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The take-no-prisoners world of high finance and ruthless business deals has long been a tantalizing subject for artists. From filmmaker Oliver Stone’s 1987 “Wall Street,” with its antihero Gordon Gekko spouting “greed is good,” to Damien Lewis’ slick hedge fund mogul Bobby Axelrod in the Showtime series “Billions,” movies and television allow those of us in the 99 percent a glimpse at wha..

Miami’s venerable M Ensemble is a company that sometimes dips into its rich history to mount fresh productions of past shows. For its second production in its versatile new home at the Sandrell Rivers Theater in Liberty City, the troupe is revisiting Darren Canady’s “Brothers of the Dust.” Winner of the 2012 M. Elizabeth Osborn Award from the American Theatre Critics Association, the ..

“El cuento de Rene,” actor and director Larry Villanueva’s adaptation of Cuban writer Rene Ariza’s short stories into a work of theater, is more than an homage. It’s a statement on oppression. Ariza was sentenced to eight years in prison for trying to send manuscripts abroad. He was banned from creating theater in Cuba and condemned as “counter-revolutionary.” Ariza served five years of h..

Those who attend film festivals aren't looking for the mainstream, Cineplex offerings. That isn't the goal. Amid the indie films, the foreign entries, documentaries, and the world premieres, there's another reason to canvass the program for something you might not see anywhere else. Given the Miami Film Festival is the only major film festival to be produced by a college or university..

{This interview was conducted before the film making team went on to amazing Oscar success.} Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney and filmmaker Barry Jenkins are nine miles away from the Liberty City housing projects where they both grew up, but they are worlds away. They are at the picturesque Standard Hotel to talk about the new movie "Moonlight," with a screenplay by Jenkins base..

First things first. Actor-playwright Elena María García does explain the meaning of “¡FUÁCATA!” somewhere deep into the 90-minute running time of Zoetic Stage’s “García Or a Latina’s Guide to Surviving the Universe.” The familiar Cuban term, she confides from her perch on Michael McKeever’s Mondrian-evocative set, suggests the sound of a slap. As in, “¡Fuácata! You really stepped in i..

Sales of George Orwell’s chilling dystopian novel “1984” have soared during the early days of the Trump administration, the headlines pouring out of Washington having repositioned a 1949 literary classic as a 21st century cautionary tale. The late Czech president and playwright Václav Havel brought his deeply observed, hard-earned perspective on life under totalitarianism to the stage..

“Carousel,” which contains some of the most gorgeous and memorable songs ever written for a musical, may be a musical you’ve never seen, though it has been around since 1945. The follow-up to “Oklahoma!,” Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s hugely successful debut as a composer-lyricist team, “Carousel” requires a huge cast by today’s standards, an orchestra that can do that gl..

Before women like movie star Melissa McCarthy, Chrissy Metz of NBC’s “This Is Us” and Whitney Thore of TLC’s “My Big Fat Fabulous Life” became widely embraced personalities, Josefina Lopez wrote a play titled “Real Women Have Curves.” Lopez’s 1994 comedy, made into a 2002 movie that marked America Ferrera’s film debut, is about many things. Its subjects include the fears of undocument..

Stephen Adly Guirgis won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for drama for his darkly comic “Between Riverside and Crazy.” Two years later, as GableStage’s sizzling new production so abundantly demonstrates, the play feels completely of the moment – in part because its characters traffic in “alternative facts.” Retired New York cop Walter “Pops” Washington (Leo Finnie) refuses to settle an eight-..

Ballet Flamenco La Rosa’s studio evokes the feel of a tablao in Spain. The strumming of the guitar, the rapid-fire rhythms of footwork against the floor, and the soft voice of the singer reac..

Miami choreographer Augusto Soledade has been a fixture in the local dance world since he arrived here in 2004. His cast has shifted over the years and he continues to challenge himself artis..

In one duet, two dancers use their bodies as counterweights, springing forth from each other’s bodies with explosive power. In another, dancers form a sharp line before torsos undulate and fa..

