If human evolution had taken this long, we'd still be monkeys. Already celebrated for their intensely engrossing live shows, the Baboons have neglected to record, opting at one point to put their efforts into a video but never making their mark on disc. Patience paid off this year with the arrival of their seven-tune mix of Miami influences, which captures the group's lively originality while also reflecting elements of Angélique Kidjo, Bob Marley, and Santana, with a few touches of Esquivel for good measure. The marathon jams that leave live crowds happily exhausted come across within the ten-plus minutes of "The Temple" and "Made in the Shade," which runs about eight minutes. But the album also contains enough dynamics to obliterate any tendency toward tediousness. Diverse, birring, and tropical as an August day on Virginia Key, Evolution is pure Miami and pure pleasure.

One thing those crusty old scenesters never mention about the punk-rock heyday of the Cameo: For a while there, the movie-theater seats were still in place! Sure puts all those "I got my ass kicked at the GBH show in '86" stories in perspective, don't it? Okay, so the concrete floor these days makes it kind of echoey, but sound-guy quibbles aside, if this town had more venues like this one (converted movie theaters regularly hosting loud live music), the show-going scene would be far healthier. Although DJ events continue to be a big draw at the Cameo, any venue that has booked altrockers Everclear, acoustic hip-hopper Everlast, punkabilly stalwarts the Cramps, and Colombian genre benders Aterciopelados within the same twelve-month span is providing an invaluable public service. For those who continue to rock, we salute you.
Rob Elba has distinguished himself as an incisive songwriter and riveting performer both with his former group the Holy Terrors and as a solo artist. This outfit, which also includes members of Radio Baghdad, is something else altogether. In typically ferocious style, Elba and company tear up classic (ahem) tunes by Cheap Trick, Ramones, Buzzcocks, the Dead Kennedys, the Damned, and Elvis ("Presley," the droll Elba quips). The cheese factor of covering others' tunes is mitigated by Elba's song selection and the Clap's edgy, cool delivery. Elba says it's about "the sheer joy of playing." For audiences it's about the sheer joy of listening.
Classically trained on the bass, Don Wilner may seem like a musical nerd. He holds a doctorate in music from the University of Miami (where he taught for many years) and he has published numerous articles about jazz performance and pedagogy. But when he plays in the Van Dyke Café's upstairs bar, he reveals himself to be the heppest of hepcats, a jazz man through and through. As the Van Dyke's musical coordinator, he keeps the room humming seven days a week. As in-house bassist he's there more often than not, playing along with some of the hottest names in the jazz world: Mose Allison, Mark Murphy, Johnny O'Neal, and Grady Tate to name a few. Whether accompanying greats, performing with the members of his own hard-bop ensemble (currently fielding offers from major record labels), or letting loose on a solo during a performance by his trio (James Martin and Mark Marineau), Wilner swings, sways, grooves, takes it seriously, takes it fun, grimaces, smiles, sweats, and gives the impression he's loving every minute of it. His recently released album, the eclectic Mysterious Beauty, features jazzy takes on classical tunes (themes from Georges Bizet's opera Carmen), standards (Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust" and Harold Arlen's "Ill Wind"), and bebop classics (Charlie Parker's "Dexterity") and recently earned a rave review from the esteemed Jazz Times magazine.
Calling the University of Miami's WVUM-FM (90.5) uneven is being more than charitable. One minute you're listening to a blistering set of drum and bass, the next you're being aurally assaulted by frat boys and giggling freshmen. Such are the consequences of WVUM's unfortunate charter, which bars not only community members but UM's own graduate students from joining the air staff. Accordingly, with the average DJ's age being nineteen, it's not surprising there's such a lack of depth in the station's lineup. Which makes Suburban Harmony Joyride such a surprising treat. From 7:00 to 10:00 a.m. Mondays, hosts Roy Silverstein and Tom Wilson romp through a gracefully un-Catholic sprawl of underground rock and postpunk squall. The duo may be young, but they maintain a vision that extends far beyond the campus dorms. Recent on-air faves such as Tortoise, Built to Spill, and Eric's Trip, may not yet be familiar to Miami clubgoers, but at least everyone has a regular reminder about what they're missing.

