South Florida Entertainment News

Jazz is Alive and Thriving at
Gil’s Café on Miami Beach

by Sam Finkelstein
Contributing Writer

There has always been a jazz scene in South Florida, but over the years many of the traditional haunts that offered themselves up as venues for wonderful jazz jams have close or change their musical taste. Thanks to KCC Productions, run by the energetic andtalented Kimberley Chmura, this great American music is thriving once again.  One of the purest forms of musical expression, jazz is meant to be a spontaneous collaboration of individual talents that blends into magical moments. Now you can enjoy some of South Florida and the nation’s best jazz performers every Thursday night at Gil’s Café on Miami Beach.

This is old-fashioned jazz jam session features multi-talented performers who drop in all night to stretch their musical boundaries. If last Thursday night is any example, this is great entertainment you won’t find just anywhere. Kimberley assembled a star-studded group of musicians, who were ready to get down, and they did!

Mel Dancy is a smooth and sultry jazz vocalist and keyboardist. He is a prolific lyricist who has written with Dizzy Gillespie (“Brother Martin”), Mike Longo and Sir Roland Hanna. He has also collaborated with The Platters in their heyday and still does when they tour. Mel has performed at the Village Vanguard and on the Russian tour of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis band as featured vocalist, and on tours by the New York Jazz Quartet and The Platters. He has performed at innumerable clubs in the Miami area and at the Hollywood and Biscayne Jazz Festivals.

The incredibly talented Luis Enrique “Kiki” Sanchez is an extraordinary pianist and keyboardist with authentic fluency in jazz, Cuban and Brazilian piano styles. Born in Lima, Peru, Kiki is a highly sought-after musician who has performed extensively, including at the Montreux Jazz Festival. He was the principal keyboardist for Oriente, one of the major bands in the Miami area, and is still considered one of the best in South Florida.

Pure magic on piano and vocals, Billy Ray is a grizzled veteran of sixty-four years in music. He holds an MFA from Juilliard and a PhD in experience. Calling himself a “piano bar specialist and theoretician,” he brings to every gig an impish humor and a talent that earned him work over the years as sideman to Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Mel Torme; five years touring with the great bassist Slam Stewart, and seven years at Grossinger’s with Sammy Davis, Jr. (“My best work”) Billy has played in thirty-seven countries and all fifty states. Today he has settled for the warmth of South Florida and likewise warms up every club and restaurant in which he appears.

Howard Moss, drummer and KCC Production’s musical director, known primarily as a photographer, Moss can often be found backing up outstanding musicians on the drums or gracing the event with his smooth baritone. Moss has also studied piano, trumpet, and sax, and worked with musicians such as Eubie Blake, Dizzy Gillespie, Nat Adderly, Mongo Santamaria, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and Alice Coltrane, plus most players in the Miami area. Moss’ photography can be found at his own web site——which is devoted in part to great jazz musicians. He has traveled all over the world in pursuit of the perfect photograph, and has taken several. In addition to his drumming and singing, his conversation between sets will be etched in your memory of the evening.

Also dropping in for the jam was Al Karp, legendary local tenor saxophonist who can really blow that horn. It was Al’s wife Sondra’s birthday, so everyone got in on the jazzy celebration. Spectacular jazz song stylist Von Henry was also in the house, adding her brilliant vocal adaptation to many classics such as “God Bless the Child” and “Summertime.” Rounding out this jam session was sensational acoustic guitarist Hari Salazar, lending his multi-ethnic musical experiences to the talented mix.

Gil’s provides unadulterated fun, experiencing jazz the way it was meant to be enjoyed. So make your plans for Gil’s Café Jazz Jams every Thursday night, and now KCC Productions is jazzing up your Sunday’s at Elia’s in the Bal Harbour Shops.

Gil’s Café is located at 216 71st Street, Miami Beach. For information about KCC Productions, call Kimberley Chmura, 305-332-2623 or visit Call Gil’s Café at 305-867-0779. Elia Fine Mediterranean Cuisine is located at 9700 Collins Avenue, #135, in the Bal Harbour Shops; 305-866-2727.