Principal singer/songwriter Todd Thompson and his bandmates guitarist Sean Edelson, drummer Ari Schantz, and bassist Brad Berman maintain a busy schedule performing their insightful tunes, an array of pleasant rock melodies combined with deft lyric writing. A favorite among South Florida's live-music fans, the foursome emerged victorious against several other local groups in the Lucky Strike Band-to-Band Combat competition recently held in Miami. Listen to their debut CD Greetings from Lemon City. Songs such as the up-tempo "Killing Mr. Watson," the jazzy "I'm Okay," and the moving ballad "No Roof But Heaven" will climb out of the stereo and give you instant insight as to why the Bomb is a blast of a pop outfit.
It was 1997 and the lawn around the cosmic house of rock was shaggy and rife with worn-out musical monikers. But bassist and songwriter Chris DeAngelis (formerly of The No, Raw B. Jae and The Liquid Funk, and The Whistling Tin Heads) was determined to find a fresh one for a new ensemble. He had his work cut out for him. Sharp and focused as a machete blade, he mowed through hundreds of band names, maybe more. Our rockological botanist then painstakingly classified the specimens into lexicological piles. There were bands named after colors, numbers, ordinary objects, historical events, and famous people. Others derived from puns or double-entendres. Some contained the words band or brothers or even deliberate misspellings. And there were many more. With the yard thus denuded into a tabula rasalike state, he began to dig and soon struck pay dirt. "We wanted a name that was bombastic yet self-deprecating, with slight comic-book-hero overtones," DeAngelis explains. "It needed to be a name that reflected the humorous, offbeat attitude of the songs we play." He also wanted the first word to begin with A, "because when folks go to a record store, they usually start browsing at the beginning of the alphabet." He notes one downside to the band's nona-syllabic handle: "Drunk people sometimes have trouble remembering it."
How the planet's greatest living Latin-jazz flutist made it in and out of town with barely a passing notice is one of those mysteries peculiar to South Florida. Indeed late this past winter Dave Valentin, woodwind-player extraordinaire, ascended the stage of Miami Beach's Van Dyke Café for two nights of soul-altering performances. During the February 27 and February 28 evening gigs, Valentin's musicianship propelled local talents Don Wilner (bass), James Martin (drums), and Mike Orta (piano) to higher levels of play. Switching back and forth between a variety of different flutes, both wooden and metallic, the Puerto Rican Bronx native offered his audience something closer to a quasi-religious cleansing than a passive listening experience. Valentin, who incorporated Afro-Cuban Yoruba chants to his introductions of classics like Mongo Santamaria's "Afro-Blue," whipped the typically sedate Van Dyke crowd into a whooping and hollering frenzy.
Miami: heat, entropy, and the concomitant disintegration of form. We love it. Want to love it more? Try a little dramatic tension. Have some bona fide sonic structure with your sweltering decomposition, and meet the people who can give it to you. For the steamy drive home, tune in to WTMI's The Open Road, weekday afternoons 3:00 until 7:00 p.m. Hosted by baritone vocalist Mark Hart, it is the show to put on to keep a cool and thoughtful head, especially if your air conditioner is busted. Broadcast from various locations about town, the Road not only doles out a daily dose of the tradition's staples, it also showcases interviews with South Florida's classical talent. Deborah Voigt, soprano for the Florida Grand Opera; Judy Drucker, director of the Concert Association of Florida; and world-famous baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky have been recent guests.
The shrill whistle, the rumble of the engine rolling down the tracks. It's 8:00 on a Sunday night. Ted Grossman takes his usual seat as conductor of the Night Train on WLRN. As he has every week for 25 years, Grossman leads a four-hour journey through his deep collection of vintage jazz recordings. There's no chronological restriction to what he'll play -- he might spin a tune from the 1920s followed by a track released in 1989 -- but WWII-era music dominates. Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, and perhaps Bing Crosby as Dick Tracy in a radio play culled from Grossman's archive of Armed Forces Radio Services broadcasts. In his distinctive foggy voice, and with his awesome selection of crooners and swing stylists, Grossman reminds his loyal listeners that not all musical memories in this town emanate from Havana.
