Rays Downtown Presents

Published on January 29th, 2018

South Florida was fertile ground for jazz just two generations ago. Musicians could earn a living playing jazz, and the music fit the cool, beach-y swagger of the era. It was an amazing time. But as neighborhoods evolved, or fell into squalor, and tastes changed, jazz and the ecosystem of musicians and enthusiasts that fed it went by the wayside.

Which isn’t to say it vanished or it can’t come back. Consider Ray Carbone of the late, much-missed Ray’s Downtown Blues in West Palm Beach.“Technically, the first show I booked was in June of ’94 at Respectable Street,” Carbone tells PureHoney. “It was Popa Chubby and then I believe we opened in late September of ’94.”

Carbone had set out to give the blues and jazz a home, and his namesake club lasted into 2007. Over time he also made room at Ray’s Downtown for a generation of punkers, hardcore kids and hip-hop fans, creating for them a space of their own. That, and his opening of The Underground in 2007 as a kind of Downtown sequel, endeared Carbone to the scene as a champion of homegrown talent.

Last September, Carbone began booking and hosting a Ray’s Downtown Presents jazz and blues night on Sundays at Voltaire in West Palm Beach.

“Selling live music in South Florida is not easy,” he says. But he likes his timing. “I think nowadays they’re looking for an alternative to whatever the current music scene is,” Carbone says of clubgoers, “and I really believe that jazz and blues are selling more now on a Sunday on Clematis Street than it did back in the 90’s and early aughts.”

So you’ll find Carbone well at home in the plush environs of the new venue on Sundays, hosting his night and tending bar.

“I think people are more open-minded and want to hear music that has more to it than just a good beat,” he says. “On the other hand, I could be entirely wrong, and they are coming here because it is a beautiful room and not your typical dance club — and of course, [for] my charming personality.”

Ray’s Downtown Presents happens every Sunday at Voltaire in West Palm Beach. ~ Abel Folgar

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