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Smooth Moves

Smooth jazz and starry skies are the the cool formula for the Modesto Jazz, Arts and Wine Festival this year.

The third annual event, newly dubbed Jazz Under the Stars, moves from an all-day event to a nighttime celebration this year. Doors will open at 4 p.m. with the show starting at 5 p.m. Saturday at Modesto's SOS Club.

Event founder John Griswold said the searing summer heat made organizers scale down this year. But, he said the music should be as hot as always.

"I look for diversity in themusic styles with each lineup," said Griswold, who runs the Modesto Arts and Music Organization. "Every artist has certain people who like their styles. I always try to reach a cross-section of styles, so you don't have two performers who sound the same."

This year's bill features saxophonist Marion Meadows, guitarist Nils and saxophonist Will Donato.

Headliner Meadows is known for his romantic style. He has recorded or performed with Eartha Kitt, The Temptations and Michael Bolton, among many others. He first hit the airwaves in 1991 with "For Lovers Only." His latest release, 2006's "Dress to Chill," landed at No. 2 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz charts.

German Guitarist Nils made a big splash in 1995 when he hit No. 1 on the Radio & Records airplay chart with "Pacific Coast Highway." The song stayed at the top for seven weeks and became the most played song in the format in the U.S. and Canada for the year. His follow-up, "Summer Nights," stayed in the Top 5 for six months on the same chart.

Emerging saxophone star Donato's music has appeared on a number of major movie soundtracks, including "Thelma & Louise" and "The Wedding Planner." This year, he released his latest album, "Will Call."

Griswold said he put both saxophonists on the bill because of their differing styles.

"(Meadows) is a much more romantic kind of sax player. Even though his music live is pretty hot, he leans toward the sexiness of sax," Griswold said. "(Donato) is a sax guy, too. But he is a little funkier and more R&B."

Griswold said that next year, he hopes to expand the festival again and take it to two nights. His smooth-jazz concert series has been running strong since 2003 at the SOS Club. This season, he added more intimate shows, called Cafe de Musique Cabaret Jazz Series, at Jacob's the Art of Fine Dining restaurant.

"There is a fan base out there for (contemporary jazz)," he said. "There are people who don't miss anything."

WHAT: Modesto Jazz, Arts and Wine Festival

WHEN: 4 p.m. gates, 5 p.m. show Saturday

WHERE: SOS Club, 819 Sunset Ave., Modesto

TICKETS: $40 general, $50 reserved

CALL: 491-7185