Football and brass bands have a long and honored connection. So on Super Bowl Sunday, maybe there was a little extra reason to have the Music of Marco Big Band play at Mackle Park.
Not that they played marches. This was classic big band music, the kind the GIs listened to during WWII, heavy on Glenn Miller and Count Basie.
A couple hundred Marco Islanders came out to listen, tap their feet, and sometimes dance to the music of the 16-member band led by Bob Schnitzius. Handling the emcee chores, and also in the center of the five-member saxophone section, he introduced each tune, and called out individual band members and vocalists when they took the lead.
Sitting under a bandshell that spends most of its time as a covered basketball court, the Big Band’s sounds resonated throughout the park, providing musical accompaniment for the shuffleboard players, remote-controlled sailboats, and children in the playground right behind the band.
The audience sitting in their beach chairs under the canopy mostly seemed old enough to remember when the tunes being played were just being pressed onto 78 rpm records. One exception was Kevin Devitt, age 24, playing the bass trombone on tunes that were oldies when his parents were born.
“I’ve always enjoyed this music,” he said after the show. “My parents played this around the house, so I grew up with it.” There are also presumably fewer opportunities your bass trombone in, say, a bluegrass band.
Another younger player, trumpeter and flugelhorn player Mark Pettey, provided an instrumental highlight of the afternoon with his solo on Basie’s “One O’Clock Jump.” The tune also featured solos by keyboardist Julian Sundby and Tom Brimmenkamp on the six-string bass guitar.
Vocals were shared between Dante Lupi, who sings under just his first name, singing the male leads, and Beth Mortland, doing the honors where a female voice was called for. Mortland’s more restrained style contrasted with that of Dante, who emoted more and worked the crowd on songs like “I Get a Kick Out of You.” The whole crowd got in the act, clapping along to the “Beer Barrel Polka.”
A number of audience members were taking advantage of the chance to multitask, combining listening to the band with reading their Sunday papers. Peggy Foucht went one step further, sitting in the front row reading a novel.
“My husband, Nelson, plays trombone in the band,” she said. “After 49 years of marriage, I’ve been to a lot of shows.”
Some took a more energetic approach to their recreation. Couples including Muriel and Robert Heyward, and Carmela and Fritz Rath, got out of their chairs and danced. The Raths follow the band around, dancing to live music every chance they get.
“This is the best big band around,” said Carmela Rath. “We love all that old swing, all the Glenn Miller songs.”
Dante said the Marco band is a spinoff of Stan Spiro’s big band, with which he sang for 15 years. They play a big band dance on Immokalee on Tuesday, and are scheduled to play Cambier Park in Naples Friday at 7 p.m.
By the time the band wrapped up a full two hours of music with Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade,” the crowd went home satisfied, having gotten their fix of good old big band music.