From 1998's "Best Solo Musician" item about Midon: "... Hear him quickly before a major record label snaps him up." Snap. Now that Raul Midon is signed to BMG US Latin, you might think success has changed the long-time Miami resident. But the only thing that's changed is his name: The multilingual artist now goes simply by Midon. His debut CD, Gracias a la Vida, a collection of Latin classics, hit stores in January. Even so, our urging was a bit off. His busy gig schedule still allows for plenty of local shows in varied venues in various configurations (trio, solo, sitting in for jams). The flamenco-style guitarist's performances soar beyond the confines of a CD, with Midon adding skittering scats, surreal improvisations, and his signature trumpet tone (created vocally) to boleros, jazz standards, and bluesy originals. A man, a guitar, limitless musical accomplishment.

Best Album Of The Past Twelve Months

The Baboons

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.

In their debut performance, dubbed "a tribute to Sun Ra," the Afro Polyphonic Space Orchestra displayed why the approach of their oddball jazz-pioneer hero still sounds not just out of time, but out of this world. Playing as part of the first annual Afro Roots World Music Festival at Tobacco Road, the A.P.S.O. filled an entire outdoor stage with members from a broad spectrum of Miami's music scene -- from straight-ahead horn players to an R&B bassist, from a rock guitarist to an electronica keyboard maven. Decked out in glittery blouses that looked as if they'd just been stolen off the back of a truck at Mardi Gras, the A.P.S.O. proceeded to jam out on a variety of Sun Ra's Arkestral standards. Hopscotching from wiggy Dixieland to mind-melting fusion, it wasn't long before the ensemble stepped off into the void, chanting "we travel the spaceways" as disembodied saxophones dueled with eerie blasts from a Moog. Theirs was a freaky musical ride like no other on Earth.

¡Viva las comunistas!
In its Sixties prime, the North Shore Band Shell provided the setting for a television variety program. In fact the Mike Douglas Show logos can still be found in a dressing room. Recently, in an effort to build a sense of community among residents, Miami Beach officials revamped the shell and began sponsoring an array of activities: jazz bands, symphony orchestra performances, an Afro-Caribbean festival. On Friday nights the terrazzo dance floor becomes a roller rink. On Sunday nights seniors dance to a live band playing the hits of yesteryear. The multihue structure has stood its ground in the face of changing cultural tides, a fact made clear on the nights when the shell is spotlighted by the shimmering moon and the only music to be heard comes from the whistling wind and the rippling currents of the nearby ocean.

Best Band To Break Up In Past Twelve Months

Fay Wray

Is it really the end? We fear it is. On a Saturday in February, guitarist Rob Coe and producer Jeremy DuBois are in the upstairs room of North Miami's Tapeworm studio, mixing songs for a new Fay Wray album. The following Thursday the fiery, clever, and (this description is becoming a cliché) Replacements-like band is playing its rip-roaring farewell show at Churchill's Hideaway. Always a bit tenuous (singer/lyricist Jeff London lives in Gainesville), the band made its live mark with mosh madness that often left its lead singer bloody and bruised. Although the urgency of the live act shattered London's lyrics into shards of shouted rage, on record the cleverness and irony come through loud and clear. London left the group to move to Denver. Until the reunion, spin those discs.

Best Band To Leave Miami In The Past Twelve Months

The Psychonauts

With their tape-loop, sound bite effects, pro-wrestling masks, endless Elvis iconization, and wall-rattling sonic attack (armed by all-'abilly influences), the 'Nauts amazed locals by bringing to the stage a slew of visual distractions without sacrificing any of their musical power. That's entertainment, sure, but their sound was on the cusp of the whole surfabilly/punkabilly/rockabilly trend that's either about to catch on in a big way or fade into obscurity. If these serious but still winking rockers don't elevate interest in rootsy sounds, they'll likely move beyond categorization and make a niche for themselves apart from any trends. Sadly it looks as if they'll be doing it from their new home base, New York City.

"My bartending skills? Yeah, sure, everybody gets a glass," quips Warren, known variously as "Butch" or "Beamer." So modest. Twenty years at the Taurus and you figure he's got the fundamentals down. But sitting opposite this drinkslinger is anything but routine. He has turned the skill of bartending into the entertainment of improv theater. Every day he transmutes into a different character of his own imagining. A random stop at the Taurus on a Tuesday evening finds him wearing a sign reading "Happy Infant Safety Week." He's sporting a long-eared Goofy hat, a pacifier dangling from each of the ears. Two pairs of eyeglass frames are perched on his nose. And he has bandages, crossed in a cartoon-style X, on his cheeks. "I found my proper niche in life," the 63-year-old exults. "Where else could I make a living doing what I do and not be locked up?" He's a former actor who found bartending more suited to his tastes. "Here I can be an actor every day." He consults Chase's Calendar of Events to come up with a theme for the day. The week before his infant-safety incarnation included Audubon's birthday. For that Warren wore a bird hat and bird mask. As he scans ahead to the next week, he becomes excited by the prospects, including the Kentucky Derby, Togo Independence Day, and Tourist Day. "After a long day at work, people come in and see me and pretty much leave the seriousness behind them," Warren notes.

"My bartending skills? Yeah, sure, everybody gets a glass," quips Warren, known variously as "Butch" or "Beamer." So modest. Twenty years at the Taurus and you figure he's got the fundamentals down. But sitting opposite this drinkslinger is anything but routine. He has turned the skill of bartending into the entertainment of improv theater. Every day he transmutes into a different character of his own imagining. A random stop at the Taurus on a Tuesday evening finds him wearing a sign reading "Happy Infant Safety Week." He's sporting a long-eared Goofy hat, a pacifier dangling from each of the ears. Two pairs of eyeglass frames are perched on his nose. And he has bandages, crossed in a cartoon-style X, on his cheeks. "I found my proper niche in life," the 63-year-old exults. "Where else could I make a living doing what I do and not be locked up?" He's a former actor who found bartending more suited to his tastes. "Here I can be an actor every day." He consults Chase's Calendar of Events to come up with a theme for the day. The week before his infant-safety incarnation included Audubon's birthday. For that Warren wore a bird hat and bird mask. As he scans ahead to the next week, he becomes excited by the prospects, including the Kentucky Derby, Togo Independence Day, and Tourist Day. "After a long day at work, people come in and see me and pretty much leave the seriousness behind them," Warren notes.

Let's face it, a bowl of black bean soup can be a bounty of blasé. But the chefs at these little Mexican diners add a magical elixir to their pot: a splash of beer, Dos Equis Special Lager, to be precise. That's why they call it drunken bean soup. You won't get a beer buzz, but the effect is definitely euphoric. A dollop of sour cream and some shredded cheese (which you can ask them to hold) round out the unexpectedly flavorful recipe. Please, señor, some more. ¡Ándale!

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