By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
Despite his legal schedule, Milne finds time to indulge his muse. "I'm a lawyer and I still play music," notes Milne. "I don't think they're antithetical in any way. You're performing in either arena." Courtroom drama, however, tends to involve less heavy lifting. "In music, there's a definite correlation between how much the equipment weighs and how much fun you get out of the night. If you're moving a lot of your own heavy gear, it's a good workout, but it's kind of a sweaty beginning and a sweaty end."
One attorney who probably won't be moving any of his own gear if and when he decides to play live dates is Jose Latour. An immigration attorney based in Miami Beach, the Cuban-born Latour has just released his first album Oceano, a sort of bouncy bilingual concept album about the immigrant experience. The record is on Latour's own label, Paradise Records, and he has secured a distribution deal with Sony Discos.
Diminutive and compact, the aspiring pop star sits on the roof of the Sony building on a recent sunny morning. His eyes are shaded by black wraparound sunglasses with mirrored blue lenses. His unlined face bears vestiges of baby fat in his cheeks. As the wind blows through his dark hair, the former American diplomatic consul to Mexico and Equatorial Guinea looks more like a recent college grad than a successful 36-year-old lawyer. High above the city, he expounds on the dilemma of being a lawyer and a musician.
"I started writing music when I was fourteen or fifteen, and I was a lead singer in about four different bands. But I'm a nice, Cuban boy. I was raised with certain fundamental things, and one of them was you had a career," he explains earnestly. "About two years ago the music started gnawing at me again. In 1995 I wrote a nice, sentimental, cheesy song about the rafters. Polygram liked it, and they were pulling together an album of old Cuban classics. I sang my song "Navegue con Amor," and they put it on the record and named the compilation after it. It's really funny because I'm some schmo with the first song, and then the second song is by Celia Cruz and another song is by Beny More. So it was undeservedly cool. It sold a little bit, not a lot."
With a major distribution deal for his record, Latour seems to have the best chance of getting his music heard beyond Miami. The question remains whether his songs can transcend the South Florida market and engage others. "I have a decent singing voice, but my music is about the message. Lyrically, there is a lot of integrity. It's all from the heart. I think if my record ever does anything, it's because intelligent people are listening to the message, analyzing it, and having a lot of fun with it," he says. (A sample of Latour's poetic sang-froid: "Well, lookit how things go ... my children are gringos/My language is Spanglish, but things are okay.")
"Jose is not your typical attorney," says associate Lorenzo Lleras. "For a person of such talent as a lawyer, he's very informal and approachable, and he maintains that in both careers. I don't know if being a musician helps him professionally, but it sure enriches him personally. Dealing with immigration, he has a lot to draw upon."
Record sales are not the primary goal for Latour. "The masses are all that matters to me," he says. "I would rather have music that makes people grin across the board, that critics write off as pure schlock and that doesn't make any money."
His attraction to music -- versus the legal profession -- is simple: cultural power. "I love having the power to move people, to make them dance and to make them smile," he stresses. "Except for witnessing childbirth, there is nothing else like it. I remember playing with a band at a gig during college, and I was singing and watching about 300 people bobbing up and down, dancing, grinning, laughing, just having a ball. And I thought: 'I have never been this powerful.' I was singing to them and they were dancing. To me that was mind-boggling."
Oddly enough for a bunch as cynical as lawyers, Latour and his musical brethren seem to maintain a surprisingly optimistic and ingenuous outlook. Perhaps the most eloquent spokesman for all these briefcase-toting would-be stars is 41-year-old Joe Imperato. An attorney with the Dade County Public Defender's Office, he has dealt with major felony cases on a daily basis for the past fifteen years.
A lifelong musician, Imperato best explains the allure of the artistic life: "It's about getting a message out. It's about making a very small difference in the pop culture, in the pop consciousness of America. I think you can make more of a difference with one line of one song to influence people than most lawyers do in a lifetime of work. A writer or an artist or a poet can make more of a difference than a lawyer ever can.