Back Stage at the Seabreeze Jazz Festival – 2005

The Countdown

The artist lineup for the Seabreeze Jazz Festival featured Brian Culbertson and a list of Smooth Jazz Superstars.  Brian is a good friend of a friend, and we were invited to the VIP section for the concert in Florida.  The line up included Brian and his group featuring saxophone phenom, Eric Darius, Spyro Gyra, Down to the Bone, Richard Elliot, Rick Braun, Johnathan Butler, Peter White, Jeff Kashiwa, Kim Waters, Marion Meadows and some outstanding local groups.  WOW!

My wife, Genetta, and I flew into Pensacola and drove to Destin to join four of our friends who had arrived earlier and secured the condo on the beach where we were staying for the weekend.  What a great spot and only a couple of miles up the road to the festival gates.  It was a hot, sunny day in April, but there was a steady (sea)breeze that kept it comfortable.  We parked the car and followed the crowds and the music to the venue.  There was a beautiful grassy area about half the size of a football field in front of a large stage and on the right side of the stage was the VIP tent.  We entered the VIP area and got our lanyards with our passes.  In the tent, there were about a dozen table rounds for 10, a beer and wine bar, and a very nice buffet table with lots of fun food.  We sat at a table directly in front of the food and drinks, (of course), but quickly realized it was also next to the tables where the performers came to relax and sign autographs.  We were having a great time, and we had only been there for 15 minutes.

Not the first toast…and not the last.

So here’s a toast to the Seabreeze Jazz Festival…fun, food, wine, music and good friends.

The Blast-off

There was a friendly young lady with a big smile serving beer and wine.  As I sat down with my second glass of rocket fuel (wine), I noticed my VIP badge was different from the people at the next table.  Most badges in the tent said VIP, but my tag said “ALL ACCESS”.  So I grabbed Gee and walked right into the backstage set up area.  The police officer smiled and opened the fence to let us through.  “No you didn’t open the fence for us”, and we walked up on the stage while Brian Culbertson was performing.  WOW! again.

Brian Culbertson is a keyboard wizard and a musical genius
Brilliant young saxophone phenom, Eric Darius
Brian and Jim Culbertson and Eric Darius

Then came Down to the Bone.

Down to the Bone gets down to the bone

Peter White was having a great time, and he was so busy talking to Genetta that the stage manager had to come and get him to go on stage.  She often imitates the stage manager’s shrill, frantic voice, “PETER…PETER…IT’S TIME PETER.”  What a wonderful, down-to-earth guy.

Eric and Peter White

Johnathan Butler is one of our favorite artists.  We love his music, and he seems to be such a nice, spiritual man.  And he is.  He is a gentleman and lots of fun.

Johnathan Butler and Gee backstage
Jeff Kashiwa makes last minute equipment adjustments
Rick Braun and Richard Elliott are ready to take the stage
Rick Braun ignites the crowd with a walk through the audience
Jonathan Butler, Richard Elliott and Rick Braun
Marion Meadows heats up his horn before heading to the stage
Kim Waters with a tiny “red hot” sax

Gee had been uncomfortable going backstage.  She didn’t want to get in the way or impose on anybody.  And she definitely did not want to get on the stage.  But I dragged her with me, and after a little while, she felt more at ease.  People were smiling and cordial, and she was having a good time.  A young man with dark glasses and a big smile approached, and Gee introduced herself.  He said, “my name is Tom”.  And she said, “are you in a band?”  He looked surprised, but smiled and said, “I’m Tom Schuman.”  And Gee said, “which band do you play in?”  He laughed and said, “I play keyboards for Spyro Gyra.  And she laughed and said, “good for you.”  (I didn’t recognize him either :-)).  He is a very nice man.  He has written over thirty-five Spyro Gyra compositions including “Catching the Sun.”   Then Scott Ambush came over, and we talked about regular stuff for a while.

Scott Ambush and Tom Schuman of Spyro Gyra backstage with Genetta.
On stage with Spyro Gyra

The Landing

We had been partying for five hours, and we were having a great time.  The lady at the bar was so nice, and I gave her a pretty nice tip for serving my party.  I didn’t realize that the gentlemen in my party had also tipped her.  So, she was pretty happy with us, so she brought us a case of wine and slid it under the table.  We cheered and announced that the party would continue at the condo on the beach.  And everybody laughed and danced in their chairs and played the air guitar.  We were having one of the best times ever.

As we left the park, the wine started tapping everybody on the shoulder.  Our designated driver got us to the car and drove us to the condo.  It had been a great day, and I walked out on the beach and sat in a patio chair to watch the sunset.

Then, I woke up to see the moonrise.  It was a clear night with a full moon and the ocean was licking the shore.  It was beautiful, and it was four o’clock in the morning. AHHH!  What happened?  What about the party?  (Apparently, the people came to the party, but we were all asleep, and we didn’t open the door.)

So, the Seabreeze is still our all-time “most fun we ever had” trip.  We are always trying to top it.  🙂

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