Gene Arnould first heard jazz on records loaned to him by a young minister who was visiting his church in Illinois.
“Dave Brubeck, Erroll Garner, Cannonball Adderley, that’s what I grew up listening to,” Arnold said. “While my buddies were listening to rock ’n’ roll, I would listen to jazz.”
Like that young minister, Arnould served as a man of the cloth for several years, at a church in Marblehead.
He also shared his love of jazz with the community when he founded the Marblehead Summer Jazz Series, now in its 29th season.
The first concert, in 1985, featured Makoto Ozone, who at the time was a young graduate of Berklee College of Music. He was also the first pianist to replace the legendary Chick Corea in a group led by vibraphonist Gary Burton.
“He had gotten a lot of play on radio, a lot of buzz,” Arnould said. “I said to a friend of mine, wouldn’t it be neat if we could bring Makoto to Marblehead?”
Ozone was the first in a long line of distinguished performers who have played in the Marblehead series.
“I don’t think people always recognize the level of talent we have here,” Arnould said. “But they’re some of the best over the years, legends like Jack McDuff, a Hammond B3 player, and James Moody. But also some of the young lions, like Esperanza Spalding, who plays bass and got a Grammy two or three years ago for best new artist.”
The series began with an emphasis on local talent, and has always featured a performance by Boston-based vocalist Rebecca Parris, who will kick things off again this Saturday.
“She’s been in every summer series we’ve done,” Arnould said. “She sings American standards, the American songbook.”
Some audience members have been coming to the Marblehead series as long as she has, Parris said.