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Jazz Fest needs $80k

Spyro Gyra and Kenny G will play June 26 and 27 at OCC; sponsors are invited to join the jam:

On Monday in the new upstairs party room at downtown's Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Syracuse Jazz Festival Director Frank Malfitano unveiled plans for the 27th annual free-admission jazz bash June 26 and 27, at Onondaga Community College.

To accommodate early-bird jazz fans, this year's festival will do away with the VIP-only section in favor of first-come-first-served seating.

"Musicians don't want to play to empty chairs and fans want access to the artists, so we're making that happen," Malfitano said.

But he also issued a plea for financial support to keep the festival alive.

If the needed $80,000 rolls in within a month, he said, the two-day event will include headline sets by Spyro Gyra and Kenny G, a late-night jam session featuring instrumentalists such as Randy Brecker, Bill Evans and Will Lee, performances by 12 local scholastic combos and a food court bolstered by none other than the world-famous Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

Dinosaur co-owner John Stage believes it's a partnership made in honky tonk heaven. "Let me think," Stage said in a recent e-mail, "a warm summer day, smokin' jazz and slow-smoked meats: I'm there!"

While the food news bodes well for the fest, the recession casts a shadow over the party plans.

"We don't need a bailout because we didn't do anything wrong," Malfitano quipped, "but we do need a stimulus."

County Executive Joanie Mahoney stood at Malfitano's side and displayed a full-color marketing brochure designed to attract festival sponsors who are invited to use the event as a recruiting tool and to reward clients and employees.

County funding nearly doubled since last year's festival, which was scaled back to two days in spite of title sponsorship from JGB Enterprises of Liverpool.

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