Hotshots: Jazz Guitarist Peter Betan [New Miami magazine]
by Hope Katz Gibbs
New Miami magazine
Photo by Donna Victor
Design by Kevin Jolliffe
This article, part of our monthly Hotshots series, received a first place Charlie Award for Best Column from The Florida Magazine Association
JAZZ GUITARIST PETER BETAN HAS carved himself a niche in the Miami club scene. Every night of the week he is booked into nightclubs in Coconut Grove, downtown Miami and Miami Beach.
He first looked for his place in the spotlight in New York. To support himself, he drove cabs, cleaned out dog cages and repaired pianos. Nothing was too menial for the Billy Joel wannabe who spent his nights playing Manhattan nightclubs.
In 1987, Betan decided the competitive grind of New York was likely to chew him up. His family was in Miami and he headed here for a fresh start. “I saw the music scene here was conducive to a solo format,” he says.
He was right. Soon after he arrived, he landed a booking at Miami’s oldest bar, Tobacco Road, where he has performed every Tuesday night since 1988. “I like his music,” says Patrick Gleber, one of the owners. “A lot of times, people don’t listen to a solo act mostly because a lot of solo players aren’t that good. When Peter is playing, people actually listen.”
Betan is impressing the critics, too. The weekly newspaper, “New Times,” named him Miami’s Best Soloist of 1991. He also has share the stage with some top acts. Last year, he opened a concert for the legendary Bob Dylan.
But a major recording label hasn’t yet asked Betan to sign on the dotted line. Until he reaches that goal, Betan says he’ll continue performing for local audiences.
Of course, you never know who might be listening. In 1988, Betan was playing at the Bread Station in Coconut Grove when a woman approached him with compliments on his music. She then hired him to write background music for a gymnastics troupe she was taking on tour through Europe.
That sound track became Betan’s first album—a locally produced collection of 10 guitar and flute pieces called Short Stories. Last year, he recorded a second album, Betan, a five-song disk that includes vocals. In July, he finished his third album, Out of Love.
“This one has a lot of pop tunes that the general public will like,” he says. “I think it may be my ticket for getting a [big name] recording contract.”