South Florida R&B and jazz icon Jimmy Cavallo will celebrate his second 90th birthday with a performance at Nick’s Italian Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, March 14, a year after he could not make the original celebration at Nick’s due to illness.
The saxophonist and bandleader, a fixture on the local music scene since moving to Pompano Beach 50 years ago, will do two sets from 7 to 11 p.m. Wednesday, Cavallo’s actual 91st birthday. Like the 2017 festivities, the party in Nick’s upstairs supper club is sold out.
Cavallo was unable to perform last year due to a case of bronchitis that briefly hospitalized him. He is raring to go this time.
“I’m tip top. I’m back to my old self,” Cavallo said on Tuesday, acknowledging he’s still battling a little vertigo. “I’ll put my black-suit swag on. It’s going to be a blast.”
So popular is Wednesday’s show that after getting the news of the sell-out a couple of weeks ago, Cavallo learned that not only couldn’t he help friends find seats, the guest of honor didn’t have one, either.
“They even forgot to get me a table, and I’m the birthday boy,” he said, with a laugh. “The birthday boy without a place to sit, what’s going on? They finally came up with a table.”
Cavallo grew up in Syracuse, N.Y., idolizing the music of African-American jazz and R&B pioneer Louis Jordan, eventually finding regional fame in the segregated South while synthesizing the music he played in black nightclubs into a sound that would later be called rock ‘n’ roll.
Trailblazing DJ Alan Freed liked what he heard, booking Jimmy Cavallo and his House Rockers to perform the title track in his 1956 movie about the then-dangerous new form of music, "Rock, Rock, Rock."
On the sax and as a vocalist, Cavallo’s sets lean on the energetic music of men who knew how to swing: Louis Prima, Frank Sinatra and two of Cavallo’s old friends, Bobby Darin and Nat King Cole. The music is mingled with stories about life on the road and on the stage.
As Cavallo’s longtime drummer, Val Colombo, will tell you: “He's got stories that would burn your eyebrows off.”
If you miss him on Wednesday, Cavallo also will do his regular gigs 5-8 p.m. Saturday and 4-7 p.m. Monday at Blue Jean Blues in Fort Lauderdale.
Nick’s Italian Restaurant is at 3496 N. Ocean Blvd., in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-563-6441 or go to NicksItalianOnline.com. Blue Jean Blues is at 3320 NE 33rd St., in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-306-6330 or go to BJBLive.com.