Things to do in Miami: Overture to Overtown Jazz Festival 2022 at the Betsy Hotel

It does not make immediate sense why the Opening of the Overtown Jazz Festival would take place in Miami Beach, but jazz singer and event co-producer Carole Ann Taylor succinctly put the event into historical context.

“It’s a celebration of the bond between Miami Beach and the Overtown community,” Taylor said. new times. “There were so many wonderful black superstars, poets and musicians performing in Miami Beach but couldn’t stay there. They had to sleep in Overtown.”

Among legendary jazz musicians who once played in Miami Beach but had to cross bridges to sleep in Overtown, she cites Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Sarah Vaughn.

To commemorate the area’s musical heritage, the tenth annual Overture to Overtown Jazz Festival features 31 days of jazz, involving 40 performers. Most of the music will be performed at the Betsy Hotel on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, with evening shows at Lummus Park on Sundays. But Taylor hopes the details will be ironed out so they can schedule at least one performance in Overtown.

“Fingers crossed it can happen,” she says, noting that “Overtown was known as the Harlem of the South.”

Indeed, South Florida was once a hotbed of jazz music. Taylor grew up in the jazz capital of New York, where she sang with luminaries like Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton. But when she moved to Miami in 1980, she was pleasantly surprised by the number of venues dedicated to jazz. After quitting singing for a few decades to raise kids and start a business, Taylor returned to jazz standards a few years ago. She was disappointed when she discovered that in the meantime, jazz had become a niche genre in the city’s music scene.

“WDNA frequently hosts jazz concerts at its studio. The Miami Jazz Cooperative hosts concerts. The South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center and Faena usually have jazz,” she says. “But since the closure of the Chat Noir, there are no longer any clubs dedicated solely to jazz.”

For the month of April — which, coincidentally, is International Jazz Appreciation Month — Overture to Overtown Jazz Festival and the Betsy Hotel hope to alleviate Magic City’s jazz shortage. A long lineup of local and out-of-town artists will play throughout the month.

A highlight for Taylor is New York pianist Danny Mixon, alongside whom she will perform on May 1. She will also sing with her regular collaborators from the Brian Murphy Trio on April 21 at the Betsy. Taylor estimates she has nearly 200 songs in her repertoire; favorites include “Misty”, “For All We Know”, and “Days of Wine and Roses”.

Taylor remains grateful that she never had to face racial discrimination in the jazz world. But she is eager to shine a light on the many other artists from the not-so-distant past who had to overcome the burden of segregation.

Opening of the Overtown Jazz Festival. Through May 1, at the Betsy Hotel, 1440 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach; 866-792-3879; thebetsyhotel.com. Free entry. For the full event schedule, visit thebetsyhotel.com/overture-to-overtown.

Willie J. Johnson