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By photojournalist Jayne Drooger

In 1987 Straz Center for the Performing Arts opened it’s doors and Fred Johnson was the first to perform! Last night with the beginning of a 3 part series he performed on the Riverwalk with 2 of Tampa’s premier female jazz singers, Belinda Womack and Theo Valentin. Backed by a band also made up of some of the area’s finest, Patrick Bettison on keys, LaRue Nickelson on guitar, John Jenkins on drums and Mauricio Rodriguez on bass, the night was pure magic! The people in attendance in the seats and on the riverwalk showed appreciation for this much needed music with dancing, singing along and multiple standing ovations!

The second part of this series is scheduled for April 30th with a workshop from 3:30-5 in the Patel TECO theatre and all are invited to attend. It will cover the Jazz Rhythm section with Michael Ross. Followed by another concert with The Michael Ross Quartet at 7:00 on the outside stage. On May 20th, the third part of the series will feature a Steel Pan Jazz quartet with the workshop the following day to include an intro to Steel Pan in Jazz. The workshop will be 1:30-3:00, May 21st. Don’t miss these fabulous upcoming shows that are free on the beautiful riverwalk. Jazz is alive and well in our city.