Van Dyke Cafe Closes: Ten Classic Moments from Miami's Favorite Jazz Club

Photo by Laurie Charles
Sayōnara, Van Dyke.

The intoxicating blend of the percussion, the smooth brass sound of the trombone, the deep rhythm of the bass, and the bluesy, jazzy tunes of the harmonica resonated from the corner of 846 Lincoln Road.

It was the closing party for the Van Dyke Café and crowds of locals and tourists alike swarmed the street to watch Oriente pay homage to the place that became one of Miami's musical gems for 20 years.

"We've been playing here, upstairs, every second Sunday of every month for about five years," said the band's lead singer and guitarist Eddie Balzola. "It hasn't just been us; it's been every kind of good musician in South Florida."

The music has officially died for the Van Dyke. Soon, mannequins will stand in lieu of instruments. The ringing sound of cash registers and Top 40 hits on repeat will replace the jazz and blues that once filled the lounge. But as Balzola said right before he led Oriente to their last song, "Life without music, it can't go on."

Here are ten classic moments at the Van Dyke Café, according the club's booking manager Randy Singer and Balzola himself.

See also: With Van Dyke Cafe's Closing, Lincoln Road Is Becoming the Luxury Mall It Was Meant to Be


The Van Dyke's Musical Vision

"I saw it from the very beginning," recalled Singer. "I remember when Mark Soyka and Tony Goldman were gonna open the Van Dyke. It was all Soyka's vision who wanted a jazz club. He kept it alive all this time, and if it wasn't for him, this wouldn't have existed."

"I've never seen a club run this way," he admitted. "We've had the most amazing musicians from salsa, rock, reggae, blues, tango nights, songwriter nights, horn sections, tributes, CD releases, comedy ... It's been such an honor to be the custodian of the legacy."

Al Di Meola

The musical vision may have been what set the foundation for the Van Dyke, but crooning artists, like Al Di Meola, who performed upstairs were the ones who gave weight to the name.

"Al Di Meola. That was a great performance," Singer said about the legendary guitarist. "He did it as a favor for me. There was no way we would've been able to afford him."

Location Info

Van Dyke Cafe - CLOSED

846 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, FL

Category: Music

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Here is a top ten moment! I booked the great harmonica virtuoso (no, not Randy Something) Toots Theilmans to do a gig there. If you don't know who here is, look him up. One of the world's greatest living musicians. Harmonica virtuoso-wanna-be Randy Something or other, started emailing Toots in Belgium as soon as he found out that I had booked Toots. Im not sure what he told Toots, but evidently he begged Toots to let him sit in when he got there, knowing that it would have been over my dead body had he asked me. When Toots arrived, this guy Randy had already arranged to have somebody video tape him when he was to sit in. He begged Toots to let him play and being the extremely nice guy that Toots was, Toots asked me if he could play. I correctly advised against it but it was already too late. Randy was standing in front of the stage looking like a lost puppy so we decided rather than have him make a scene, we'd let him play. What a mistake. Randy put the video on his site claiming that he was INVITED to play. OMG! How embarrassing. Now he conveniently forgets that it was MY program, NOT his in this totally lame New Time piece of garbage.


In case anybody is wondering why I posted so much of my history from the Van Dyke Cafe yesterday, I felt it was necessary for a couple of reasons.

The music program that was maintained at the Van Dyke from 1994 until 2008 was created, maintained, and promoted by me.
This program was nationally recognized and won a number of awards, which I was very proud of! I managed to record several live sessions there with well known players. A number of local players got their start there and went on to become famous.
Many great, historic figures in the world of jazz performed there with me, for not a lot of money! Thank all of you! I'll leave it to you readers to guess why they were willing to come down to Miami to play for peanuts! The JVC Jazz Festival called the Van Dyke it's home for several of the years that I was the MD.
Anyway, when the place was taken over by new management in 2008, I was called in for a meeting with them. I explained to them how important it is to promote jazz because it is a truly American art form, something we should all be proud of! I explained how my program had become a national landmark, and musicians came from near and far to play there, just for the prestige! 
They were not interested. I was told they were interested in open mic night, folk music, DJ's, etc. the thing that really got me was when they told me they wanted a saxophone night. JUST A SAXOPHONE! With no other musicians, like they do on the sidewalk!
Needless to say, I wanted no part of it, so I quit! They begged me to stay. So I reluctantly agreed. They completely remodeled (some would say trashed) the place. They removed the stage, forcing the performances to be done on the floor. They took out the sound system and lighting that I had so carefully put there. In short, they turned it into a room that was fit for a DJ. 
But they needed me to got the place running again and as soon as I did, I was replaced. No problem- I wanted nothing more to do with them.
Fast forward to this past week. The place has now closed and others are trying to make believe that I had nothing to do with how the place got such a musical name for itself. It's annoying and disrespectful. 
So that's why I posted the pictures yesterday. I wanted everybody to know what I did there.
Thank you everybody for you support and nice comments, especially Howie Schnieder . Jaui Schneider And thank you Mark Soyka for allowing me to do what I loved.

Franco Lopez
Franco Lopez

Van Dyke cafe closing has been announced 37,000 times this week. You really like the place Miami, I get it. Get over it. Hundreds of business close, especially the crappy ones. Move on.

Carl Snyder
Carl Snyder

sorry, lived here 35 years, never heard of loss.

Peter Beach
Peter Beach

Such a shame - yet another bit of soul is lost (a la The Grove which lost its soul years ago) as Lincoln homogenizes further - impossibly high rents. Abercrombie&Fitch?... WTF?... really? Go to fucking Dadeland... Aventura. GRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

Scott Daniels
Scott Daniels

Miami beach is being destroyed the sameway they did the Grove in!! We've lost our flavor and we're invaded by chain restaurants with garbage food!!

Scott Daniels
Scott Daniels

Over the years the place changed and not for the better, the sameway the New Cafe changed. The restaurant scene on the beach is so overpriced I no longer go out of my way to head to the beach anymore. The beach isn't what it used to be and that's a crime!!

John Rogger
John Rogger

Why are they closing? It was always so packed!

Jennifer Maritza McCauley
Jennifer Maritza McCauley

This really makes me sad. I moved here from out of state and have so many wonderful memories at Van Dyke. Good luck to everyone there :(

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