Baker is sole headliner of Paetec

The Baltimore Sun

Organizers of last year's Paetec Jazz Festival announced yesterday that Grammy-winning R&B; singer Anita Baker would be the sole headliner for a drastically scaled back and refocused event.

Last year's festival spanned three days and featured dozens of acts including Al Green, Earth, Wind & Fire and Little Richard, but this year, organizers have opted for one night and one performer.

The change comes after organizers renamed the event the Paetec Music Tour in February. They said it would have a broader focus and stop in five cities including Baltimore.

"The budget for the tour has been spread out to other markets, not just one city," says John Nugent, the festival's producer and artistic director. "It was a corporate decision to spread the product in different cities."

Originally billed as an event that could revitalize Baltimore's storied jazz scene, last year's festival leaned heavily on nonjazz acts, but still drew about 25,000 people to multiple venues downtown.

Jeff Burke, chief marketing officer of Paetec, wouldn't disclose how much money the festival generated, but he said the turnout was strong enough for a second year. While he wouldn't rule out adding more acts later, he said: "The evening with Anita Baker is it for now."

Baker -- known for her hits like "Sweet Love" and "Caught Up in The Rapture" -- will perform Aug. 15 at the Pier Six Concert Pavilion. Tickets cost $39-$125 and go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday.

"We don't have anything else booked. We established this to market [Baker]. That's the agreement we made. We support the communities we serve, and Anita Baker should do very well there," Burke said.

In addition to Baltimore, the Paetec Music Tour will also stop in Chicago; Charlotte, N.C.; Dallas; and Tampa, Fla. Soul stalwart Green, category-defying New Orleans legend Dr. John and rollicking rock band Dickey Betts & Great Southern will start the tour in Tampa, but the lineup changes in each city.

Last year, Paetec, a telecommunications company based in New York, acquired McLeod USA, expanding its reach from 54 to 82 markets. The company is now a national brand, so executives decided to extend its musical arm to other cities.

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