BEST CONCERT SERIES Latin Funk Festival Two years ago Easton Bravo Productions, a partnership between Lizzie Easton and Tanya Bravo, launched Latin Funk Festival, an ongoing showcase that takes place in New York and Miami. Save for the occasional headlining act (Spanish salsa star Lucrecia headlined a Sunday on the Mile event March 6 in Coral Gables), these sporadic promotions feature innovative up-and-coming bands from both cities. While hot groups such as Suenalo Sound System and the Spam Allstars aren't wanting for exposure here, the Latin Funk Festival is all about context. By bringing the cream of Miami's crop together under one roof for a single theme night, Latin Funk Festival highlights what many Miamians should know of but often overlook: the depth and brilliance of the city's bubbling Latin scene.

BEST LOCAL ALBUM OF THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS Our Endless Numbered Days Iron & Wine There's considerable paradox in the fact that a folk poet such as Sam Beam could emerge from the land of Art Deco, Miami Vice, and Modelpalooza. Beam, known as Iron & Wine, sings of stories that take place far, in spirit if not geography, from South Beach's ostentation. His gentle voice drifts toward the pastoral terrain of Homestead and the rural parts of South Florida, and the nooks and crannies within Coral Gables and Hialeah that, on an uneventful summer day, can at least seem like the South. Beam's lyrics would be without effect if not for his skill with acoustic melodies that, like so much folk music, strike a chord both melancholy and hopeful, clear-eyed and utopian.

BEST LOCAL BAND/MuSICian OF ALL TIME Jaco Pastorius Jaco, they called him. In jazz circles it's a show of respect to call a musician by his first name. "Jaco" universally refers to the greatest bass player the world has ever heard. He completely revolutionized not just the bass, or even jazz, but also the entire musical landscape. In the liner notes to the 2000 reissue of Jaco's eponymous debut, guitar virtuoso Pat Metheny wrote, "Jaco used his own experiences filtered through an almost unbelievable originality, informed by a musicianship as audacious as it was expansive, to manifest into sound, through improvisation, a musical reality that illuminated his individuality. Besides all that, he simply played his ass off -- in a way that was totally unprecedented on his instrument, or on ANY instrument." Jaco was known to have a prodigious ego. He wouldn't hesitate to introduce himself by saying, "I'm Jaco Pastorius, the greatest bass player in the universe." That was how he introduced himself to Earth, Wind & Fire after a show. "The hell of it," said one musician, "is that he's right." In the end, his life took a turn, and it was not uncommon for the man who invented the fretless bass to be walking the streets drunk, even pawning his instrument to pay for alcohol. He met his death after an altercation with a bouncer. His music lives on.

BEST RECORDING STUDIO The Hit Factory Criteria 1755 NE 149th Street

North Miami-Dade

305-947-5611 The digital revolution has enabled aspiring and professional musicians alike to churn out monster hits from their bedrooms. The technology is to a point where even novices can manipulate music to sound just as they think it should. But how does one replace recording in the same spot where James Brown spread his mojo? Where Stevie Wonder's voice reverberated with a groove forever etched into the walls? With almost 50 years of history, this studio has recorded some of the most legendary musicians: the Eagles, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac, and even hip-hop heavyweights such as Dr. Dre and the 2 Live Crew. Those and many more have manufactured hits in one of the six world-class rooms. Progress may dictate that analog go the way of the dinosaurs, but many musicians will argue that digital recording is a façade, a tool to create the illusion of authenticity in the music. Sure it's cheaper, but at what cost to the soul?

BEST LOCAL POP BAND Humbert "Pop" could very well be taken as a dig, along the lines of the title of "Miami's own Britney Spears," which wouldn't exactly be a compliment. So for all those who claim Miami has "the worst music scene ever, dude," hey, at least this city isn't known for churning out Ryan Cabreras or Hilary Duffs. Instead Miami seems to be brimming with homegrown rock bands possessed of pop sensibilities, groups aiming to inspire a dance party rather than a mosh pit. At the top of Miami's pop-rock A-list is Humbert (named after the character in Nabokov's Lolita). The Pixies-meets-Beach Boys foursome -- bassist Tony Landa, guitarist/keyboardist Fernando Coipel, drummer Cesar Lavin, and guitarist Rimsky -- boasts an irresistible mix of current rock and classic pop, blending orchestrated pieces with Mediterranean flavors, straight-ahead rock, and quiet pop. Teenage girls may make good lust objects in Russian novels, but they don't often make good music. Lucky for us, the men of Humbert do.

