Maryel Epps’ name has become synonymous with the luxurious after-breakfast, before-lunch meal that goes well with live music. The songstress has made the gospel brunch format her niche, currently performing two shows on Sundays at the newly opened City Hall restaurant near downtown Miami.

In the 1990s, Epps originated what became a hugely popular gospel brunch show at Lola’s Restaurant in New York, after getting her start at the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church. Epps calls the church where the late, history-making politician Adam Clayton Powell Jr. preached, “A very affluent, but very warm and neighborhood-loving church. I went there right after college to be in the choir.”

There, she sang in the choir behind superstar opera divas Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle, who each visited Abyssinian, a powerful religious institution at the heart of the Harlem Renaissance and civil rights movement.

After coming to South Beach to perform in the late 1990’s Epps fell in love with the water, the people and the energy and decided to stay. She became a regular on the local jazz club circuit, performing consistently at Van Dyke, Astor’s, the now defunct O’Hara’s in Fort Lauderdale and other South Florida venues while continuing jaunts to perform in Europe. She also resumed her signature gospel brunch show, introducing the popular event to several South Florida venues.

Her church performances continue, with appearances primarily at area Unity churches.

And in a true demonstration of her versatility, she also appeared in rapper Lil Jon’s video of his From the Windows to the Wall remix.

Epps says her energetic brunch performances incorporate, “sassy gospel, jazz and R & B.” In addition to a lengthy and successful musical career that has included performances with Billy Taylor, Bob Dylan, Chaka Khan, Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie, David Lee Roth, David Bowie, Nile Rogers, and Patti Labelle, Epps is honing her acting chops. She has appeared in a few independent films and a Winn Dixie commercial.

She gives back by providing vocal coaching to “young divas” at the Honeyshine Mentoring program during its annual summer camp.

Epps said that she’s grateful for the opportunity to share her passion for music with South Florida, noting the opportunity to mix the sacred with the secular.

“What God brings through me at the brunches is amazing. Sometimes I’m not even conscious. The mike stand is near the bar as I’m singing Amazing Grace.”

WHAT: Maryel Epps’ Gospel Brunch

WHERE: City Hall Restaurant, 2004 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami

WHEN: Two shows: Noon and 1 p.m. each Sunday

COST: A la carte menu pricing.

For more information, please call 305-764-3130 or visit

Photo: Maryel Epps