The Blue Martini has put Kendall on the map for jazz fans on Tuesday nights. “For adults and young professionals, it’s the place for high-end, night club styled entertainment featuring live jazz,” said Steve Kirkland, operator of the Miami-Dade College Jazz Institute’s summer camp for young jazz musicians.
Kirkland has sent many students on their way to jazz careers, including Marcus and E. J. Strickland, as well as the Libidio Band with Danny and Christina Morris, former Kirkland students at Hammocks Middle School where he has been band director for 25 years.
When not involved teaching music, he leads the “Mr. K Band” now drawing packed crowds Tuesday nights to Kendall’s Blue Martini to hear live jazz, the kind of performances usually associated with South Beach or Coconut Grove night spots.
Opening doors only a year ago in the “The Palms,” the Blue Martini brought an upscale nightclub setting to The Palms amidst fashionable retail stores and restaurants that replaced an outdated mall at Town & Country Center on Mills Drive.
During the fall, increasing numbers of jazz fans from WDNA/88.9 FM, Miami’s popular jazz-oriented station, turned out to hear Steve Kirkland’s live jazz shows on Tuesday nights at the Blue Martini. The combination proved so successful that the station began live hour-long remote broadcasts from 7 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 29, featuring the “Mr. K Band” and vocalists.
“Since we began hourly spots, we’ve seen crowds double at Blue Martini,” said Howard Duperly, sales and marketing manager for WDNA.
Duperly, a former Kendall resident, agrees the Blue Martini is “setting a high entertainment standard in this area.
“Tuesday nights are normally considered a downer for nightclub business. Now, hundreds of fans regularly show up for our broadcasts.
“I know,” he laughed. “We only give out 100 blanks each night to win a T-shirt or free concert tickets and they’re all gone in minutes.”
“We’ve done occasional live broadcasts at events like the Miami Book Fair, but this has turned out to be the perfect place for a weekly remote, expanding our audience for jazz.”
Longtime station jazz programming hosts like Michael Valentine and Frank Consola share emcee duties with Duperly.
Vocal stylist Rachel Perry, who has been featured with stars like Gloria Estefan, Celia Cruz and Jon Secada, traveled from Davie on Dec. 27 as guest artist, opening with her set with Duke Ellington’s Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.
“It’s really a great place to perform and hear jazz,” said the recording artist who began her career with Emilio Estefan Productions and has both co-written songs and appeared on several Grammy-award winning albums.
The Mr. K Band includes Steve on tenor sax; Nomar Negroni, drummer; Robert Gonzalez, keyboards; Hal Roland, keyboards and vocals; Chegui Calderon, bass; Cayo Iturraide, bass, and Rhea Olivia, regular vocalist.
Kirkland said his interest revolves around “a love of the music” rather than as a sideline to make extra dollars.
“People really enjoy the energy and passion we put into our performances,” he added after a near-standing room crowd cheered the band’s latest Blue Martini performance.
“I play for people, and I try to pull them into our performance. I love to see people happy.”