Jazz, Branford Marsalis, and the saxophone

My dad loved Jazz, every road trip we did I was in charge of the playlist; a bunch of jazz cassettes. Since his passing in 2015 I have not really re-visited the genre, it still hurts.

But the other day I got an offer I could not refuse: an invitation to see Branford Marsalis, in Miami.

My mind was blown to smithereens in the Summer of 1985, when Sting released his first “solo” album; The Dream of the Blue Turtles, heavily Jazz influenced, and featuring Marsalis’ saxophone. I was already a fan of Sting from The Police (drummer Stewart Copeland went to the same school as me in London a few years before me), but now I was turned onto Marsalis.

The first and only time I got to see Marsalis was with his New Orleans buddy Harry Connick Jr. in New York City in the late 80’s. I still remember that concert!

Last Tuesday. My old student –and Cine Forum founder– Will, invited a Peabody Conservatory friend and me to see Marsalis play the works of James Reese Europe. A musician who fought in World War I, only to be stabbed to death upon his return to the US by a drummer in Boston, such is life.

Marsalis only played a handful of numbers, but it was beautiful and well worth it. Will, Michelle and I enjoyed a nice dinner at El Chalán, a walk around South Beach, the concert, and a farewell drink at the Royal Palm Hotel where Will was staying. A perfect evening.

Speaking of Cine Forum, this month we are watching Taxi Blues, Ida, and Stilyagi (Hipsters) all  Russian (Ida is Polish) and all feature the saxophone as a central character, what a coincidence!

Oh, by the way, Branford has a brother Wynton, who is possibly the most amazing trumpet player you can listen to!!

Baptism by fire, my first pro tour of Miami

My first professional tour of Miami was a baptism by fire, a jump in the deep end of the pool: eight hours, on E-bikes, and in French!! Fortunately, my customers were a lovely French couple.

Tours are generally booked for 4 or 8 hours (occasionally some folks book less or more). An 8-hour tour of Miami is a lot of time, considering there really is not much of cultural, historical, artistic value concentrated in a specific area of Miami. Sure, there is Art Deco, Little Havana, Little Haiti, Wynwood, and a bit Downtown, but how long do you need to spend in Brickell? In Coconut Grove? In Coral Gables walking -or cycling around? But an 8-hour tour of Miami for an inaugural tour was a lot to prepare for, but I did prepare. Having a few years of experience as a tour guide since I set up Tonxo Tours helped to plan the tour.

The E-bike factor was fun. We rented the bikes in Haulover park, which was a bit of a schlep from my customer’s hotel in Bayshore, but it allowed us to check out Haulover pass, and to ride all the way down to South Beach!

After South Beach we crossed over to Downtown where we saw Gesù Church, the oldest church in South Florida and the remains of the Tequesta village, which is sadly now a dog park next to the Miami river.

It was then that my customer’s E-bike lost power (something about a sensor), so although I had my trusty Swiss Army knife to try to tighten some screws, it was to no avail. We decided to ride back to Haulover.

Despite the technical issues, the tour was still a success, and the customers were happy. It was a long day for me, but it was worth it. If you are in Miami on a Saturday and want an insightful, interesting, and rewarding tour (on foot or bicycle)? Contact me, we will try to make it fun!!

Welcome to Miami

Miami is fun. It is just that getting in and out is such a headache. But once you are there it is playful fun. The other day I had the chance to walk around, right before the Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend.

South Beach might be the first thing we think of when we think of Miami; the Art Deco architecture, the amazing beach, the people. I testify to all of them.

If I had to define Miami, I would talk about the vibe, the throbbing energy, the vibrancy. It is a bold, loud, colorful place. The food options are improving constantly, better representing the cultural melting pot it is (haha pun intended).

Sure, if you walk around South Beach most of the folks are turistas, but, and here is one of Miami’s tricks: it is difficult to separate the turista from the local, granted part of it is because of the general lack of clothing one sees, but it also speaks to the diversity of the locals and their hedonist lifestyle.

A fairly unique feature of Miami is the “Ventanita” a window on the side of a restaurant, shop, or bar where you can order a coffee “cafecito”, a fruit juice, and in some cases a shake or a smoothy. These ubiquitous “ventanitas” allow you to have a quick coffee “sportello” style on the sidewalk or sitting at a nearby bench -so long as it is in the shade!

Other areas of Miami are more touristy like Bayfront and Bayside, but the beauty of Miami Beach is the mingling of folks. Enjoy!