CBS Miami's Jim Berry Has a Secret Life as a Soul Singer

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Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman shares stories of memorable rock 'n' roll encounters that took place in our local environs. This week: A popular TV sportscaster shares his secret ambition--and his top five faves

I've known Jim Berry nearly 15 years, both as a colleague and as a friend. And I admire the fact that aside from his role as a well-known TV personality, he generously gives of his time to make outside appearances as a motivational speaker and event emcee. A lot of people know that, and, hell, his enthusiastic persona is readily apparent when he's giving the lowdown on the Marlins or the Dolphins or anything else having to do with the South Florida sports scene. But what most people don't know -- at least not yet anyway -- is that Jim is a closet musician, one who's also eager to pursue his passion.

Naturally, Jim's used to the spotlight. He's been on the air at CBS4 since 1996, following stints at WSVN, WBBM in Chicago, WJLA in Washington D.C. and WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina. And he's won a slew of awards over the course of that career, including New Times Best of Miami honors (three times), five Emmy Awards and the prestigious Silver Circle Award for overall excellence in television journalism. 

Admittedly, it might seem a bit of a leap to segue from  from sportscaster to soul singer. Or not. Jim's dropped a few hints from time to time, via an occasional on-air rap or a subtle dance move. Likewise, he's long espoused the joys of "Chicago Style Steppin'," a soulful couples dance. ("It's like Black ballroom dancing...very smooth but with a funkier edge.") Yet, it wasn't until a few months ago that Jim began sharing his musical ambitions, picking my brain for ideas on how to get his music into the marketplace and actually start performing. I caught him in concert at a jazz club on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami several weeks ago, and I was surprised how easily he was able to transition from screen to stage while engaging his audience during his show. He sings with a smooth croon, culling old soul staples, classic blues and an array of popular standards. That's to be expected given influences that run from James Brown and Marvin Gaye to Joe Williams and Sam Cooke. What's more, he has a crack combo in tow -- Charles Anderson (background vocals), Ted Studstill (guitar), Ulysses Taylor (keyboards), Lucius Carter (bass) and Terry Smith (drums). 

It was clear from the performance that I saw that Jim's been honing his craft and taking his new calling seriously. So seriously in fact, that this past summer, he spent a week at the Tritone Jazz camp in Rochester, New York. One of three vocalists in attendance, he was given the opportunity to work with a disparate group of jazz musicians as part of his preparation for a final showcase concert. "It was tremendous," he says of the experience. "It helped me as a vocalist and to really think like a musician. It actually inspired me to start performing here in South Florida." 

Being that it's important to know where one's been before one ventures forward, I asked Jim to share a list of his five favorite albums. Like the man himself, it's pretty classy: 

5. James Brown -- The Big Payback: "It's soulful, funky and maybe his best album of all-time!"

4. Main Ingredient -- Afrodisiac: "This album is filled with awesome ballads. In fact, there's not a bad song on the entire record." 

3. Dee Dee Bridgewater -- Just Family: "Dee Dee Bridgewater is one of the most under-rated singers of our time and she really puts it down with his album." 

2. Temptations -- Puzzle People: "This was a groundbreaking R & B album, loaded with powerful songs." 

1. Prince -- Purple Rain: "What can I say? It's the best of his best." 

Jim Berry and the Platinum band will perform on December 23rd at Harvey's on the Bay, 6445 N.E. 7th Avenue, Miami. Doors open at 9 PM. There is a $10 cover. Phone 786-728-6702

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