The Larry Smith Sunday Showcase – at the Little Room Jazz Club
About twenty-five years ago, Max Bozetti, manager of the Pier House Wine Galley, recruited Larry to bring his Jazz Jam to the Wine Galley which was a small intimate room. Larry’s grand piano was surrounded by music lovers, and an occasional amateur vocalist who would sing.
Melissa Goins, a wonderful soprano from Oklahoma, would sit around the piano, singing adaptations from The Phantom of the Opera, a popular musical at the time. Goins became hugely popular with a number of patrons people. Max considered giving her a gig. Larry said she didn’t have enough material rehearsed to do a two or three-hour show so Max asked if she could do an hour. Larry said they could rehearse and put together an hour of music.
At that point, Max suggested they put together two one-hour sets with amateur vocalists. Sunday was the slowest day so The Larry Smith Sunday Showcase was created. Larry went on to showcase amateur singers that were very good and many became professionals. He tried not to repeat a guest for a year, resulting in 52 different singers annually.
The Showcase became so popular that usually a number of musicians wanted to play with their friends who were guest vocalists being showcased. At times, there was a full band with the vocalist. The Showcase resulted in successfully mentoring numerous artists and developing their vocal skills. There were a number of vocalists who were able to overcome their fears of performing in front of an audience with Larry’s guidance and encouragement.
The Sunday Showcase developed a large following of music lovers who wanted to hear the new Key West talent that was not being presented anywhere else. Its success was the result of a number of factors: First and foremost, the guest artist appearing in the close intimate setting was able to get comfortable with the audience. Likewise, the audience was able to experience every little nuance, facial expression, and body language in the sadness of a mournful jazz ballad or the carefree portrayal of a silly showtune.
The total experience quickly gained a reputation and following in Key West. The expectations became very high and the Showcase was full of overachievers. Guest artist performances were equally enhanced by the dedicated pianist who prepared his guests carefully, and helped them express their musical visions. The list of guest artists is wide and deep: Raven Cooper, a long-time performer in Key West, was a featured guest when she first arrived. The co-owner of the Little Room Jazz Club, Denis Hyland, was also a Sunday Showcase artist.
Larry Smith would also Showcase performers with successful careers like Dottie Martin, Coffee Butler, and Paul Cotton. One of the more famous Key West vocalists has always said he has a gift that he feels obligated to share. The Larry Smith Sunday Showcase allowed the known and the unknown to share their wonderful gifts. That’s what made it so special.
Larry Smith Sunday Showcase in May Schedule: Little Room Jazz Club at 6pm
May 15 – Camille Russo Toler
May 22 – Katie Warner
May 29 – Maj Johnson