Whether playing a Gershwin song or Madonna's latest hit, pianist and singer Nathaniel Reed is always in tune with his audience. Perched atop the one-foot-high stage at the Piccadilly, Reed's baby grand piano faces the restaurant's main entrance. The entertainer, who can be heard weeknights from 7:00 to 11:00 p.m., often punctuates his many sets with greetings to new and familiar faces. No musician in Miami is more adept at handling a request than Reed, whose playlist pretty much spans all of the Twentieth Century. His musical experience also is wide-ranging. Although not inclined to speak of it, Reed is a polished veteran who has sung with Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle, and other notable talents. That breezy chatter you will hear between songs, accompanied by an irrepressible Louis Armstrong-like enthusiasm, is the product of years of hard work as an L.A. studio musician and a brief stint as a Caribbean cruise-ship piano man. Many is the patron moved to dance when Reed digs into his stockpile of R&B classics and begins swaying his head from side to side while stomping his feet to the rhythm. Saturday nights, beginning at 7:30 p.m., catch him at da Ermanno ristorante, 6927 Biscayne Blvd.
It all began here in 1993: salsa classes on Monday and Wednesday nights at the spacious and charmingly down-at-the-heels Blue Banquet Hall. By now the place is packed four nights a week, and Salsa Lovers is a huge enterprise, having expanded to two more locations. But the West Miami-Dade scene has a festive, nightclubby quality all its own, and it just keeps getting hotter (sometimes literally; the AC is erratic). Monday through Thursday a large and varied crowd descends on the hall, everyone from senior citizens to families to middle-school students, though the 20- to 30-year-old crowd dominates. The sheer energy generated by hundreds of slaves to the salsa rhythm is irresistible. Some people skip the classes and instead hang out, flirt, or practice moves with a partner. Between classes (three levels, each one hour long, beginning at 7:00 p.m.) the DJ spins a "practice song," and a gigantic circle of couples fills the entire main dance floor, so big the instructors have to call out the turns on a microphone. Oscar D'Leon blares from the speakers, and pretty soon everyone's in a whirl -- dile que no, dame una, hips going and fondillos shaking, abrázala, abanico, arms rising and feet pivoting, montaña, balsero, and sometimes the lights will dim and the tacky disco balls will turn. For seven dollars (price per lesson) you get all this, and you might even learn the paseo por el parque.
Turntablist extraordinaire and reigning DMC champ DJ Craze dropped by the home studio of Edgar Farinas (a.k.a. Push Button Objects). The end result is this abstract meeting of the hip-hop minds: an odd blend of off-kilter beats suffused in a crunchy timbre that attains a head-nodding forward motion almost in spite of itself. With so many elements floating in and out of the mix (a windshield-vibrating bass line, a disembodied bellowing Guru vocal, Craze's own frenetic vinyl scratching), songs like "Behavior" and "I Can't Understand You" shouldn't cohere. But like the best experimental electronic sounds coming out of South Florida these days, Farinas and Craze don't just reveal their hometown influences; they transcend them.
"I gave you Quaaludes/I held your cock/We spoke in diphthongs/ Clubnite!" Update the drug of choice in this bitter early Eighties anthem from West Palm Beach punkettes Sheer Smegma, and it's clear some things haven't changed in South Florida's nightclub scene. "Clubnite" is just one of dozens of singles released by Floridian punk outfits in the darkest days of the Reagan era, artifacts from a time when looking weird and sounding weirder were solid bets for getting your ass kicked, rather than being a good musical career move. Some mysterious soul over at the La Republica Libertariano de Florida label (don't bother looking for a phone number) has thoughtfully gathered up twenty of these forgotten obscurities, blown the dust from their grooves, and lovingly pressed them up as a bootleg album under the appropriate moniker Killed by Florida. Appropriate because, with the notable exception of the Eat and the Trash Monkeys (whose members can still be found haunting the stage at Churchill's) and Charlie Pickett (last spotted practicing -- ahem -- law), most of the bands compiled here literally have been destroyed by their home state, their members missing in action. But boy did they know how to kick up a racket. Whether you hear the Front's "Immigration Report" as a finely nuanced satire on the Mariel boatlift or as puerile thrashing; whether you hear the Essential's "Turn Off Your Radio" as a trenchant critique of blandness on the FM dial or as an anguished cry for a skilled mental-health professional, it's hard not to want to throw on a battered leather jacket and hit the pit -- at least for old time's sake.
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 Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®