Over the past few years, South Beach has several venerable music venues, most notably the Van Dyke Jazz Club and more recently Jazzid, and the music lineup in those remaining feature house music, hip hop, electronica – anything but jazz, it seems. So the return of the South Beach Jazz Festival, inaugurated just last year, comes as a welcome surprise.
The festival, which runs Jan. 5 through 7, returns again not only with ticketed events, but also free performances, which will ring out over several venues: the Colony Theater, the Jewish Museum of South Florida – FIU, and the Gleason Room-Backstage at the Fillmore. There will also be outdoor performances at Euclid Circle and 1111 Lincoln Road.
Like last year’s festival, which featured famous jazz icon Diane Schurr, this year’s event also features a nationally renowned headliner: multiple Grammy award-winner Branford Marsalis, who will kick off the festival with his renowned quartet.
A saxophonist, composer and bandleader, Marsalis has been hailed as “arguably the most respected living U.S. jazz instrumentalist.” He is amazingly prolific in both jazz and classical circles, but he is best known for appearing with his quartet, which has been referred to as the ensemble that sets the stage for others of the genre.
The festival also features a host of jazz notables, which include Ignacio Berroa, who is considered one of the greatest drummers of our time, the renowned Ed Calle, a 2015 Grammy award-winner and five time nominee; pianist Tal Cohen, an Israeli who owes his unique style to Jewish folksongs and classical music; trumpeter Glyn Dryhurst and his Dixieland band; blues singer and guitarist Rachelle Coba with her band; Latin Grammy nominated tenor saxophonist Carlos Averhorff Jr. and international award-winning composer, trumpeter, pianist and arranger Carlos Puig.
Founder David New believes his South Beach festival is on track to grow into major music event, along the lines of the Newport Jazz Festival, and those held in Monterey and New Orleans.
But this festival is unique in that its mission is not only to entertain, but also to instruct and inspire as well. Presented by New’s non-profit Power Access Inc., whose mission is to create awareness about the disabled community through experiential events, each act of the festival will include a performer with a disability.
Now age 47, New lost his sight 16 years ago to a rare eye disease that also nearly cost him his life. He survived, and since has become a tireless advocate for people with disabilities whose specialty is creating inclusive events that showcase them in creative and innovative ways.
To New, though, the jazz festival is a way of helping preserve what has been called first truly American form of music and, in the meantime, provide an innovative way of fostering disability awareness.
miamiartzine.com spoke with New about how he feels the first year of the jazz festival went and what’s on tap for this year.
miamiartzine.com: Last year’s jazz festival drew large audiences to the beach, despite the fact that the inclement weather caused the planned outdoor events to be moved inside. How do you feel it went?
David New: Because of the weather, we had less attendance than anticipated but I thought it was a good start. But we had an incredible lineup last year, and we do this year as well.
maz: It seems like it would be incredibly hard to get a jazz festival off the ground. To what do you credit last year’s success?
DN: This all stemmed from events we had been doing for the previous years, like
"Dining in the Dark," and "Ability Explosion" (a day long event showcasing the success of people with disabilities) to bring disability awareness to the community, it was an evolution for those events and we were very pleased. And we also had support from city, county and local businesses, as well as a great production company (KCC Productions) that pulled the ends together. And we’re also grateful for the wonderful support we’ve received from the community, of course.
maz: Why did you pick jazz to be the musical form for the festival?
DN: I’ve always appreciated all genres of music but jazz is my favorite for relaxing. It’s easy, and you can just let it flow over you. Plus there are so many different types of jazz; there’s Afro-Cuban, Dixieland, Jewish, and the list goes on. We want our festival to encapsulate jazz in all its forms.
maz: What are you most excited about this year?
DN: I’m excited about all the performers, but I’m particularly delighted to have Branford Marsalis performing. He is a world-acclaimed musician and he was a big “get” for us. I couldn’t be more thrilled.
maz: Tell me more about your idea to make this a festival that showcases people with disabilities.
DN: In our second year, our main objective is still to raise public awareness of persons who have disabilities. Each musical performance will showcase the artistry of at least one person with a disability promoting the festival's primary goal, enabling them to be defined by ability rather than disability. It will foster the access they need to fully participate in society as they help beautify and educate our community. The festival is all about bringing our community together through the universal sound of music. Our goal is to demonstrate that everyone has challenges, and our challenges don’t define us.
maz: Is there anything else you want our readers to know?
DN: This is a going to be a spectacular event and it’s going to get better every year.
ABOUT THE FEST
The South Beach Jazz Festival presents eight jazz acts over the course of three days, with performances produced by KCC Productions. The Colony Theater, and the Jewish Museum of South Florida- FIU and the Gleason Room will host ticketed events, with free performances on stages at Euclid Circle and 1111 Lincoln Road. Information and tickets are available at www.sobejazz.com.
Friday, Jan. 5: An Evening with the Branford Marsalis Quartet, Colony Theater, 1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach
Saturday, Jan. 6: Ignacio Berroa, The Gleason Room – Backstage at the Fillmore, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach
Sunday, Jan. 7: Jazz Brunch with the Tal Cohen Jazz Ensemble, Jewish Museum of South Florida – FIU, 301 Washington Ave., Miami Beach
Sunday, Jan. 7: Euclid Circle, Main Stage
12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Carlos Averhoff Jr.
1:30 p.m. – 3 p.m., Glen Dryhurst Dixieland Band
3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Rachelle Coba Band
4:30 p.m. – 6 p.m. Carlos Puig
Sunday, Jan. 7: Dr. Ed Calle featuring students from FIU, University of Miami and Miami Dade College, 12 p.m. – 6 p.m., 1111 Lincoln Road Stage