The impetus came from Rick Katz, executive director of the non-profit Miami Jazz Co-Op, which for seven years operated from the Open Stage on Galiano Street. Ever since the city shut down that venue looking for higher rent, Katz has searched for another home for jazz in the Gables.
One idea bore fruit. Each year, renowned musicians fly to Miami to be part of the Jazz Cruise from PortMiami. Katz thought some could be talked into one more session, the night before the cruise’s Friday departure. The THesis Hotel (on US-1) agreed to stage the session.
The magic sauce was the event’s host, Emmett Cohen. A brilliant jazz pianist and graduate of the University of Miami Frost School of Music, Cohen gained notoriety during the pandemic by running a weekly YouTube jazz concert “Live From Emmett’s Place” – his apartment in Harlem. The event went viral, gaining more than 100,000 followers.
Here is the twist. Born in Coral Gables, Cohen moved to Indiana when he was a boy. A decade later, Frost School Dean Shelly Berg discovers Cohen playing piano in Indiana. Berg immediately sees the kid’s talent and invites him to UM’s school of music.
Another decade and a half later, you’ve got Cohen on stage at the THesis Hotel in January, joined by an array of world-class musicians – a bass player from Tokyo, a drummer from Los Angeles, a trumpet player from Australia, etc. After Cohen blows the crowd away with his keyboard prowess, he introduces Dean Berg as “my teacher and my mentor.” Berg then takes to the piano and loses himself in a delirium of jazz riffs. “This is for anyone who thinks there is no culture down here,” Cohen says to the roaring crowd. Berg beams with pride for his protégé. —JP Faber