With 23 musicians and seven singers, the University of Miami's Latin big band is large enough to merit the moniker the University of Miami Salsa Orchestra. UM's spacious Gusman Concert Hall (1314 Miller Rd., Coral Gables) thus seems an appropriate venue for their performance tonight, featuring Latin jazz numbers as well as salsa dance tunes and Latin standards sure to have you dancing in your seat. Led by Alberto de la Reguera, the orchestra is comprised of members of the school's jazz department as well as professional musicians who have performed with the Count Basie Orchestra, Santana, and Tito Puente. They include trumpeters Jose "Cheito" Quinones and guest soloist Al Hood; sax man Mike Campagna; trombone player Mike Kearns; pianist Laurence Elder; and singers Sal Nunez and Jose Sotomayor. Showtime is 8:00 p.m., and the five-dollar admission goes to benefit WDNA-FM (88.9). Call 305-662-8889. (JC)
Forget the Rollerbladers. Beware of the gluttons who will be rolling around Miami Beach's Lincoln Road Mall after stuffing themselves at this weekend's Taste of the Beach. The event, an epicurean's delight, features more than twenty restaurants (Balans, the Forge, Rosinella, Van Dyke Cafe, Sushi Siam, and others) that will offer culinary samples (pad thai, conch fritters, and sushi) ranging in price from one to five dollars. Live jazz, blues, Latin, rock, and Brazilian music (saxophonist Leo Gandelman, Latin hip-hopper Tito Puente, Jr., and flamenco guitarist Alex Fox, to name a few) are scheduled, and artist Christian Bernard will entertain spectators by creating a 100-foot mural over three days. Wannabe chefs or steadfast dieters can watch cooks demonstrate signature recipes, and celebrity hounds can catch singer Patti LaBelle, who will autograph her new cookbook, LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About, at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow at Books & Books (933 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach). The chowing goes on from 6:00 p.m. to midnight tonight, noon to midnight tomorrow, and 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Call 305-672-6050. (NK)
Spain, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, and Argentina are a few of the countries whose films will be showcased at this year's Hispanic Film Festival getting under way this afternoon at 1:00 at the Astor Cinema (4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables) with Spain's Time Bomb, the story of a family whose members become accomplices to a murder. Beginning at 3:00 p.m. at the Regal Mayfair Cinema (3390 Mary St., Coconut Grove), Mambi and Mararia (Spain), The Rose Seller (Colombia), and The Lighthouse (Argentina) screen. The fun continues at an opening-night party, which will take place at 7:30 at the Mayfair House (3000 Florida Ave., Coconut Grove). A discussion titled "Cultural Understanding in the Film Industry" is held at the Regal Mayfair Cinema tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. On April 30 at a gala at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts (174 E. Flagler St.) the festival will award a prize known as the Golden Egret in six categories. Admission to each film costs $6.50. Most (but not all) of the movies will have English subtitles. Tickets to the opening party cost $50 and tickets to the awards gala cost $15. Call 305-279-1809. (NK)
Former presidential advisor George Stephanopoulos has barely gotten his whiny little heinie out of Miami and now guess who's blowin' into town? Infamous intern Monica Lewinsky, that's who. Don't expect any tips on how to nail the leader of the free world, though. Seems Monica will be doing more signing than whining. She's just autographing the book Andrew Morton wrote about her. But according to literati big shot Mitch Kaplan, the original devil with a blue dress will need as much security as former President Jimmy Carter. (How does this poor girl ever expect to get another date when she's constantly surrounded by goons? Hey, wait a minute!) Lewinsky wields her pen at 1:00 this afternoon at Books & Books (296 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables). Admission is not free. As usual when it comes to the major celebrities you will be blackmailed into buying her book from Books & Books for $24.95 if you want her to sign it. Set your cassette recorder and call 305-442-4408 to complain, but make sure they know you're taping the conversation. Unlike in Maryland (the home of Linda Tripp), that kind of stuff is illegal in these parts. (NK)
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Cinema Vortex goes positively movie mad today and next week when they present "Film Is Art," a selection of classic experimental and avant-garde short films from Germany, France, and the United States. The first half of the series unspools today with Twenties and Thirties gems such as abstract painter Fernand Leger's Ballet Mecanique (1924), one of the most influential experimental works that demonstrates the filmmaker's fascination with the newly mechanized world; Rene Clair's Entr'Acte (1924), which was originally produced as intermission entertainment for a ballet from a scenario by painter Francis Picabia; Bauhaus architect, painter, and later Nazi propagandist Walter Ruttman's Opus (1921-24), thought to be the first Abstract animated film seen by audiences; and Surrealist Luis Bunuel's Un Chien Andalou (1929), featuring the famous razor-across-the-eyeball scene. A ton of stuff by photographer Man Ray and many more flicks by twisted directors show at noon at the Alliance Cinema, 927 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. Admission is four dollars. Call 305-531-8504. (NK)
If you happen to see a man strolling around town in a spherical costume that resembles the planet Earth, don't worry, Halloween hasn't arrived six months early. You just may be coming face to face with environmental activist Lanny Smith, a.k.a Earthman, the leader of the musical band Earthman and the Planet Earth Project. Smith has made it his mission to educate his audiences about the dangers faced by our natural world. Today the band brings its message to the Joseph Caleb Center Auditorium (5400 NW 22nd Ave.) at 9:30 a.m. Admission is one dollar. Call 305-636-2350. (NK)
Even resolute tree haters will be captivated by the work of photographer Steve Karafyllakis. Stare at one of his prints for a few moments and you're liable to feel as if you've been transported to an utterly peaceful outdoors. Hear the sounds of leaves gently rustling in the wind, the gurgling of a stream rushing by. Frolic through the tall grass. Look out for that rock! Although Karafyllakis's bucolic nature scenes are shot entirely in black and white, they radiate with a luminous, vibrant quality. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that he shoots a majority of his work with a Bronica 6x7 camera or a handmade 6x9 camera that he put together with war-era press-camera components. In the case of landscapes and still lifes, it seems bigger is better. The photographer's work remains on view through May 10 at the Stephen Watt Gallery, 8 NE 40th St. Admission is free. Call 305-573-7020. (NK)
The Miami Light Project presents a concert by exceptional Grammy Award-winning jazz singer Cassandra Wilson tonight at 8:00 at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, 174 E. Flagler St. Tickets range from $20 to $50. Call 305-576-4350. See "Music," page 91, for more details. (