Teacher, choreographer and activist Dale Andree is known for her ability to merge activism with dance. Andree founded and directs National Water Dance, a site-specific project that joins danc..

In 2016, Philadelphia-based Koresh Dance company crossed their 25-year mark. To celebrate, the company returns to Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts with a 25th anniversary..

From singers like Joan Baez to poets like Maya Angelou to anonymous knitters of pink pussy hats, creative women have played an essential role in this country as agitators and activists. Likew..

When Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami (DDTM) takes the stage this weekend, it will present a program rich in the cultural milieu of Miami. Co-founders Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra i..

It is an awe-inspiring experience to see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancers perform. They are well trained dancers, athletes and artists. Not often known is that some of the dance..

Back for an 8th season in Miami, the legendary Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater packs the house every year. With Liberty City hometown hero Robert Battle in his fifth year, we have many rea..

Famed Percussionist Bobby Thomas Jr. Makes Music in the Park

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Written by: Tracy Fields
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South Florida music lovers have a rare chance to see a homegrown star in concert - and there’s no admission charge.

Bobby Thomas Jr., described by jazz legend Melton Mustafa as “the baddest drummer on the planet, bar none,” performs on Friday at Music in the Park, a biannual concert series in Miami Gardens. The opening act is singer Rochelle Lightfoot.

Thomas, a two-time Grammy nominee and member of the South Florida Jazz Hall of Fame, has traveled the world with artists such as Monty Alexander, Ira Sullivan, Thad Jones, Joe Zawinul and Weather Report. On Friday, he’ll perform with his homeboys Randy Bernsen on guitar, bassist Bob Grabowski, and Fernando Diez on sax.

“This ensemble is like my extended family,” said Thomas, who has played with them all for decades, with Grabowski and Bernsen since his late teens. They met after the man Thomas calls his “jazz father,” saxophonist and fellow Hall of Fame member Jet Nero, showed him there was a musical world beyond the disco that dominated the scene in the 1970s.

Thomas, who began to play percussion when an elementary-school teacher urged him to take up music, hated the repetitive dance tracks with their unvarying beat. “There was nothing for me to do,” he said. “I quit playing music period because of the disco scene.”

He didn’t lack for creative outlets, though, having majored in art at what was then Miami-Dade Junior College. “I’m really a painter and sculptor,” said Thomas, who still makes visual art and is assembling pieces for a show.

But popular music also presented another problem for Thomas back in the day. “My fiancée had broken my heart and I couldn’t stand to hear pop music on the radio,” he said. A dear friend suggested he try jazz and recommended a visit to the Gold Dust Lounge, a hot spot for the music.

“I walked in, I think it was Curtis Lundy on the bass, and this cool-looking guy on the saxophone, which was Jet Nero,” Thomas recalled. “On the break I walked up to Jet and asked him [if I could] sit in. They had some bongos lying on the floor. As soon as I started to play, he turned around and said, ‘Wow, you’re not gonna be here long.’”

Nero was right. In the next couple of years, Thomas met and began working with Alexander, South Floridian bass legend Jaco Pastorius, and Zawinul.

“I guess it’s a good thing that girl broke my heart,” Thomas said, chuckling.

On Friday, concertgoers can expect “a lot of positive energy, a lot of love coming from the bandstand,” he said. “And a lot of improvisation. I’m not a big fan of copying other people’s music.”

There is one standard the band is sure to play: “What the World Needs Now is Love,” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. “Because of what’s happened with the whole political scene, it’s quite a huge disappointment,” Thomas said, “so I think that’ll be an appropriate theme to put out to the people.”

The Bobby Thomas Ensemble headlines Music in the Park, Friday, Dec. 2, with opening act Rochelle Lightfoot, 6:30 p.m. in the Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex Amphitheater, 3000 N.W. 199 St., Miami Gardens; admission free.

 


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About The writer

Tracy Fields is a reporter, writer and host of Evenin' Jazz

A member of the South Florida media for more than two decades, Tracy Fields has been a reporter/editor for The Associated Press and a freelance wordsm..

About the Writer

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