Hotel Horny

Tony Haze travels to the ends of the Earth to bring us the joy of sax

A middle-aged man at the bar jokes that he makes designer condoms for a living. "We're talking Gucci, Versace, and other big-name brands," comes his quote to an inquisitive stranger. The rest of his party laugh. So do a few other folks in the Hemisphere Lounge at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel.

On-stage, a tall slender man alternates between baritone and tenor saxophone. Sans band, he plays to the beat of his own CDs and other prerecorded tunes. Tony Haze's music barely rises above the murmur of conversation, until he puts away his horns and introduces a soft, Harry Connick Jr.-quality croon. Within a few minutes of "I've Got You Under My Skin" and "It Had to Be You," a young woman drags her lanky boyfriend to the front of Haze's tiny stage and begins to dance. When the bored boyfriend bows out, 70-year-old Barbara Weiner of Philadelphia decides to dance with the partner-less gal. When the woman tires, Barbara dances with her husband, Mel. And when Mel sits down, Barbara continues to dance until she finally expends her breath.

"They say a good sax player can sing through his instrument," says the 47-year-old Haze, admitting that he's yet to meet another sax player who can sing -- without his instrument, that is. But Haze is the sort of guy who dabbles in many things. In his spare time, he's written screenplays like The Funk Society (based on his life touring with a band in the 1970s) and has shopped them to various movie production companies. He also sculpts; he mentions that he's particularly proud of a piece that resembles a navigational instrument. That idea, he says, came to him in a dream, something "based on the laws of the universe that never change. To me, it's a major sin if you don't follow your inspiration."

Tony Haze, saxless
Tony Haze, saxless

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At 9 p.m. Thursday, January 16. Call 954-920-6400.
Chocolada, 1923 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

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Haze says he plays an average of 280 gigs a year in Miami-Dade and Broward counties -- from hotel lounges like the Loews to clubs and restaurants and even coffee shops and waterfront public paths. He's hooked up with a few big names along the way, from established musicians such as late, legendary, Fort Lauderdale jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius, guitarist Rick Zunigar (Stevie Wonder), and percussionist Sammy Figueroa (Miles Davis, David Bowie). Haze's most recent CD, Love Your Life, was recorded in New York City with John Davis on piano as well as Gipsy Kings sidemen bassist Gildas Boclé, vibraphone player Jean Baptiste Boclé, and drummer Marcello Pelliteri.

Women coaxed Haze into jazz at an early age. His mom's love of the form inspired him to learn to play it. Also responsible was a cover for a Herb Geller record titled Stacks of Sax, which depicted a smiling blond woman in a low-cut dress bending toward a row of horns. "She had what I would later come to know as cleavage," Haze chuckles.

So, in the fifth grade, Haze began lessons. By the time he was 17, he was touring all over the country with a Charlotte, North Carolina-based Top 40 outfit known as the Creek, which played the latest pop hits of that era (the 1970s) along with a little gimmick: Every member of the band was required to sing. During those two and a half years of touring, Haze had the time of his life. "I feel bad for this generation," he says. Back then, he notes, there was no fear that anonymous sex could cost lives. In fact, Haze theorizes that the lyrics of today's songs are violent because its writers and performers are sexually frustrated. When the group broke up, Haze went to stay with his mom back in North Carolina, where they "drank wine, smoked pot, and listened to Coltrane records." He later applied for -- and received -- a music scholarship and attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. After class, Haze would set up sax shop inside Vision 16, a popular college hangout.

It wasn't long, though, before Haze wanted a change of location and a change of weather. In the mid-1980s, Haze went to live in Los Angeles figuring it "would be a blast." But the city stifled his creativity. "Los Angeles is built on [the film] industry, which is make-believe, and it all filters down from there," he says. "People who have talent go to L.A. to waste it."

In 1993, an old friend from Vision 16 -- now managing a club on Miami Beach's Ocean Drive called Mad Max -- invited Haze to come out and play. The experience and atmosphere was so fun (and the women so beautiful, he says with a knowing eye-twinkle) that he quickly flew back to L.A. to pack up. He tossed his things into his old Tercel and drove all the way back to South Beach in the dead of summer without air-conditioning or radio. For amusement, he sang to himself. Once ensconced in SoBe, Haze played not just Mad Max but on the coral rock wall at Lummus Park.

He stayed for three years until he joined Circus Phantasia, an odd assortment of Russian acrobats and a collection of American jazz musicians, and traveled all over the world. "Those Russians are heavy drinkers," he manages to recall. "We'd go to Mount Fuji in a bus, and they'd be choking down vodka at 7 in the morning."

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