Best of Miami®

Best Of 2000

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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

Best Local Jazz Artist

Whatever you do, don't refer to saxophonist Keshavan Maslak as an avant-garde musician. "You know what an avant-garde musician is?" scoffs Maslak. "It's somebody who's starving!" That may be the reason Maslak finally bailed on his adopted home of New York City in 1986 -- despite a résumé of playing that read like a who's who of that city's left-field music scene, jamming with figures ranging from John Zorn and Philip Glass to Rashied Ali and Sam Rivers -- and headed for South Florida. To signify the break, he even adopted a new name (the purposely show-bizesque Kenny Millions). Still, Manhattan's loss is our gain, and you can now easily find Maslak ensconced in the corner of his own pan-Asian restaurant, Hollywood's Sushi Blues Café, happily honking away in a blues mode. For an earful of Maslak's famed outside jazz playing, be prepared to travel: He reserves that facet of his muse primarily for out-of-town gigs and high-profile European festivals. "People come to my restaurant to eat and relax," he wryly explains, not to turn their brains inside out. For that the curious are advised to take a listen to last year's Without Kuryokhin, a live tribute to departed friend and master pianist Sergey Kuryokhin. Recorded in Russia alongside Japanese turntablist Otomo Yoshihide, the album showcases the two musicians bouncing ideas back and forth, trading squealing licks and trilling notes, and ultimately expanding the boundaries of jazz and (better whisper it) avant-garde sonic exploration. It's thrilling stuff: challenging at times, never academic, always engaging. Maybe one day this massive talent will give audiences in his own back yard a little taste.

Best Rock Vocalist (Female)

A South Florida native who rocks, singer/songwriter DeNisco has been playing guitar since childhood and performing professionally for thirteen years. Now living in Dania Beach, she's a regular on Miami-Dade stages. Riding the wake of her first CD, 1995's On My Way (which garnered two Billboard songwriting awards for the ditties "I Belong with You" and "Mystic Tune"), she's now pushing her latest release, Winds of a Dream. A six-song disc she simply calls "pop-orientated acoustic rock," it's a perfect platform for her to showcase a clear, touching, sometimes raspy voice. You can catch DeNisco performing in local clubs about four times a week. Sometimes it's just her and a guitar. Other times she's with her full band. No matter who she's with, you won't be able to resist the rock or the voice.

Best Rock Vocalist (Male)

No other Miami frontman can carry you through a tune like Endo's Gil Bitton. First, understand the jet-fueled rock Endo belts out lands somewhere between Rage Against the Machine and Limp Bizkit. Second, realize Bitton puts everything he has into a performance, prowling the stage and gesticulating to each break-neck beat, delving deep into his diaphragm for a sound that pushes the band's already aggressive music to a new-found intensity. After a set he's spent -- drenched in sweat and exhausted. Bitton's energetic presence and distinct voice have helped Endo create a bit of a stir around the country. Late last year New York's Concrete Management began to represent the group (in addition to famed clients Ministry and Pantera). Impressed as well were the folks at the very-selective South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas, who invited the band to perform this past March. Judging by the recent release of Endo's second album, the rousing Evolve, featuring Bitton's searing vocals, who knows what the future will bring?

Best Venue For Live Music

This welcoming second-floor rabbit warren of rooms located in the heart of downtown Miami was ahead of the pack in the area's renaissance. In fact it's still way ahead of everyone else. Opened in the late Nineties by David Haskin, the Wallflower was strictly art based at first, with the occasional cultural gathering. The art exhibitions -- sculpture, paintings, and what-have-you displayed and dispersed throughout the various spaces -- continue. But as a music-listening venue, the Wallflower began to bloom in early 1999 when Flash, former funkfinder at Lincoln Road's defunct Funktional Funk, assumed the programming and managing reins. Since then the place, so desolate and deserted from the outside at night, has come alive inside every weekend showcasing a who's who of talent in several genres. Spoken word events occur on a monthly basis. Workshops devoted to holistic health are plentiful too. But it's the performances by nearly every local band active in Miami -- Sixo, Swivel Stick, the Square Egg, Mantra, and the Gabe Dixon Band, to name a few -- that really draw crowds. The six-buck cover buys entry into an all-ages show, sans alcohol. Coffee, tea, juices, and healthy snacks are served. Smoking is allowed -- in one room. Music aficionados can purchase CDs on the premises or settle on the comfy furniture, watching or listening from almost anywhere. Just about the entire gallery is wired for video and sound. And the sounds, well, they're the best reason of all to be there.

Best Local Rock Band

Forget everything you've heard about Lynyrd Skynyrd's snarling Floridian frontman dying in a fiery 1977 plane crash. He's alive and well, just as pissed off as ever about the sorely maligned Southern Man, and presently heading up local outfit the Holy Rollin' Hellfires. That Dixie-steeped flavor of old is still there, complete with stinging, barbed-wirelike guitar work and a country blues sense of twang. But it's been accelerated, dragged through the punk-rock blender, and come out the other end angrily distorted. Of course as anyone who's seen the Hellfires perform live can tell you, it's best not to spend too much time analyzing the group's sonic spin on white-trash harmonics. Instead stand back. Way back. Lead singer Billy McKelvy has some novel ideas about breaking down that fourth wall, and his impassioned growling, howling, and frantic arm-flailing isn't always safely confined to the stage. Rock and roll may have become a spent cultural force in Miami, but the sight of its death throes can be an impressive thing to behold.

Best Concert Series

Music by the light of the moon -- an intoxicating combination. Certainly something that's gone on forever and a day. But on a regular basis in Miami? Apparently not. That is until 1995, when Barnacle State Historic Site park manager Terry Coulliette and friends dreamed up the idea for the Barnacle Under Moonlight concert series. The idea: Once a month, on or near the full moon (except during July and August), host a concert on the expansive back lawn of the charming Vernacular-style house built on five acres of waterfront property in 1891 by Coconut Grove pioneer Ralph Middleton Munroe. A serene setting, which calls for relaxed sounds. Various acts have been in the folk or blues vein, such as Ukrainian bandurist Yarko, local pair Outta d'Blues, and eclectic acoustic duo Tammerlin. A Celtic thing happens in honor of St. Patrick's Day, and the Top Brass Quintet plays Christmas carols in December. Florida songster Grant Livingston, the first musician ever to perform there, now traditionally closes the series each year. Listeners are invited to lounge on blankets or chairs, have a picnic, and frolic in the grass as long as they fork over five bucks (kids under age ten get in free) and leave their pets at home. Another thing they can't bring along: booze. But that's okay. The moonlight, music, and atmosphere are more than enough to make them drunk.

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Best Local Jazz Artist: Keshavan Maslak

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