FRI 7/30 Prodigiously talented Johnny Hartman, the smoothest of smooth balladeers, never got the fame he deserved, that is until Clint Eastwood got a hold of his music. Unfortunately by the time Dirty Harry put Hartman's lovely romantic songs into his tearjerker chick flick The Bridges of Madison County (1995) and its soundtrack, Hartman had been dead for 12 years.
Hartman began his career in the 1940s, lending his booming baritone to big bands led by renowned pianist Earl Hines and trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie. As a recording artist in the 1950s, he was consistently overshadowed by similar vocalists such as Nat King Cole, who, thanks to broader appeal to white audiences, enjoyed greater marketing efforts from record companies. A groundbreaking collaboration with saxophonist John Coltrane (he was the only vocalist ever to record with Coltrane) in 1963 led Hartman to be branded a jazz singer and added further difficulties when it came to scoring gigs. One year later when the Beatles hit the scene, romantic crooners began to take a back seat to more raucous rock and roll stars.
Possessing a similarly resonant voice and compelling stage presence, jazz vocalist Kevin Mahogany has often been compared with Hartman, who died in 1983, just around the time Kansas City native Mahogany began taking the stage as a singer. Seemingly the natural heir to Hartman's legacy, Mahogany, for the past seven months, has been on the road performing a tribute to him backed only by a bass and piano. The singer plans to release a live recording of the show in the near future. Mahogany, who has performed in our parts a couple times in the past, has recently made South Florida his home base. Tonight he'll give his new neighbors a glimpse of what he does in the intimate setting of the Barbara Gillman Gallery (3814 NE Miami Ct.).
Kevin Mahogany: A Tribute to Johnny Hartman begins at 8:30. Tickets cost $30 per person or $50 per couple. Call 305-622-4005. -- Nina Korman
Speaking Rumba, Cumbia
FRI 7/30 Living in Miami, one cannot help but be influenced by the sounds, tastes, and mannerisms of different cultures. The spice of Brazilian cooking, for instance, rubs off on Japanese sushi chefs. Haitian cab drivers adopt New York taxi tactics. And in the case of venerable band leader Roberto Torres, the fundamentals of Cuban mambo get touched with Colombian vallenato. Since the 1980s, Torres has used his invention, charanga vallenata, to produce a fun fusion of sound that sparkles with Miami flavor. He had a breakthrough hit in 1981 with "Caballo Viejo," which brought his particular sound to the world. Tonight Cuban musicologist and Radio Martí personality Francisco Ojeda sits down with the colorful musician in the latest installment of his series, The Music in Person. Expect a lively discussion about music and Torres's career that began in Havana and jumped to New York, Bogotá, Miami, and other musical hot spots. Torres may play a song or two as well. The discussion begins at 8:00 p.m. at the Centro Cultural Español, 800 Douglas Rd., Coral Gables. Admission is free. Call 305-448-9677. -- Juan Carlos Rodriguez
Peru celebrates independence
SUN 8/1 The rhythms of Peru vary from the merengue beats of much of the Latin dance music you hear in Miami. Though Peruvians still salsa with the best of them, much of their music is dosed with the earthy, spiritual overtones of the Andes. It comes across in the flutes and guitars and sparkling vocal styles. You'll get a chance to hear the difference at the all-day celebration of Peruvian Independence Day. From traditional Andean music by Grupo Peru Expression to the rocking sounds of venerable Micky Gonzales and Eva Ayllon, the queen of Afro-Peruvian music, the sounds of Peru will be generating one mighty party. The fun begins at noon and runs until 11:00 p.m. at Miami-Dade County Fair and Expo Center, 10901 SW 24th St. Admission is $20. Call 305-477-2420. -- Juan Carlos Rodriguez
SAT 7/31 Cuban chanteuse Marisela Verena sings with a strong voice full of feeling for her country and strums her guitar with passion. Her songs may at times be nuanced or subtle, but Verena is far from shy when she sings of love and patria. Her music is at once haunting and joyful. She always can rile an audience of exiles with her classic "Nosotros los Cubanos." If you are a hyphenated Cuban, or even if you have no relation to the island, Verena's song will grab you with its conviction. She's sure to play that tune as well as a repertoire of original and old standards. Her version of Violeta Parra's "Gracias a la Vida" is nothing short of life-affirming. Verena takes the stage at 8:00 p.m. at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium, 2901 W. Flagler St. Tickets range from $35 to $55. Call 305-547-5414. -- Juan Carlos Rodriguez