Overtown Musician: Charles Austin

“Places like Memphis where meant to record records, but Overtown, was a place for musicians to jam. It was like an oasis for musicians. Black, white, it didn’t matter.” -Charles Austin, 2010

Charles Austin, legendary saxophonist, has been a leading man in the contemporary jazz scene for the last sixty-seven years. During his teenage years, the promising musician toured with BB King and appeared on several variety shows, including but not limited to, the very popular Ed Sullivan Show, where his quartet won for best musical performance.

After teaching music at Tennessee State University, Charles returned to his hometown of Miami FL, and began his solo career, playing instruments such as the flute, clarinet, English horn, the oboe and of course, the saxophone, in the bustling scene of the Overtown jazz clubs. During one particular gig, Charles was discovered by Joe Gallivan, who invited him to play as the featured sax soloist with the Modern Jazz Orchestra at the legendary Hampton House- the Mecca for Black Entertainers in the 60’s. It was at the Hampton House where the eighteen-piece band would later perform for Martin Luther King, after he gave an earlier rendition of “I have a Dream”. Eventually, Charles began to musically merge with Joe Gallivan, and in 1975 the duo recorded their first record, “At Last”, which combined a free melodic approach with classical jazz. Over the next three decades the duo’s collaboration resulted in several records and world tours. Over the course of the last sixty-seven years, Charles has worked and collaborated with the likes of Marvin Gaye, James Brown, and Stevie Wonder. He is currently being noted in Joseph Mcnaire’s novel to include the one hundred greatest musicians of all time, alongside Duke Ellington and BB King.

Charles Austin currently lives in Liberty City and continues his musical contribution to the world by teaching music to young people. Mayor Carlos Alvarez awarded Charles a medal of recognition for integrating the music program of Miami North Western Senior High.

Charles, a sweetheart and an inspiration, can be contacted by phone at 305.757.8727