The word “jazz” conjures up a variety of musical variations in Greater Fort Lauderdale, appealing not only to purists but people who just like a good listening experience.

The annual Jazz in the Gardens Music Fest March 9-10 is, by far, the biggest tourism draw. The two-day event has broadened its age appeal over the years and now includes an eclectic mix of jazz-influenced genres spanning generations. Headliners this year include EnVogue and Betty Wright, Blackstreet and Doug E. Fresh, Stephanie Mills and Lionel Richie, and Black Violin and Nelson Rangell. 

But, Broward County’s local jazz scene is also dotted with talented musicians. You can stumble upon them playing at a bar or eatery, or on one of the stages at the monthly first Sunday Jazz Brunch along Riverwalk.  The Gold Coast Jazz Society brings nationally-known jazz artists to the intimate upscale Broward Center Amaturo Theater. The Old Dillard Museum honors the genius of Cannonball Adderley, who once taught there during segregation, with a jazz room performance space and concerts in Fort Lauderdale’s historic Sistrunk community.    

Locals have some favorite word-of-mouth music places that can also make a visit to the area even more memorable. 

The NYSW Jazz Lounge is revitalizing an area of downtown Fort Lauderdale with its intimate patio-bar ambiance that creates an oasis within the city Wednesdays through Sundays. Owner Miguel Pilgram’s love of jazz history is evident in the paintings that dot the walls and an outdoor mural which adds to the flavor.  The lounge has become a gathering place for major African American organizations that bring their conferences in the area and want to wind down after a day of meetings and listen to live jazz performers as well as spoken word and comedy.

In the city of Sunrise, west of Fort Lauderdale, a music school by day turns into All That Jazz Café and Grill Thursdays through Saturdays with a full-menu restaurant that also features live music. For no cover or music charge you can dine and drink and hear a top-notch jazz house combo and singer as well as guest musicians who headline and stop by to sit in. On Sundays there are special shows.

For the past five years on the first Friday of the month the African American Research Library and Cultural Center has been transformed into a nightclub with dancing and world music performances from the Caribbean, Central and South America as well as food and signature drinks for the over-21-year-old crowd – for only $10. Now, Friday Night at the Library is a happening dress-up meet-and-greet event for singles, couples, and groups. The Bahamas, Haiti, Nigeria and Colombia will be featured over the next few months.

And, if you want to support emerging young jazz artists, then Greater Fort Lauderdale is also the place. The area is home to the top high school jazz band in the U.S. and Canada – the nationally-renowned Dillard Performing Arts Jazz Ensemble. The group has been a multiple winner of the annual Essentially Ellington Competition at Lincoln Center directed by Wynton Marsalis and has been featured on PBS. Many of those talented youth turn out to sit in and play with the pros at the free Friday Night Jams on the first Friday of the month at ArtServe in Fort Lauderdale near the beach, sponsored by the Gold Coast Jazz Society’s education program.  The setting is also a gallery space where you can view exciting new works by local visual artists while enjoying that evening’s version of jazz.