851 Gulf Shore Boulevard North, Naples, FL
NAPLES — In a town where transplants outnumber locals by huge margins, being around 25 years pretty much makes you a local.
For an event, 25 years definitely qualifies as a tradition. That’s really the only way to describe the Naples Beach Hotel’s annual SummerJazz on the Gulf series.
For a quarter of a century the hotel has brought in jazz, funk, soul and other forms of horn-heavy music as a treat for the locals after season had come and gone.
“Like the Great Dock Canoe Race, it has just been one of those things for the locals,” said Jim Anderson, the hotel’s director of food and beverage and the man responsible for booking acts for the past 13 years.
Anderson spends all year listening to CDs, MP3s and streaming audio trying to find the right mix of groups that both represent the jazz spirit of the festival and a dance-friendly sound that will bring in patrons.
“Jazz is a broad category,” he said. “There’s a lot of bands that fit somewhere into that spectrum.”
The key to booking free concerts is to find bands that keep people energized. Somber smooth jazz tends to put people to sleep, Anderson explained.
“We don’t want it to be all Kenny G up there,” he said.
This year’s line up features two high-energy show bands (Blue Dice, June 26, and Late Night Brass, July 24,) a more traditional jazz saxophonist (Mike MacArthur, Aug. 28) and a classic jazz singer (Denise Moore, Sept. 18).
George Marks, a trumpet player for Blue Dice, said his band focuses on a horn-heavy sound that definitely gets the party started without being tied down to any specific genre.
“You get a lot of flavors of music (with Blue Dice),” Marks said. “Funk, rock, jazz blues. Reviews liken us to Van Morrison and Tower of Power.”
Blue Dice differs from the rest of the acts in that they play a mostly original set, only sprinkling in covers from Blood, Sweat and Tears, some blues bands and old-school Stax R&B. Long-time jazz series attendees might recognize the band from an appearance in 2000.
Late Night Brass is more of a show band in the tradition of the Blues Brothers, with a jazzier look at the classic soul cannon. A quick scan through their song list gives an idea of what kind of music fans should expect in July. The band mixes a diverse group of artists including Chicago, Michael Jackson, James Brown and Beyonce. The band proved so popular last year, Anderson had to bring them back.
In Mike MacArthur the jazz series finds a sax player versed in both the classic bebop horn tradition as well as the pop song book. He brings his warm solos to songs such as “With A Little Help From My Friends” and “Georgia on My Mind.”
Locals might remember Denise Moore, frontwoman of Denise Moore and Then Some, from her time with the jazz series favorites Women’s Blues Revue. With her new group she blends the sounds of sultry pop star Peggy Lee, classic jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald and jazz-fusion darling Flora Purim.
Long-time attendees of the jazz series know the drill by now.
“They know to come early and put down their chairs or blankets to get a good seat,” Anderson said.
But for the uninitiated there are a few things to keep in mind.
The show is out on the lawn, so bring your own chairs or blankets for seating. Don’t bring your coolers or outside food and beverage.
“The concert is free,” Anderson said. “So we hope people will understand that we need to sell concessions.”
With 1,500 or more folks coming down, parking can get tricky. The easiest solution Anderson said is to park at Lowdermilk Park and take the complimentary shuttle down to the beach club for the show.
And most importantly?
“Have a good time,” Anderson said. “Celebrate another successful season with us and enjoy some great music.”