By Jacob Katel
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Jazz. Music that says so much yet rarely uses words. Known as the only true American music form. Fans will travel just about anywhere to hear a great jazz musician. New Orleans, Montreal, Chicago, and New York have welcomed jazz with open arms and have thus acquired distinct reputations on the circuit.
Greater Miami, once not even a speck on the jazz map, may now have something to say for itself. This past April, jazz trumpeting legend and Miami resident Arturo Sandoval opened his namesake club at the historic Deauville Beach Resort in Miami Beach.
Though small, Sandoval's does not have the typical "hole-in-the-wall jazz dive" feel (for one thing, there's no smoking allowed). Plasma TV screens, on either side of and behind the stage, simulcast each performance.
The east wall of the club is lined with framed black-and-white photos depicting Sandoval throughout his career with Paul Anka, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, k.d. lang, Quincy Jones, Bill Cosby (who sang on Sandoval's 1994 album Danzón), and fellow trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, among others.
Despite the big name attached to the club, the venue is not exclusive to famed musicians. Admirably the club has already seen most of Miami's jazz performers grace its stage, such as Suénalo Sound System and Malena Burke. Of course the lineup also includes well-knowns such as Roberta Flack who performed at the opening in April James Moody, Joshua Redman, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Roy Haynes, Kevin Mahogany, and Willy Chirino.
Faced with the challenges of the fickle South Florida crowd and a small jazz-loving population, the club definitely has its work cut out for it if it wishes to achieve longevity. Sandoval insists that if he presents a good product, people will flock. New Times recently sat down with the maestro and asked him about his vision.
What was the concept you had in mind when designing the layout of the club?
The most important thing about the club is the music and who's onstage, being able to watch and listen to them perfectly. Jazz is very special to me, and I wanted the club to capture that. It's a classy place, but very warm and comfortable.
What about Miami Beach led you to want to open a jazz club here, as opposed to someplace where jazz is more popular already?
I wanted a place in Miami Beach to go and listen to the best jazz in town, and also eat amazing food. Because Miami is my home, I wanted to share my passion and love for jazz with the city.
Do you think the younger audience in Miami Beach will be receptive to this kind of club?
I think they already are. As a music professor, I see how important music is to my students, so I definitely think that the young music lovers will visit. The club offers a discount with a student ID.
How do you think the club has been received?
I have received positive comments from my friends, fans, and other musicians in town. We needed a place like this in the city.
You perform at the club often. How important is it for you to be constantly present at the club?
I spend most of my time touring and playing gigs outside of Miami, so it's nice to be able to play here whenever I'm available. I also like to spend as much time as I can and support my friends when they play at the club.
Do any of your students at FIU approach you about performing in the club? Would you like to make this a venue for newer local acts to showcase their talent? Or would you like to bring bigger acts on a regular basis?
We have both headliners ... as well as local artists. On occasion we like to showcase the most talented and up-and-coming artists. So far we've had big names and also local greats like Ed Calle, Edwin Bonilla, and Nicole Henry. We have many artists they're all my friends.
Many things in the club are very Cuban-inspired. Did you incorporate this theme into the club such as the names on the menu to appeal to a specific audience, or to reflect your identity?
The names of the menu items are my records. And I wanted the inside of the club to reflect the highlights and the most favorite moments of my career.