Ferreting Out Live Jazz in Naples, Florida

Naples is not the first city that comes to mind when talk turns to jazz meccas. But the good news is that the local jazz landscape is improving. The quality of music in local bars rises with consistent live entertainment. You see, Naples is more well known for its tropical music, the tunes visitors are looking for to remind them of the winter cold they have left behind. Steel drum bands and Jimmy Buffett covers are much more likely to sound from local nightclubs than New Orleans style or contemporary jazz or even the blues. Outside of the nightclubs, you can find a few restaurants such as the Wine Loft Bar & Restaurant at Mercato and M Waterfront Grille in the Village at Venetian Bay that host Sunday jazz brunches and other special jazz events. You can also hear live jazz in special performances, and this list includes them. Cambier Park, Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club and Artis--Naples host local and national jazz groups seasonally. Given the shortage of true jazz clubs in Naples, many on the list host live musicians, but not always jazz. The list gives priority, however, to those that do regularly feature jazz musicians on stage.


Old Naples
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton

Known for its fine Italian cuisine, Vergina restaurant also turns into a hot night spot as darkness falls. The bar plays more Motown style music than jazz, but it draws in fans from 8:30 to close nightly. Crowds spill out in the courtyard between Vergina and the neighboring building. Happy hour is all night Mondays and 3:30- 7 p.m. the rest of the week, featuring steep drink specials. Nightlifers can order from the regular dinner menu or a lighter cafe and bar menu. Butternut squash ravioli is the star on the latter menu. The drink menu lists some interesting, tasty martinis - a Vergina specialty.

Recommended for Jazz Clubs because: Vergina is a happening night spot with live music and a party crowd most nights.

Chelle's expert tip: This is a great spot for pre- or post-theater at the Sugden Theatre across the street.

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The Continental
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton

An out-of-the-box steakhouse, its courtyard seating area turns into a hot music and dance arena as night falls. It also touts its reputation for craft cocktails, some of which fill glass orbs overhanging the outdoor bar. They include the Continental Innovation, blended with Death's Door gin, Cocchi Americano Bianco, Carpano Bianco and grapefruit bitters. Made to order craft cocktails include a Sazarac stirred with Old Overholt rye whiskey, yellow chartreuse, absinthe and Peychaud's bitters; and The Church Key – Four Roses small batch bourbon, blueberry-sage shrub and lemon. The Continental's savvy wine menu lists 25 by the glass and devotes one page plus each to "Chardonnay in Every Style," "Burgundian Descendants," and "Reserve List" bottles. Bar and late-night menus serve out-of-the-ordinary bar food until midnight.

Recommended for Jazz Clubs because: It hosts live music most nights and Lunch Jazz most days during season.

Chelle's expert tip: The award-winning Follow the White Rabbit cocktail blends citrus vodka, triple sec, fresh raspberries and rosemary, and pickled blackberries.

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Old Naples
Cambier Park
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton

Cambier Park IS Naples' community park, situated smack in the center of downtown Old Naples just south of Fifth Avenue South. The park's band shell hosts free live concerts throughout the year. Its Norris Center is home to Gulfshore Players community theater. The Arthur L. Allen Tennis Center holds 12 lighted Hydro-Grid Har-Tru Courts and a tennis shop, plus you will find five lighted shuffleboard courts, two bocce courts, a softball field and a playground that local families adore. The 13 acre park offers shady areas for picnics and a covered pavilion. The park gets its name from circa 1926 town engineer William Cambier.

Recommended for Jazz Clubs because: The Gulf Coast Big Band and other local jazz groups perform big band and jazz concerts.

Chelle's expert tip: For pre- or post-concert meals, check out Captain & Krewe Seafood across the street from the park on Eighth Street.

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Formerly known as the Philharmonic Center for the Arts, it is dedicated to both visual and performing arts in one architecturally forward location. The Naples Philharmonic Orchestra still calls the center home as does the Miami Ballet. And most Neapolitans still refer to it as "The Phil." Its calendar of events cuts a wide swath of entertainment. A Broadway series runs during the winter season, when the snowbirds flock in. The Artis hosts audiences of up to 1,425 throughout the year for touring orchestras, opera, comedians, modern dance and more than 400 events yearly. It also has a 200-seat black-box theater.

Recommended for Jazz Clubs because: Not a jazz club per se, but it hosts monthly jazz concerts with visiting artists and the house jazz and youth jazz orchestras.

Chelle's expert tip: Plan on a visit to its art galleries when you're headed to a show at Artis.

