By Erica Carvalho
Growing up in South Florida it was very evident how much of a cultural melting pot there was to be had. From cuisine to music you could sample just about every culture there is out there but this past March was the first time I had experience the jazz culture that Miami had to offer. On a spur of the moment trip home to visit my mom for her 50th birthday we found ourselves on Lincoln Road in Miami for the day. Most people that are familiar with Lincoln Road know it is a Mecca for shopping, dining and enjoying the nearby South Beach, what we didn’t expect was the gem of a jazz club and restaurant we stumbled upon. My mom and I found ourselves at the News Café, a staple since 1988 in the South Beach area, after enjoying some light fare for a late breakfast we asked our waiter where we should go later that night to enjoy some food, drinks and entertainment which led us to their sister establishment and site of my jazz experience in South Florida- Van Dyke Café.
Van Dyke Café hit the South Florida scene when Lincoln road was in the midst of becoming a trendier place to spend time. News Café’s owner, Mark Soyka envisioned a chic, intimate place to enjoy jazz samplings from around South Florida and so Van Dyke Café and Upstairs were born. Van Dyke’s Upstairs is a haven for jazz lovers where they can enjoy different acts every night of the week from 9:30 until two in the morning. On the particular night that my mother and I visited we were crooned by the styling of Big Poppa E and the E Band. Big Poppa E is a celebrated 40 year veteran of South Florida specializing in mostly blues as well as fusion and jazz. The E Band is comprised of Darrell Raines on the Keyboard, George Caldwell on bass and Felipe Lamoglia on the saxophone. Big Poppa E and the E Band have become such a hit in the South Florida community and beyond in great part due to a “repertoire that stretches from vintage blues by Robert Johnson and Willie Dixon to soul classics by Bill Withers”, as a post from Big Poppa E’s blog boasted.
Big Poppa E and the E Band was exactly what my mom and I sought after a long day of shopping. Big Poppa E’s quintessential crooning voice that you would expect out of any great blues singer was perfectly paired with the bluesy guitar rifts as well as key sax and keyboard entries. Big Poppa E is also known for his ground-breaking harmonica and guitar skills, both instruments that are key to Blues music, a fact that I found after reading a book, 'Guitar Cultures' by Andy Bennett and Kevin Dawe. Bennett and Dawe went on to explain that the guitar was such an important part in Blues music because it was not only an affordable instrument- something that a musician could pick up at the nearest Sears- but that it represented upward mobility since it was something that you could not make, and it lacked any association with slavery and the minstrel music of that time.
Having the pleasure of seeing an amazing performance from Big Poppa E and the E Band was truly a treasure. They performed some of their original pieces as well as some renditions of popular songs such as ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ which was very interesting to hear with a jazz/blues spin. As this was a spur-of-the-moment trip, I was unable to personally record anything, but the Van Dyke Upstairs has a great website, as well as Big Poppa E, where I was able to relive the wonderful performance and share it with you as well. I personally am a big fan of the classic renditions of Blues and Jazz and was very excited to enjoy it live in such a lovely surrounding; it was everything I expected and more of a jazz performance.
Van Dyke Café Upstairs Website
Big Poppa E’s Blog
Big Poppa E’s Myspace
Big Poppa E and the E Band’s Myspace
Big Poppa E and the E Band Performance Video 1
Big Poppa E and the E Band Performance Video 2
|Work Cited can be found on main page entitled "Live Jazz"|