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Bright as a whistle and smart as a fox, Big Brooklyn Red's entire demeanor is old school: from the way he combs his long, Michael Bolton-style hair to the hats he wears at a slant. When he sings his voice flows as easy as breathing, but the force of his soul turns his face red. So arresting is his style that Tobacco Road denizens rush upstairs to check him out and drunken Heat fans dragging out of the arena after yet another loss are momentarily jolted out of their disappointment by his game-closing performances. But what Brooklyn Red really wants is a nightcap.
That's the name of the pajama party presided over by the singer every Sunday at the Marlin Hotel. Accompanied by xylophone and drum, Red sits in a silver Hershey's Kiss-shaped chair, rocking to the beat. On overstuffed couches surrounding the small stage fans sprawl in sleepwear ranging from sexy to comfy. This is the final toast of the weekend, the last chance to chill before the work week begins.
DJ Lily Pad is spinning smooth tunes, done up in sexy night gear. Looking like a real hep cat, Red is dressed in silk pajamas, a motif-printed silk robe, black trouser socks, and velvet slippers. He taps his foot to the clang of the xylophone and sings a jazzed-out improvisation, followed by funk, salsa rhythms, and deep R&B.
While Big Brooklyn Red may look laid-back, he has been working the local scene hard, landing his single "My Destiny" on WHQT-FM (105) and booking gigs at every hot spot from Tobacco Road to the Titanic Brewery.
The native New Yorker got his start in Miami in 1997 as one-half of the duo A Long Way From Sunday with rapper/friend Hassan. When Hassan ventured to Los Angeles, Red stayed behind, solo. "I'm an improvisationalist," he says. "That's what I do. I create music using the elements of the audience." Each show, he works with a shifting band that can be a full four-piece ensemble or a single keyboardist to create uncut, mostly untitled, pieces. He looks for musicians he knows can keep up with his creations: "I do this with these world-class cats because I trust them and I know what they can do."
Every week more pajama-clad fans learn what Big Brooklyn Red can do as the Nightcap crowd grows steadily. That's the kick Red is looking for. "I'm not even getting paid for this," he says. "The money I am making from the bar, I'm givin' it to the [musicians]." But then, working for nothing but love is all too typical in Miami. "In New York I would've gotten so much money for this and such a big turnout, but here you just don't know," Red shrugs. "I plan to go to L.A. when I am through here," he continues, "hook up with Hassan and make my stuff heard out there."