World Beat, Miami Heat

Without a lot of fanfare but before an immensely appreciative crowd, the most exciting orchestra in town was born last weekend at the Byron Carlyle Theater in Miami Beach. Livio Tragtenberg's Nervous City Orchestra, an only-in-Miami version of the Brazilian composer's 2004 Neuropolis, was a premiere, a celebration of the 25th anniversary of producer Tigertail Productions, and a chance for local audiences to feel the thrill of world music's front lines. Tragtenberg's inspired rainbow of sound (provided by twelve superb Miami musicians of varied backgrounds), his forced marriage of world beat and Miami heat, and his adventuresome musical spirit will linger long after his saxophone's last cry.

Here's what happened: On the heels of a lonely phrase from an Argentine bandoneon came the low rumbling of an Australian didjeridoo, their curtain of sound parting to reveal a gentle conversation between flute and violin. A sort of Brazilian neo-samba beat emerged -- and returned again and again -- only to be overtaken by a Cuban son montuno or by laughing peels of Bahamian steel drums. Tragtenberg's Apple laptop added myriad samplings. There was a minimalist insistence to the whole affair, an audible sense of process that kept the score just this side of chaos: short melodic figures with daringly little harmonic development, repeatedly punctuated by found melodies, including a giddy final fantasy on "Matilda." Benton-C Bainbridge's live video projections, needing a taller stage to make an impression, kept the background bouncing.

Chad Bernstein and especially John Speck brought almost vocal articulation to some fiendishly difficult trombone passages. Renee Fiallos lavished sensual vibrancy on flute and voice alike. Jesse Jackson's blues, Roberto Poveda's guaguanco, Vicki Richards's violin -- all of these and more shined brightly. There was real joy in this band.


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