A new jazz jack­pot for South Florida

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - Showtime - Palm Beach - - THE GO GUIDE - Ben Cran­dell

Un­til he won a $52 mil­lion lot­tery jack­pot about eight years ago, Miguel Pil­gram’s big­gest wind­fall might have been the one he re­ceived on a ship in the mid­dle of the In­dian Ocean dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Desert Storm.

The war got real once the ship took on en­emy fire, says Pil­gram, then a Navy com­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ist.

“It gave it a very dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive, sit­ting in the mid­dle of the ocean and wait­ing to get blown up when you are on a ship that spe­cial­izes in trans­port­ing … let’s call it am­mu­ni­tion. Back then that was clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion,” Pil­gram says, with a laugh. It was then that a friend, a Ma­rine, of­fered a dis­trac­tion.

“He said, ‘Man, you’re al­ways lis­ten­ing to mu­sic. Here’s some stuff that you need to lis­ten to.’ And it was Coltrane, it was Duke Elling­ton and Nina Si­mone. And I fell in love with it. I said, ‘Wow. This is true joy.’ I’ve loved it ever since,” Pil­gram says. On Satur­day the 48-year-old Coral Springs fa­ther of a Navy sailor and a Rollins Col­lege stu­dent will open the NYSW Jazz Lounge in an evolv­ing down­town Fort Laud­erdale neigh­bor­hood a few doors west of the Publix on Andrews Av­enue.

The space is next door to the of­fices of his Pil­gram Group real-es­tate firm and part of a build­ing that in­cludes his New York Subs and Wings restau­rant (also a food truck). It’s been about 30 months since Pil­gram moved his of­fice to the street, which re­cently added the buzzed-about Tar­pon River Brew­ing and the no-less-hip Grind Cof­fee Project.

The NYSW Jazz Lounge and Pil­gram’s of­fice are hard to miss, cov­ered in col­or­ful mu­rals of Ella Fitzger­ald, Louis Arm­strong, Tito Puente, Duke Elling­ton, Sara Vaughan and Miles Davis. They were done by lo­cal mu­ral­ist DJ the Artiste.

The 1,500-square-foot, in­door-out­door space will host live mu­sic ev­ery night ex­cept Mon­day, with evenings de­voted to clas­sic jazz (Coltrane and Si­na­tra, Pil­gram says), Latin jazz, spo­ken word and undis­cov­ered artists. There will be a menu of premium cock­tails and light tapas fare. There will be no cover on open­ing night.

The lounge is less than a mile from the for­mer Andrews Av­enue lo­ca­tion of Brownie’s, fa­mous for host­ing per­for­mances by Fitzger­ald, Arm­strong, Elling­ton, Count Basie and other jazz lu­mi­nar­ies dur­ing seg­re­ga­tion. Brownie’s was torn down to make way for the pop­u­lar Tap 42 lounge.

Pil­gram says the loss of a build­ing with that kind of his­tory is part of what is driv­ing his projects, es­pe­cially his at­tempts to re­vi­tal­ize Fort Laud­erdale’s Sistrunk Boule­vard.

First up is a sis­ter lounge called NYSW Mem­phis Blues Spot on the sec­ond floor of the space that housed Sistrunk’s once-bustling Night Owl Lounge on the south­east cor­ner of North­west 15th Av­enue. The bot­tom floor will be a New York Subs and Wings restau­rant.

Next door Pil­gram is build­ing a 6,000-square-foot build­ing that will have NYSW Mem­phis Blues on the third floor. The two lounges will be con­nected by a bridge.

Pil­gram is fourth-gen­er­a­tion Navy, and moved fre­quently, but set­tled in Mem­phis dur­ing high school. When he re­turned from his Navy ser­vice, he was dis­mayed at how the city’s “won­der­ful his­tory and cul­ture was just… dis­solved.” He said hun­dreds of res­i­dents where he grew up were dis­placed by gen­tri­fi­ca­tion.

Pil­gram wants to pre­vent that from hap­pen­ing in Sistrunk, and has a busi­ness model he be­lieves will work.

A win­ning $52 mil­lion lot­tery ticket doesn’t an­swer ev­ery ques­tion, Pil­gram says, laugh­ing, “But it gives you a good start.”

The NYSWJaz­zLounge, at107 SWSixth St, Fort Laud­erdale, opens 7 p.m. Satur­day. Ad­mis­sion is free. Visit Face­book.com/ NYSWJaz­zLounge. Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter (1074 NW Third Ave., Miami) 2-4 p.m. Tick­ets start at $25. Visit SouthFlori­daDreamBookTour.com.

Jenifer Lewis of the hit ABC sit­com “Black­ish” will talk about her dark, bawdy, but ul­ti­mately tri­umphant mem­oir in Lauder­hill and Miami this week­end.


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