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Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club
Photo courtesy of Naples Marco Island Everglades CVB

Naples Beach Hotel has provided a seaside spot where guests and locals can gather for close to 70 years. And it continues to do so today at its HB's on the Gulf and Sunset Beach Bar & Grill poolside. Both serve food with their stunning views of the beach and setting sun. For nearly 10 years, its wine list has earned the Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator magazine, plus the bartenders have a flair for tropical drinks. A solo guitarist often entertains around the pool during the day. During the warm months, June through September, the resort throws a free outdoor SummerJazz concert once a month, and has done so for 30 years.

Recommended for Jazz Clubs because: For 30 years, it has hosted its free monthly SummerJazz on the Gulf series outdoors on its lawn.

Chelle's expert tip: Naples Beach Hotel's pool bars are the best place in town to catch sunset.

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Weekend Willie's
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton

In the heart of Naples' home construction and design commercial district off Pine Ridge Road, this place is a favorite of the local working class. Regulars come for sports TV, pizza, wings, burgers, deli sandwiches, shots of Fireballs, cold beer and nightly live entertainment. It is one of those "where everyone knows your name" kind of neighborhood places. Happy Hour runs daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Most people sit around the bar, especially at the end of the work day. But starting around 7 or 8 p.m., folks gather at the musicians' corner. There's also outdoor seating.

Recommended for Jazz Clubs because: It stages live entertainment - often jazz - every night.

Chelle's expert tip: Check the web site for special parties and events.

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Wine Loft of Naples
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton

The gorgeous parlor setting at the Wine Loft bar and restaurant feels at once elegant and homey. It hosts live entertainment every Thursday, Friday and Saturday plus jazz musicians for its Saturday and Sunday brunch each week. Of course fine wines are the tipple of choice, but the bar carries a full stock of beers and liquor. The restaurant serves meals until the bar closes, which is midnight on week days and 1 a.m. of Friday and Saturday nights. The menu keeps it light with appetizers, salads, sandwiches, flatbreads, small plates and desserts. Dishes such as crab and spinach dip, strawberry salad, fig and prosciutto flatbread, tenderloin medallions with blue cheese and turtle lava cake pair well with wines.

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Bay House Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton

Naples visitors looking for live jazz and other genres of music love the Bay House Restaurant not only for its musical selection, but also for its wonderful seafood dishes, polished decor and expansive views of the wild Cocohatchee River and its resident birds. Patrons can hear live music - often tasty blues and jazz licks - every night Wednesday through Saturday. The Tierney's Bar area boasts - as does the entire restaurant complex - tasteful nautical decor, and the tavern has a cozy brick fireplace ideal for a casual evening with friends, cocktails and mellow melodies.

Recommended for Jazz Clubs because: It hosts jazz and other live bands Wednesday through Saturday.

Chelle's expert tip: Bay House ranks high in the seafood dining category, so plan on dinner with your musical evening.

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Enjoy your 7th Avenue Social experience around the bar or out on the patio with an Albino Manhattan (made with white whiskey and vermouth plus a dash of orange bitters) or a craft IPA from its extensive list. Whether you choose indoors or outdoors, the setting pleases. Mismatched tables and chairs make the bar funky and fun. There is a youthful vibe, although people of all ages find their way here for the good food, craft cocktails and live music. 7th Avenue Social, which opened in March 2015, serves food from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. It's known for its fresh and local ingredients, creative street tacos and Caribbean flair.

Recommended for Jazz Clubs because: 7th Avenue Social hosts live entertainment Wednesday through Sunday in season, featuring jazz, blues, piano and rock.

Chelle's expert tip: The Bee's Knees cocktail blends St. George Botanivore Gin – made with 19 different botanicals – plus lemon juice and honey syrup.

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M Waterfront Grille
Photo courtesy of peter sereno

Naples residents and visitors who love jazz head to M Waterfront Grille for its refined atmosphere, water views, fine cuisine and tasty live music. On Wednesdays, patrons relax in the lounge or on the outdoor veranda for Wine on Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. It features smooth jazz music, wine and drink specials and discounted appetizer specials. The musicians perform from 5 to 8 p.m. The restaurant also hosts live jazz on Friday nights from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in season and at Sunday Brunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Guests can dine inside the restaurant or order something from the lounge menu.

Recommended for Jazz Clubs because: It hosts Sunday jazz brunches and other jazz events year-round - but more so in the winter season.

Chelle's expert tip: Call ahead for a live jazz calendar, which changes seasonally.

Read more about M Waterfront Grille →


Meet Chelle Koster Walton

Chelle Koster Walton – the Local Expert for Naples, Florida and the Caribbean – has been covering the destination for 30 years. Her top-selling Sarasota, Sanibel Island, and...  More About Chelle