charles l_ austin_web.jpgIf you closed your eyes last Saturday and imagined that the year was 1960, the venue could very well have been the Hampton House. The once fabulous haven located in the Brownsville section of Miami featured the likes of Cab Calloway, Sammy Davis Jr. and even Martin Luther King, who is said to have perfected his famous I Have a Dream speech there before delivering it in the nation’s capitol.

Saturday’s venue was actually another Miami treasure, Historic Trinity Cathedral, which graciously opened its majestic doors to host a fundraiser for the historic, but now dilapidated Hampton House, which is slated for a major renovation. Jazz greats Alice Day and Charles Austin performed before a diverse audience, much like the audiences that patronized the Hampton House when segregation prohibited black performers from performing at some, and residing in most Miami Beach hotels.

In addition to Day and Austin, the Ebony Chorale of the Palm Beaches regaled the appreciative audience with an expansive menu of gospel greats that included I Know I’ve Been Changed, My Soul’s Been Anchored and I Know I Got Religion, concluding with a rendition of Total Praise that brought the crowd to its feet.

Accompanied by a percussionist, pianist and upright bassist, Day tailored her selections to the religious venue, performing jazzy, finger-snapping versions of Yes, Jesus Loves Me and How I Love Jesus. Day’s appearance was a rare treat, because although Miami is home, about 11 months of each year finds her performing in South East Asia, with extended stays in Bangkok, Thailand and throughout Europe.

Austin demonstrated why he’s deserving of his designation as “Miami’s resident jazz impresario.” Sharing the stage with a fellow saxophonist, a pianist, percussionist and upright bassist, Austin could easily join the ranks of contemporary smooth jazz performers. His mellow version of Summertime had heads bopping and toes tapping.

Enid Pickney, president of the Historic Hampton House Trust, said “all of Miami should support” the efforts to restore the community gem. Once restored, the new facility will include a museum, restaurant, banquet space and will partner with Florida Memorial University to offer satellite classes.

To make a tax deductible donation to the project, call 305-638-5800.