Founded by Richard Laguerre, formerly of the popular roots band Boukan Ginen, the Haitian rasin group Adjah conjures the talents of dyaspora musicians living in Miami, including Georgina Padilla, Jean Francois Damas, Carline Ruiz, Jocelyn E. Gourdet, Billy Philomi, and Jimmy Daniel. To live up to its name -- which means spirit possession in Kreyol -- Adjah fuses rock and roll with a wide range of vodou rhythms. While most rasin music is founded on rara rhythms, Adjah incorporates congo, petwo, mahi, and yanvalou, making it all the more likely the gods will take over and set the crowd dancing.
Oh, Mr. Graaaaant!
Revered jazz DJ China Valles won't let a little pink slip keep him from spinning his magic over the airwaves. As long as his blood is pumping, the 74-year-old "Mahj" (short for Maharajah Purveyor of Swirls, as Duke Ellington named him) says he'll keep the jazz beat thumping in Miami. After 24 years playing classic bop, blues, and fusion overnight at WTMI-FM (91.3), Valles was told last summer that his show no longer fit the format of the newly acquired classical music station. Valles, however, was not ready to put his huge collection of vinyl and CDs away for good. "What am I going to do, go to the beach?" the veteran DJ chuckles. "Music is my love; it's my life." He describes the loss of his late-night date as "a kick in the pants," but it wasn't enough to keep him down. Valles approached stations Love 94 (WLVE-FM 93.9) and WLRN-FM (91.3) for a steady time slot but got no commitments. When WDNA music director Arturo Gomez-Cruz heard Miami's sagacious jazz messenger was looking for a job, he immediately included him in the station's eclectic round-the-clock programming. Valles won his Friday afternoon (2:00 to 6:00 p.m.) gig, which he gladly accepted without pay, last December. Using a well-established format, he kicks off each show with upbeat instrumentals before sliding into his "What's New at Two" segment, featuring the latest releases. He then mixes things up with a featured-artist set, a blues hour, and wraps with swinging tracks to keep listeners bopping into the evening. Valles began his musical career as the road manager for saxophonist Jean-Baptiste "Illinois" Jacquet in the Fifties. He's met and interviewed musical giants such as Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Frank Sinatra. He arrived in South Florida in 1963 to head an upstart jazz station and had been on the airwaves continuously ever since, that is until WTMI showed him the door. Still the Mahj and his devotees are thrilled to hear his show resurrected on the far left side of the radio dial. Gruff voice full of whimsy and charm, Valles is a well-worn local treasure.

Spin the FM dial and there's no shortage of reggae music to be heard. Commercial juggernaut WEDR-FM (99.1) gives time to the latest hits out of Kingston, a slew of local pirate stations pump out a steady diet of gruff dancehall, and Saturday afternoon's reggae showcase on WDNA-FM (88.9) usually opens with the sweetly skanking rhythms of ska. Amid all this competition, though, WLRN's overnight institution Clint O'Neil stands out for the very reason he's remained a beloved favorite of his listeners since he first hit the airwaves in 1979: He plays everything, from late-Sixties rock-steady classics through mid-Seventies roots tunes, right up to the latest records out of Jamaica. The one common denominator is that they're all songs O'Neil loves. And in a world of computer-generated playlists and corporate radio consultants, when even the pirate broadcasters often sound market-driven, that's no small feat. If he feels like spinning a solid half-hour of the Meditations' rippling melodies, that's just what he's going to do. Praise Jah, indeed.

You've heard of drum and bass? Angela Patua does drum and voice, bouncing her melodies against the beat in a crude counterpoint that originated long ago in Nigeria and needs no electricity. Patua also does guitar and voice. Her syncopated strumming is a joyful reminder that the acoustic guitar is a rhythm instrument that needs no amplification. The sounds of vibrating nylon strings over a wood box (i.e., her Spanish guitar) blend with her mellifluous, rough-along-the-edges vocals (in Portuguese, Yoruba, and other Brazilian dialects) to produce a feeling that seems to have traveled from far away. From her native Southeastern Brazil, perhaps. Or somewhere much more distant. In the Macumba religion, which Patua practices, things from heaven come down to Earth. In 2000 the frequency of Angela-ic manna decreased when her weekly gig at Big Fish ended. But keep looking skyward in the Tobacco Road vicinity in 2001. Or send a prayer to Evol Egg Nart Recordings (www.nartworld.com) for deliverance of her CD, The Force of the Sun.
To hear these guys smoke through a number on Tuesday nights is to infuse your life with a sudden dash of Fifties cool. You'll walk away feeling sharper. You'll want to crease your trousers and wear shades inside. Eddie Higgins's fingers float over the keyboard like darting minnows in a tide pool. Gilly DiBenedetto summons mesmerizingly fluid tones from his sax. And Wilner sets the foundation for it all with his upright bass. Half an hour or so into the set, Tony Fernandez's gilded pipes warble Frank Sinatra tunes with such effortless grace, you'd think you had just stepped off the set of Ocean's Eleven. Master violinist Federico Britos ignites his strings. Depending on the night Lenny Steinberg or James Martin will be tapping the drums. Put a boutonniere in your lapel, snap your fingers, and order a martini. One word to the wise: Higgins, who has recorded with the likes of Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie, spends his summers on Cape Cod. But fret not: He returns in the fall.
Jazz critics like to carve up their chosen terrain into two diametrically opposed camps: musicians who play straight-ahead, and those who play "free." Miami saxophonist Jesse Jones, Jr., chooses to fudge this divide, and it's precisely that versatility that makes him such a delight to hear. Witness his occasional ensemble gigs at the Van Dyke Café. The band may start out on a faithful Cannonball Adderly-styled tip, casually working its way through some pleasant finger-snapping material. But just when you've eased back in your chair and gotten comfy, Jones will blow a playfully outré lick, simultaneously raising an eyebrow at the audience while slipping in a series of discordant honks to summon the group to take it up a notch. We're about to go somewhere special, Jones seems to be saying to the room, and you're all invited to come along.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®