It's after midnight and, three songs in, the ButterClub has mesmerized the outdoor crowd at a local music festival. Before the next selection, singer Rhett O'Neil asks the technical crew to turn off the stage lights. "We're all friends here," he says. For the next 90 minutes a couple of hundred of the band's friends stand like trees, engrossed, a few mumbling, "These guys are amazing" to no one in particular. Through two stunning albums and plenty of magical live performances, the Club, which employs two guitarists and a hard-hitting percussionist to go with the singing and the rhythm section, has perfected its trippy, trance-inducing rock sound even while carrying the onus of the inescapable Rolling Stones comparisons. Like the Stones the ButterClub is composed of edgy, intelligent rockers. Unlike the Stones the members of the Club disdain pretensions and are far from retirement age. More notably the ButterClub is relevant. It's time for them to come out of the dark.
Singing since age three. Playing guitar since age eleven. Writing tunes in her teens. Pursuing her dreams of rock and roll stardom in Los Angeles. Becoming a wife and mother. Retiring from music. Relocating to Miami to start a new life. Picking up her guitar again. Wowing them at her son's preschool talent show. Performing at open-mike nights. Getting gigs. Getting divorced. Getting encouragement from friends. Writing more songs. Winning the songwriter competition at the 1997 South Florida Folk Festival. Recording Songweaver, a full-length album of dazzling pop-folk tunes. Persevering to attract new fans and delight old ones. Those are a few highlights from the Amy Carol Webb story. Passionate, perceptive, exceptionally gifted, she sings to the listener's soul.

Best CD Recorded At Miami International Airport

Miambient Volume One

If the opening montage on this compilation of chilled-out groove artists sounds like it was recorded inside Miami International Airport, that's because it actually was. Coproducer Mark Christopher plays it coy when asked just how he persuaded a ticket attendant to do a terminalwide broadcast over the airport's PA system for "Miambient voyagers -- destination South Beach." But he freely admits to standing on the tarmac with an outstretched microphone to capture the roar of a landing plane. It all adds up to the perfect intro for this cool collection of mostly local, dubbed-up and dreamy, laid-back electronic beats.
Some local musicians pitch a fit about the lack of a live music scene. After arriving from Los Angeles last year, pianist Arthur Hanlon set out to create a scene. Hanlon's monthly gig at The Globe in Coral Gables, where he jams with a quintet of outstanding local Latin players, is one of the most spirited Saturday night parties in town. Weeknights Hanlon can be found stroking the ivories in the Gaucho Room at the Loews Hotel, where he performs a mix of his original works (which he describes as "Motown blues with a Latin flavor") and piano-bar perennials. The baby-faced 32-year-old also released a CD of his Latin-tinged jazz, titled Encuentros, this year. Hard work never sounded so sweet.
The Balloon's pop lifts the better elements of late-Sixties songcraft (they even cover a Kinks tune) and incorporates them into a driving, urgent approach that leaves all the sissified alternacrap on the radio facedown on the ground. Tommy Anthony has long been one of South Florida's top songwriters, and he has the voice to carry his hooky-but-never-smarmy tunes to lofty heights. A listen to the CD Real will suggest that it was recorded at a major studio by a top-gun producer, its production values best described as glossy yet thick. In fact it was recorded by the band in Anthony's bedroom studio on consumer-grade equipment. The quartet's exhilarating live act takes those tunes to the next level. Anthony's front work receives immaculate support from guitarist/keyboardist John Allen, bassist Michael Quinn, and drummer Omar Hernandez (who backs Raul Di Blasio as well). If the group's sound reflects the late Sixties, so their career strategies embrace grassroots hippie ideology. No big-label deal. No video. No flavor-of-the-day hype machine. With nothing more than placement at the listening booth, the CD sold out at Tower Records in Chicago and Minneapolis. Miami, too, knows what time it is: New Times readers chose them as Best Rock Band last year. While waiting for the Balloon to take off nationally, Anthony tours as a guitarist for Jon Secada, a Four O'Clock fan. Now that's pop.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®