Imagine a hot, steamy weekend night at a Hialeah house party as you lounge poolside. The grill is fired up with patiently marinated and spiced meats, sizzling and smoking. There are some spare ribs and jerk chicken, and on the side sit perfectly seasoned black beans and rice, along with Puerto Rican mofongo and maduros. Mojitos are flowing. Good times really kick into gear when the perfect sound for the occasion flows from the speakers: electrifying funk and jazz from Miami’s fusion music masters, Electric Piquete.
Electric Piquete will celebrate the tenth anniversary of its quintessential Miami sound Friday, August 11, at Ball & Chain in Little Havana. “There are pockets of Miami that are very supportive,” Electric Piquete cofounder and bass player Michael Mut says. “Certainly, someone like [owner] Zack Bush and Ball & Chain have been very enthusiastic. They gave us the opportunity to come up with a themed monthly night called Piquete Sessions, which forced us out of our comfort zone. I felt like the band grew musically there."
As many of Miami’s legendary venues become casualties of shortsighted city commissioners and uninspired developers (one of South Beach’s oldest nightclubs, Jazid, recently shuttered), fewer venues like Ball & Chain exist to provide local bands their steady gigs.
For Electric Piquete, it all began with Ed Rosado and Mut in a Hialeah studio. The band’s name was a nod to Jimi Hendrix and John McLaughlin, as well as the Miami musicians' American and Caribbean roots. As many as nine members take the stage at their sessions; each player brings a unique background and adds a layer of musical style from the African diaspora.
Mut was born in Hialeah; his parents came from Cuba. He honors his grandfather who spent 18 months in a Cuban prison for his part in the Bay of Pigs. “It's a musical tribute to him and the stones it took to do what he did, which was to leave his family behind and risk his life to liberate his country,” Mut says. Cuban rhythms help re-create the intensity of that moment in history. The first conch sounds that open the song, by Dr. Chad Bernstein from Suénalo and Spam Allstars, “fit as a call-to-arms,” Mut explains. “The initial drum and percussion rhythms are very traditionally Afro-Cuban, which set the place well, in my opinion. The part where all the horns hit the main riff always make me visualize the heat of the battle.”
Mut wants the listener “to never forget the Cuban struggle for freedom and the ultimate sacrifice the more then 100 Cuban exiles and four American servicemen made.”
The other band members have similar stories. Like Mut, Chris Correoso is American-born of Cuban descent. Trumpet player Rich Dixon is half-Cuban, and his grandfather was also part of the Bay of Pigs invasion.
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Mut considers the soul sound of the band to be Afro-Caribbean, with a heavy dash of Puerto Rican. “Some of our favorite artists came from the New York Latin soul scene of the 1960s, which in turn helped influence what came next — the Latin jazz and salsa movements of the 1970s,” Mut says. “Electric Piquete's sound is driven by our resident Puerto Ricans: cofounder/drummer Ed Rosado and percussionist Raymond Ayala. Ed also turned me on to a lot of jazz, world music, and fusion, which really expanded my musical palate."
These days, Electric Piquete is busier then ever. The band is heading back to the studio to cut a full-length album, scheduled to be released later this year. The tenth-anniversary show at Ball & Chain will be hosted by their good friend, Joe Cardona, independent filmmaker and director of the Emmy-award winning documentary Miami Boheme. “I think Electric Piquete is a rich mix of sounds and sensibilities which are uniquely Miami,” Cardona says. “Their sound goes beyond the scope of Latin jazz. It is richer in that it contains more spices and influences.”
Miami is a transient city, constantly evolving, made from a recipe of both the American and Caribbean identity. Music here reflects the lives, the stories, and the struggles of the people. All the styles of music flow across the national boundaries, creating new cross-currents that are always, of course, very danceable. Electric Piquete, navigates Miami’s musical map, inviting you to dance, grab a cocktail, and toast them. They're celebrating a decade of helping create Miami’s very special soundtrack.
Electric Piquete Tenth Anniversary. 9:30 p.m. Friday, August 11, at Ball and Chain, 1513 SW Eighth St., Miami; 305-643-7520; ballandchainmiami.com. Admission is free.