Readers´ Choice: The Waterford Landing


"Let's Go"

BEST LOCAL RAP RELEASE OF THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS "Let's Go" Trick Daddy Of all the hits that were either recorded in Miami or made by Miami artists, one track deserves to be singled out. Released in advance of his gold LP Thug Matrimony: Married to the Streets, Trick Daddy's "Let's Go" became a sporting anthem so huge that you could hear it on any given Sunday throughout the NFL season. The Philadelphia Eagles played the song as they ran out onto the field during Super Bowl XXXIX -- right before the New England Patriots handed them a can of whup-ass. Aside from that dubious honor, Trick Daddy played it cool on this one, rattling off lines alongside Twista that build up to Lil Jon shouting the chorus. And newcomers Unusual Suspects made ample use of a furious Ozzy "Crazy Train" Osbourne sample, turning "Let's Go" into the noisy, clanging ear ringer that made clubs get crunk.

BEST LOCAL RAP ARTIST/GROUP Garcia "Some people label me a thug in an effort to prejudge/Not trying to be something I'm not," raps Garcia on "None of Dem." But he's no backpacker, and his solid debut album Anti-Social is packed with raw and uncompromising tracks: On the title number, one of the best cuts, producer Nick Fury samples the eerie climactic theme from the cautionary drug film Requiem for a Dream to full effect. A thoughtful young MC from Kendall, Garcia has been working Miami nightspots with his longtime crew Crazy Hood Productions for years, from big joints such as Mansion to dank rock emporiums such as Churchill's. Though Anti-Social was released last year, it's only now that hip-hop fans around the nation are hearing Garcia's album above the din of the culo crunk that dominates this city and learning about this complex, noteworthy artist.

BEST LOCAL ROCK BAND The Brand Great rock bands -- at least until they blow up nationally -- are like community leaders. They not only grab the spotlight for themselves, but they also help to shine it on an entire movement. The Brand is well on its way to meeting that goal. Last year the trio launched Plaid Fridays, a monthly showcase featuring top local rock bands at the now-defunct Diamond Lounge in Hialeah, and then successfully moved the night over to Churchill's. The group suspended the events in order to tour around the South and promote the debut album Grenadine, an inspired mix of pop-punk and indie-rock. Only time will tell if The Brand will become big, but their high standing in Miami is assured.

Readers´ Choice: Little Atlas

BEST ROCK VOCALIST (MALE) Ivan Marchena With great power comes great responsibility. Such should be the credo of the male vocalist. Always front and center, almost always the object of the ladies' affection (or at least attention), the vocalist has the job of making each woman in the audience feel as if she's the only one in the room and the men feel like they know exactly where the singer is coming from, because, bro, they've been there too. Charisma, stage presence, and a little cockiness are musts -- but they work only for those with the talent to back those attributes up with worthy sonics. Otherwise he's just the dude from the Killers. There's no need for Ivan Marchena -- who provides the chops and guitar for four-year-old Miami indie-pop staples Bling Bling -- to blow his own horn, however. His fans do it for him: "His voice is rich and real; his lyrics are honest, fun, and clever. He's your friend tapping into your life, not some back-yard rock star churning out product." And he's a babe.

BEST ROCK VOCALIST (FEMALE) JD Natasha At seventeen, precocious upstart JD Natasha may seem to be a bit young for this category. But, as evidenced by her debut Imperfecta/Imperfect, she's on her way to becoming a great rock vocalist. A far cry from the glossy pinups that dominate Latin pop, Natasha Jeannette Dueñas blends an infectious mix of pop-punk and rock en español with a surprisingly elastic voice and is capable of hitting high notes while expressing a variety of emotions. Something of an MTV Español darling with her infectious hit single "Lágrimas" and constant touring, JD Natasha is currently building a fan base for what looks to be a stellar career.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®