Lagniappe's Artistic Director, Zach Larmer, Is a Serious Musician In His Own Right

Zach Larmer has been making some real strides in the Miami music community lately. Hailing from Philadelphia, Larmer is a guitar player with an unusual vision and drive who graduated from the University of Miami's Frost Music school on scholarship and has been kicking ass with and without the guitar ever since.

Larmer is currently crafting Miami's musical future with his work at Live! Modern School of Music as well as Miami's present by booking bands at Lagniappe. On his new album Inner Circle, he rips through solos with the help of the Zach Larmer Electric Band, consisting of keyboardist Tal Cohen, Juan Pablo Diaz, and Jermaine Walden on bass, and Rodolfo Zuniga and David Chiverton on drums. Some exceptional guest appearances on the LP include the Grammy Award-winning Brian Lynch on trumpet, the critically acclaimed John Daversa on EVI and trumpet, and Aldo Salvent on saxophone. Larmer and his band are about to embark on a tour that will take him as far as Costa Rica, but before that, we got a chance to catch up with him as he prepares for his March 2 album release concert at Wynwood Yard.

New Times: How long have you been in Miami?
Zach Larmer: I've been in Miami for the past seven years. It was a really interesting time to move here because I've gotten to witness the music scene change in many ways, and I've even gotten to be a part of that change myself. I originally came to Miami to study jazz guitar performance at the University of Miami. Over time, I became involved in the music scene and began my engagement at a wonderful Miami-based music school called Live! Modern School of Music. The projects that I was working on were too close to my heart. After I graduated, I had to stay.

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    When did you put this project together and how did it come about?
    I formed the Zach Larmer Electric Band in early 2015, almost by accident. I had been gigging a lot around town with my organ trio, when out of the blue my organist informed me he'd be moving to China on three days notice to work with the creator of Cirque Du Soleil on a new show. I had quite a few gigs scheduled over the coming months, so I knew I had to put something together. With the organ trio, we had been focusing on jazz standards, and I wanted to begin writing on a more regular basis to create something completely original. I was listening very heavily to the Joshua Redman Elastic Band at the time, so the tunes I began writing had that electric jazz/soul/funk sound. I called up a few players who I really respected but hadn't yet played with, and we had our first rehearsal. To be honest, I was quite nervous about what they would think about my original music, since that was a new pursuit of mine. The rehearsal ended up being the most fun I'd had in quite a while, and everything else just fell in line after that. Over the past year our lineup has rotated a bit, and I've met other musicians whose sounds I was interested in hearing with this band. Having these phenomenal musicians be so passionate about playing my music has been a great blessing.

    Tell us what you do at Lagniappe and how that might affect your perception of being a live music performer/musician.
    I'm what you might call the artist director at Lagniappe House, which is a phenomenal music venue here in Miami. I honestly think of it as a second home, as do many talented musicians in town. Lagniappe has done an excellent job of creating community between a lot of musicians who are based in Miami, many of whom are at the absolute top of their game. Because I curate the bands that perform and the musical aesthetic, I get to see things from both sides of the table. I love being able to support musicians who I believe in by granting them performance opportunities, but I've also become much more aware of my own group's performance strategies. I've learned a lot about creating a captivating show and connecting with people at a very deep level through our music. Moreover, Lagniappe has given my group a home to develop our project into what it has become. For that, I am very thankful.

    What do you believe to be the best and worst tactic for trying to get a gig at a venue?
    I have one piece of advice for musicians who are trying to get gigs, whether at a venue or with other performing and touring musicians: be a genuinely kick-ass human being. Obviously, you have to have a requisite level of skill to be considered for any scenario, but I think of it like a skill threshold. After you've reached that level, your personality matters so much more than your talent. I like to extend opportunities to people I respect for their skill, but more importantly, people I respect for their genuine human nature. There's no replacement for that.

    Why do you think there are so few live, original music venues in Miami in comparison to the size of the city?
    The issue here seems to be a twisted matter of supply and demand. When I moved here, what I saw was just the very beginning of the transition away from the Miami Vice and MTV aesthetic that Miami was known for. I think that worked for a while, but I also think people have become increasingly bored. Because of this shift, live music venues are starting to pop up more and more, but a lot of them are still somewhat underground as the general culture is in the midst of changing, as opposed to a city like New York, Nashville, or Austin, where the live music culture has been a long-term staple.

    Which way do believe the Miami music scene is headed?
    I think this goes along with my previous answer. Miami's musical and cultural supply and demand is in the process of changing, and it's heading in a very exciting direction. More and more people are getting fed up with the old Miami experience that has been very smoke and mirrors and are demanding an authentically satisfying cultural experience. This is being met with great places with a ton of individuality and authenticity opening up around town. I've been super fortunate to work with people who are fueling and accelerating this cultural change, such as the Prism Music Group, Lagniappe House, Le Chat Noir, and the Wynwood Yard, where we will be doing our upcoming CD release on March 2.

    The Zach Larmer Electric Band. 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 2, at  56 NW 29th St., Miami; thewynwoodyard.com. Admission is free.

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