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Jazz Parts Clouds at Sunset Cocktail Lounge

Plans by the city of West Palm Beach to buy the venerable Sunset Cocktail Lounge and convert it into the centerpiece of a “jazz neighborhood” got a boost Saturday night with a sensational concert by the

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Exciting show

The Mustafa band pulled out all the stops in this event, which was more of a happening than a concert. It was a show with an energy level that had the packed house of more than 200 cheering and applauding throughout.

The musicianship was superb. The emcee, Melton Mustafa’s son of the same name, was a master showman who pranced about the floor in front of the band, pulling members of the saxophone section out to the mikes for scintillating solos between short stints by his father on piano, alto saxophone and, finally, trumpet. Illness has kept him from performing a lot lately, but he has long been regarded as one of South Florida’s finest jazz trumpeters. Always wearing a sunny smile, he combined his playing with brief reminiscences about his days with the bands of Basie, Woody Herman and Lionel Hampton.


Lenard Rutledge, Melton Mustafa Senior and Junior


Cocktail tables with candles sat on the floor of the large room back of the bar and on a platform lining one wall in an elegant and intimate nightclub setting. Balloons festooned the club. The band was tiered, with the trombones above the sax section, and the trumpets in the rear. The only drawback was the invisibility of the trumpets, and the absence of any trumpet solos. Russell Freeland, the lead trombonist, displayed admirable solo prowess, and did some fine vocal scatting, as well. Considerable exposure was allotted to pianist Jim Gasior, a hefty fellow who delivered exciting percussive renderings. And a good dose of variety was provided by Lenard Rutledge, an engaging male vocalist whose baritone projected even above the screaming horns.

Big plans

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In August, the city approved a purchase of the Sunset and adjacent land parcels for $2.4 million. Plans call for a renovation of the club with a 1930s theme and development of a park for musical entertainment. The community Redevelopment Agency hopes this will reinvigorate the historic northwest neighborhood and attract Afro-American tourism. The site is at Henrietta Avenue and Eighth Street.

The next performance, at 7 p.m. January 16, brings two Spyro Gyra standouts, Jay Beckenstein and Tom Schuman, and Miami’s popular Nicole Yarling, a lauded jazz vocalist and violinist. There is no admission charge to attend, and drink prices are reasonable. It is a deal not to be missed. No reservations are taken, but registration is required by calling 561-822-1550 or emailing cra@wpb.org.

#DukeEllington #LionelHampton #WoodyHerman #LouisArmstrong #SpyroGyra #NicoleYarling #WestPalmBeach #JayBeckenstein #CountBasie #MeltonMustafa #SunsetCocktailLounge #FletcherHenderson

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