Jazz isn’t for everyone. It’s spur-of-the-moment, rambunctious and unpredictable. Sort of like Churchill’s.
Stepping into the candescent, smoke-filled sanctuary known as Churchill’s Pub, you are immediately swept into a world of outdated bumper stickers and smiling locals.
This isn’t your ordinary pub, as this is more of a safe haven for people who just want to be themselves while they listen to whatever satisfies their souls, something that is a far cry from a majority of clubs and venues within the pretentious confines of Miami.
Ever since its doors opened in 1979, Churchill’s Pub has been at the heart of the Miami live music scene. Whatever your musical genre, this pub has satisfied. From Iggy Pop to Trick Daddy, from Marilyn Manson to Social Distortion, every color within the musical spectrum has been on display at Churchill’s within an intimate dive bar setting.
“All types of music have played within these walls, it doesn’t matter the genre, this is the place to enjoy it,” says booking manager Ian Michael with a grin on his face. “That will never change as long as we’re here.”
For just under 20 years, Churchill’s Pub at 5501 NE Second Ave. in Little Haiti, has offered one of the most dynamic and devoted nights of music on a weekly basis, Miami Jazz Mondays.
Fernando Ulibarri, an amicable and musically talented individual, has been spearheading 9 p.m. Jazz Mondays for the last nine years.
“Jazz has always been the ultimate escape for me,” Ulibarri touts. “To have a place like Churchill’s to perform and share my gift has been a blessing.”
Stirring a drink, Ulibarri talks about growing up in Costa Rica. “We were confined to certain genres and artists. But here, in the United States, in Miami and the world we live in now, all musical doors can be opened with a single click.”
For the most part, Ulibarri plays guitar with a constant of revolving artists to begin the evening. On Oct. 23, the core consists of John Yarling on drums (a jovial-looking Mr. Clean type) and Jose Gola on bass, a man with immediate resemblance to actor Benicio Del Toro in the film “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”
Yarling has been coming to Churchill’s since the early ‘80s. “This place has always been a refuge for me,” he states emphatically. “For my life — and my music.”
As he, Ulibarri and Gola tune their instruments and sip their cocktails, a steady flow of irregulars and their instruments casually stroll through the pub.
At the entrance, a man struggles to fit a giant easel-looking structure through the front door. “Dude, that’s a vibraphone,” according to a bartender.
Every Monday, after Ulibarri and his core perform a few sets, anyone and everyone with an instrument can join them or perform on their own. It is truly a night of jazz open and available to anyone who shares this passion.
It’s not just jazz that is shared on Mondays. On the back patio, an open mic night is carried out, where anyone can pretty much do anything as starving artists await their turn to perform.
Guitarists, singers, poets, rappers and even beat boxers are in line to perform in front of their non-judging peers.
After several lengthy jams, Ulibarri returns to the bar and orders another gin and tonic.
“We’re just getting started,” he says, dripping in sweat and pounding his entire drink in one enthusiastic swig.