programmers behind Arts Garage in Delray Beach and Bailey Contemporary Arts in Pompano, will feature two days of Grammy-winning musicians and jazz icons, including the Phil Woods Quintet, Hubert Laws and Tierney Sutton, the Clayton Brothers and the Ken Peplowski Quintet.
Booking the Sea of JazzFest took good timing and logistics, Pompano Beach Arts president Alyona Ushe says. Every performer on the lineup, including Brecker's quintet, is scheduled to depart Sunday from Port Everglades on the sold-out Jazz Cruise '15, so it was a matter of lassoing top-tier jazz acts to Pompano Beach first.
"There was already this phenomenal, cream-of-the-crop lineup coming through South Florida anyway, so it just made sense to take advantage," says Ushe, whose Creative City Collaborative manages cultural programming in the city.
The Sea of JazzFest also piggybacks on the more popular 25th annual Nautical Flea Market, presented by Pompano and Lighthouse Point, which will take place the same weekend on the amphitheater's grounds. Sea of JazzFest ticket buyers will also gain free admission to the flea market.
Ushe says ticket sales have been "moving along," citing challenges with presenting jazz in wide-open parks instead of intimate venues, but expects the caliber of talent and interest in the Jazz Cruise to drive in proceeds.
"We'd like to do this every year, and maybe even book blues festivals at the same time that blues cruises depart South Florida," Ushe says.
Sea of JazzFest will take place 7-11 p.m. Friday, Jan. 23, and Saturday, Jan. 24, at Pompano Beach Amphitheater, 1806 NE Sixth St. Single-night tickets cost $35-$150. Festival passes cost $65-$250. Call 954-519-5500 or go to PompanoBeachArts.org.