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Best Of 2003

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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

Cynthia Miller

Q: Do you watch reality TV?

A: I'm going to blow my image as an intellectual. Yes, I do.

Q: Which shows?

A: I used to watch Survivor when it first came out. Now I watch American Idol -- pretty religiously, I have to admit.

Q: What draws you to them?

A: I think with Survivor, I must have stumbled on it by accident. The interaction between individuals was rather compelling. With American Idol, it was probably the arts educator in me that drew me to it. I'm interested in young people with talent, aspiring to be the best in entertainment arts. I like seeing that it's not necessarily the prettiest people advancing. That's a good message to send in an image-conscious medium like television. It's based on talent. I like the audience-participation component too. It definitely intrigues people that they can take an active role.

Q: What's the down side?

A: The academic in me finds it interesting the way they make marketing products seem as if part of the show. There's a really aggressive kind of marketing going on.

Q: Like what?

A: Well, obviously a lot of grooming goes on there. People change hairstyles. Some person came up with the idea of incorporating Herbal Essence [products] into the show so they're in the reality part. I root for the contestants, but I also watch with objectivity and a lot of skepticism.

Q: What do you think of Simon Cowell?

A: I think he's dead-on. Someone has to make those kinds of decisions. If you work in the arts, you make those decisions all the time. It's difficult giving honest, constructive criticism. I admire the fact that he has the courage to do it. Most of the contestants are young; they're not professional. Anyone who has gone through being rejected by a jury knows how they feel. But as an artist, you have to toughen your skin, take advantage of that experience of rejection. You have to be constantly putting yourself out there.

Best Jazz Artist

Legendary in the area's clubs for his cantankerous unpredictability as well as his horn-blowing, saxman Turk Mauro is difficult to ignore. A loud, tough, and brawny guy, Mauro's performances are charged with the kind of physicality usually reserved for young rock acts, whether he's playing with his quartet or on his own. Unfortunately, no one has yet been able to capture his live vibe on tape with any degree of precision, making your best bet catching him one of these nights at O'Hara's Jazz Café in Hollywood. When Mauro breaks out his big baritone sax, it puts a rumble in the room and makes you feel woozier than a strong cocktail. That's a feeling best experienced with a drink in front of you anyway.

Best Jazz Artist

Legendary in the area's clubs for his cantankerous unpredictability as well as his horn-blowing, saxman Turk Mauro is difficult to ignore. A loud, tough, and brawny guy, Mauro's performances are charged with the kind of physicality usually reserved for young rock acts, whether he's playing with his quartet or on his own. Unfortunately, no one has yet been able to capture his live vibe on tape with any degree of precision, making your best bet catching him one of these nights at O'Hara's Jazz Café in Hollywood. When Mauro breaks out his big baritone sax, it puts a rumble in the room and makes you feel woozier than a strong cocktail. That's a feeling best experienced with a drink in front of you anyway.

Best Rock Band

Certainly, monster musicianship counts for something. Pygmy -- a frenetic five-piece with members scattered across Miami-Dade County -- has that part sewn up. On the band's new full-length CD, The Council of Important Scientists Say NO!, you'll certainly encounter dancing strings, cocktail chords, bizarrely backward arpeggios, and John Zorn-like arithmetic cacophony, slowing down and speeding up with the out-of-control frenzy of a locomotive descending a steep grade without brakes. But wait, there's more. Pygmy also has the threads. These young Cuban/Dominican/Peruvian/American kids wear blazers, cardigans, polished dress shoes, button-down shirts, and ties on-stage. No mere fashion victims, though, Pygmy is best-known for performances so energetic that band members (and their shoes) separate from the stage like fur flying in a cat fight, feet rarely touching floors. This combination of spastic energy, conflagration potential, unconventional harmonic structures, singer Adames' lean, feline croon, and a penchant for song titles like "Nous Vetement D'Hiver Sont Beaux" make Pygmy the most dangerous -- and worthwhile -- band around. The hunt for these Pygmies is most fruitful at Ray's Downtown in West Palm Beach, Club Q in Davie, the Alley in Miami, or the Factory in Fort Lauderdale.

Best Rock Band

Certainly, monster musicianship counts for something. Pygmy -- a frenetic five-piece with members scattered across Miami-Dade County -- has that part sewn up. On the band's new full-length CD, The Council of Important Scientists Say NO!, you'll certainly encounter dancing strings, cocktail chords, bizarrely backward arpeggios, and John Zorn-like arithmetic cacophony, slowing down and speeding up with the out-of-control frenzy of a locomotive descending a steep grade without brakes. But wait, there's more. Pygmy also has the threads. These young Cuban/Dominican/Peruvian/American kids wear blazers, cardigans, polished dress shoes, button-down shirts, and ties on-stage. No mere fashion victims, though, Pygmy is best-known for performances so energetic that band members (and their shoes) separate from the stage like fur flying in a cat fight, feet rarely touching floors. This combination of spastic energy, conflagration potential, unconventional harmonic structures, singer Adames' lean, feline croon, and a penchant for song titles like "Nous Vetement D'Hiver Sont Beaux" make Pygmy the most dangerous -- and worthwhile -- band around. The hunt for these Pygmies is most fruitful at Ray's Downtown in West Palm Beach, Club Q in Davie, the Alley in Miami, or the Factory in Fort Lauderdale.

Best Bar Band

If somehow you encounter John "the Cop" Eischen and his trusty sidekick Jim "the Other Guy" Harrison playing somewhere that doesn't have a cheap happy hour, wake up and rub the crust from your eyes. You must be dreaming. Guitarist/singer John the Cop and fretless bassist the Other Guy are built for comfort, not speed, and they're built for bars, not theaters, convalescent centers, or gazebos. No, this old (John the Cop recently retired from the Fort Lauderdale police force) Delta blues duo know each other and their loyal, hard-partying fans well enough to know not to mess with a good thing. So one John the Cop and the Other Guy set is pretty much the same as any other, with Robert Johnson, Peatie Wheatstraw, and Muddy Waters tunes served up well-marinated and warm. The sharp, sprightly sound John wrings from his six- and 12-string resonator guitars is so authentic and pure that it practically ensures that you stay until last call. The day these two start doing shows at Starbucks next to the frappuccino and vanilla lattes or inside some snooty wine bar, best check your watch: It's probably time for the world to end. Until then, find 'em at the Downtowner Saloon or the Poor House in Fort Lauderdale. Right where they should be.

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Cynthia Miller: is director of the innovative Art and Culture Center of Hollywood

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