Live music on Fort Myers Beach takes on another dimension this season, as Capt. Carl's Blues and Revue revives the jazz and blues format made popular over the years most recently at the Purple Heart Theater, where the group played for the Island Arts Foundation's Soup Bowl Thursdays.
Featuring the original members from the Purple Heart Theater Band except for former pianist, Mike Baer, who has now been replaced with Armand Di'Genova, the Revue is playing weekly at some of the Beach's most iconic watering holes, including the Surf Club and SOB's.
"We are so happy to be able to play jazz on the Beach, says tenor saxophonist Carl Conley, the group's founder. Over the past 20 years, we have had the privilege of playing for some great fans of the genre, going back to our three-year stint with John Wendell, when he owned the Cottage and Gulfshore Grill in the early '90s. We played every Saturday and Sunday afternoon under the name that we have resurrected here: Capt. Carl's Jazz and Blues Revue."
Swing by SOB’s any Saturday, from 2 to 5 p.m.; The Surf Club any Thursday or Sunday, from 2 to 5 p.m.; or Yabo on the 15th of every month, at 9:30 p.m., to catch the sights and sounds of Capt. Carl’s Blues and Revue. Photo by KAREN MILLS.
The byline on the band's poster "A Century of American Music" seems to accurately describe the group musically since they play a songbook ranging from the '20s in New Orleans, Big Band numbers from the '30s and '40s, to tunes by Miles Davis from the '50s through the soul jazz explosion exemplified by artists like the Jazz Crusaders and Grover Washington, Jr.
Vince Evans, the upright bassist, and Carl, also sing. Vince specializes in standards like Route 66. And "The Capt." does originals with a funk feel. Interestingly, the band even lays down some Frank Zappa lyrics over a blues not your typical musical approach and certainly diverse.
Another aspect of the Revue that resonates with the audience is a low-volume approach to the music. "We like people to be able to have a conversation while we play," says Evans.
Rounding out the band is Tremble McCullough on drums. Last year, McCullough backed up Jerry Lee Lewis, and this year did the same for Sixteen Candles in Sarasota. Tremble has played with just about everyone who makes music around these parts, but says he loves "to play jazz most of all."
Tremble is not the only member of the band who plays with other acts. Evans is hired every year by Ira Sullivan when he makes his rounds of South Florida. Sullivan is now over 80 but still maintains the same busy concert schedule he adopted after playing with the late, legendary Charlie Parker.
"Vince is old school and a fine musician; the guys on the Beach are lucky to have him. There are not many who can play like him still around. Music has lost a lot of the sensitivity and refinement, replaced by technology, but Vince still has that ability," Sullivan said.
Conley says a lot of IAF members still attend the shows and that he keeps in touch through email with folks that were so supportive of the Purple Heart Theater.
"A lot of people don't realize the IAF is still operating and that we were issued an occupancy license by the Town of Fort Myers Beach after a year of taking care of some compliance issues. We don't operate as a public forum anymore, but we continue to host events and parties," he said. "We are just way more selective, only inviting trusted private supporters in the loop. We also continue to seek another local venue that could be used for public assembly, but so far have not found anything suitable."
One thing fans of the band will like this year is their plan to continue to bring guest artists to the Beach where they will get to join in on the stage at the venues where the group performs regularly.
Sean Carney is scheduled for the end of February, after returning from his European tour. And multiple Grammy nominee, Gene "King Sax" Walker will be on the Beach for three weeks, as he takes his winter vacation from performing in Columbus, Ohio.
Though many have asked, Conley says he has no plans for a Blues Festival this year.
"We had a ball doing it five years in a row and hated that there wasn't one last year, but I am sure some of the new arts groups will try and fill in the void someday," he said. "We just don't have the time or energy with our playing schedule and the continued development of Loop Lake Farms in the musical town of Muscle Shoals, Ala.
"It will be there, probably starting in 2014, surrounding the lake where we will do the next blues fest. Because they have no zoning compliance issues it will be hassle free. Plus, the W.C. Handy Blues Festival already calls the area home, and it is one of the most successful and long-running festivals of its kind in the world; the whole community gets behind the music. Besides, now that I no longer own the Island Sand Paper, promoting IAF events with ads is no longer feasible."
Those interested in hearing Capt. Carl's Jazz and Blues Revue can catch them every Thursday and Sunday outside on the deck under the shade trees at the Surf Club, from 2 to 5 p.m., and at SOB's every Saturday, from 2 to 5 p.m., inside the open-aired emporium, where the place is usually packed to the rafters. So, come early if you have a seat in mind.
Those who prefer a late night show can go to YABO on Summerlin Road, from 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on the 15th of ever month ?the next being Friday, March 15.