Miami is a notoriously tough town for jazz joints. For that matter, most types of musical venues encounter loads of trouble trying to survive here. Through the years jazz clubs have opened with much fanfare and closed with barely a whimper, leaving many a jazzhead in the proverbial lurch. Still a plethora of great jazz musicians somehow endures.
This Saturday night some of Miami's best players will demonstrate that jazz is alive and kicking in the Magic City. New York City's very famous Cotton Club will be re-created at another well-known onetime hotspot, the historic Lyric Theater in Overtown. The Lyric, where black headliners such as Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Lena Horne once jammed into the wee hours, will bounce again to the sounds of Ellington, Basie, and Parker with The Cotton Club 2002 Jazz & Blues Showcase.
China Valles, venerable jazz DJ and host of the erstwhile China's Jazz Thing on the late WTMI-FM (93.1), will MC. Long-time Miami jazzster Joe Donato and his band headline, offering a jumping dose of swing. Homegrown saxophonist Jesse Jones, Jr., and his brother Melton Mustafa will cook up some sizzling bebop, and Gary King and the Dream take over with contemporary jazz. Topping things off: hard-driving blues by singer Beverly Barkley.
The Lyric promises to percolate with this first major musical event by producer Dylan Mobley. Followup, he hopes, will come in the form of monthly jazz concerts at the Lyric. Those who need a fix of good live jazz can catch a weekly Cotton Club night on Fridays at the Three Fingers Lounge in Liberty City.
The Lyric Theater extravaganza is one of dozens of Black History Month observances. The show is made possible with a little help from the City of Miami's Community Redevelopment Agency. Its aim: nothing less than the revitalization of Overtown, whose entertainment hub was once known as "Little Broadway."