Overtown Music Project's Eight Sounds of Overtown

Overtown once rocked with the sounds and soul of musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie.

A hotbed of music and culture, Overtown's heyday has passed, but not entirely. This neighborhood just northwest of downtown Miami is being revitalized, with help from Amy Rosenberg and the Overtown Music Project.

This Saturday at 7 p.m., the nonprofit is bringing an 18-piece band led by Melton Mustafa to LIV. Money raised will fund OMP's jazz and blues residency in the historic Lyric Theater. Rosenberg, OMP's director, offered us a peek into Overtown's musical past with eight hotshots.

Every big name in black music performed at venues like the Lyric Theater, Sir John, the Mary Elizabeth Hotel, the Rockland Palace, unable to find hotels or restaurants willing to accommodate them on the beach.

Here are four essential sounds from Overtown's past: 

Cab Calloway

Rosenberg says, "I grew up feebly attempting to scat along to 'Minnie the Moocher.' I wish I could've seen him perform in one of his famous, shiny zoot suits

Aretha Franklin

"Before she was selling out to arenas, the Queen of Soul was an ingenue in Overtown."

Nat King Cole

"He would play at the Eden Roc and Fontainebleau and then lodge in the Mary Elizabeth Hotel."

Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie

These three jazz legends also brought the goods to Overtown.

Four of Amy Rosenberg's favorite living Overtown musicians who are still rocking out today:

Betty Wright

"She's famous for 'Clean Up Woman' and just an incredible talent. She's well-known but doesn't get enough attention and praise in Miami. Her voice gives me chills."

Margaret Reynolds

"She sang with KC and the Sunshine Band. Her voice and talent are so strong. She now heads a gospel troupe called Revelation S.e.e.d."

Bobby Stringer

"The man can bring an audience to its knees. He's a phenomenal singer and a true entertainer."

Charlie Austin

"A man for all seasons - I think he plays about eight instruments. Stravinsky thought he was a major talent. He's a musical genius."

Overtown Music Project presents Epic. Saturday, October 1. LIV, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami. The concert begins at 7 p.m. and tickets cost $40 plus fees via overtownmusicproject.org. Call 305-674-4680 or visit livnightclub.com.

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