Jazz. Before the DJs ruled South Beach, before dance-oriented Latin rhythms commandeered the airwaves, and well before rock 'n' roll seized a sizeable stake in South Florida's live music scene, jazz was king, queen, prince.
Now, though, the Van Dyke is gone. So are Satchmo's and Sandoval's. So are Gil's and the hip hotel happy hours where a jazz musician could make a living and then some. So are so many other short-named, short-lived joints like the club where living legend Monty Alexander cut his teeth and impressed Sinatra.
Thankfully, there are still a few fests like Jazz in the Gables left.
See also: Miami's Top Ten Jazz Musicians
"Jazz in the Gables started in early 2011," says Miami Jazz Coop executive director Rick Katz. "We were asked by the city of Coral Gables to produce a lunchtime jazz series on the plaza at the Coral Gables Museum. It was such a success, the city asked us to continue, and we just started our fifth season."
Musicians residing in South Florida have been the primary focus of the organizers. In the world of jazz, many world-class vocalists and players call Miami and its environs home, like Kansas City, Missouri native Kevin Mahogany, who just kicked off Jazz in the Gables 2015.
"Kevin Mahogany is an internationally known jazz singer," Katz says. "He happens to reside here, and it is very unusual for him to perform in South Florida, but he agreed to do this for us."
In addition to established jazz pros with local ties, Katz and company have also consistently called upon South Florida's academic community.
"The University of Miami Frost School of Music is arguably one of the best college jazz programs in the world. There's this wealth of talent, not only the students, but the faculty and visiting musicians. FIU has got an outstanding jazz program. Miami-Dade has a growing jazz program. So it's just amazing."
Jazz in the Gables' 2015 Schedule
January 14 Kevin Mahogany, 12:15 p.m.
January 21 UM Stamps Jazz Quintet, 12:15 p.m.
January 28 Lisanne Lyons, 12:15 p.m.
February 4 Harvey Nevins Swing Quintet, 12:15 p.m.
February 11 Miami-Dade College Ensembles, 12:15 p.m.
February 15 Special Sunday Concert: To Be Announced, 4 p.m.
February 18 Dr. Hank Bredenberg's South Beach Stompers, 12:15 p.m.
February 25 UM Frost Jazz Vocal Ensemble, 12:15 p.m.
March 4 Brian Murphy Trio, 12:15 p.m.
March 11 To Be Announced, 12:15 p.m.
March 15 Special Sunday Concert: New World School of the Arts Jazz Quintet, 4 p.m.
March 18 Aaron Lebos Reality, 12:15 p.m.
March 25 To Be Announced, 12:15 p.m.
April 1 Season Finale: Araya/Orta Latin Jazz Quartet
Having now stoked the embers of South Florida's glorious jazz past for a half decade in Coral Gables, Katz and his organization are looking to expand into other areas of South Florida in the hope of establishing a stronger foothold for the genre among the area's music lovers.
They have hosted Jazz Mondays at the Open Stage Club since this past October. But the time has come, the Miami Jazz Coop executive director insists, to take it to the rest of Miami-Dade.
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"This is a very big community, geographically, and I don't delude myself into thinking that by presenting lunchtime jazz in Coral Gables that we're drawing people from everywhere in the county," says Katz. "We want to spread the gospel of jazz."
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Jazz in the Gables 2015. Presented by the Miami Jazz Coop. January 14, to April 1. Coral Gables Museum Plaza, 285 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables. Call 305-603-8067 or visit jazzinthegables.org.