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Feast for the Ears

The catchall term for the stuff is "jam band" music, but that cliché hardly describes the tuneful smorgasbord offered at this weekend's Langerado Music Festival. For the third straight year, Langerado brings the nation's top touring bands to Broward County. And once again, the festival has grown: The lineup -- 25 bands total -- is twice as large as last year's and unfolds over two full days in the vast, verdant expanse of Sunrise's Markham Park. Festival organizer Ethan Schwartz expects close to 10,000 music lovers to descend on Langerado's three stages in a sound-drunk feeding frenzy.

From acoustic jazz to Afrobeat to bluegrass to boogaloo, the stylistic diversity at Langerado is huge. If there's one thing these bands have in common, it's their penchant for improvisation, known affectionately to some as "noodling." New Times offers the following menu, previewing 15 Langerado groups and their culinary corollaries.

The dish: Karl Denson's Tiny Universe

The ingredients: San Diego's hardest-swinging six-piece

The flavor: Formerly of the Grayboy Allstars and Lenny Kravitz's touring band, sax machine Karl D slays crowds with a relentless, sophisticated funk attack. In the spirit of Maceo Parker, Denson is a consummate showman who'd play till tomorrow if the cops let him.

Noodle factor: Bowties and marinara. Denson's horn of plenty keeps it smooth and rich.

The dish: Medeski, Martin, and Wood

The ingredients: Three virtuoso players radiating downtown Manhattan slickness.

The flavor: This peerless nü-jazz trio can move your ass with exceptionally soulful organ funk or turn your head around with abstract improvisation. The fun is in finding out where the set's going.

Noodle factor: Pasta primavera. Fresh, colorful, and playful, MMW offers a little bit of everything.

The dish: Toots & the Maytals

The ingredients: The man who invented the word reggae back in '66 is a true Jamaican soul rebel.

The flavor: One of the most upbeat, smile-inducing performers around, Frederick "Toots" Hibbert is more animated and in-tune at 60 years old than dudes half his age. Backed by a horn-heavy band twisting up vintage gospel, soul, and funk into a sunny sonic spliff, these guys will definitely take you higher.

Noodle factor: Rasta pasta.

The dish: The New Deal

The ingredients: Toronto band does house and breakbeat like a DJ.

The flavor: Close your eyes while this future-funking trio is playing and you'll swear it's a master mixer spinning records on-stage. Metronomic drums, lush layers of keyboards, and bottomless bass lines come together in slinky, uninterrupted, dance-floor ear candy. Silly, soulful, and hard to resist.

Noodle factor: Like one long strand of fusilli, spiraling ecstatically into infinity.

The dish: De La Soul

The ingredients: Long Island's long-standing forefathers of conscious hip-hop

The flavor: Known for their wildly inconsistent stage show, Posdnuos, Mace, and Dave can be brilliantly witty and charismatic -- or condescending and curt.

Noodle factor: Linguine with clam sauce. When they're on, they're really on. When they're off, you won't feel so good after it's all over.

The dish: Soulive

The ingredients: New York's best-dressed three-piece smacks some hip-hop swagger across soul-jazz's luscious booty.

The flavor: Brothers Alan (drums) and Neal (keyboards) Evans collide in a locomotive rhythm section, while guitarist supreme Eric Krasno channels the righteous spirit of Grant Green. Potentially the most soulful band at Langerado, the name says it all.

Noodle factor: That short and chunky stuff called orzo. Punchy and brash, Soulive is tightly packed and no-frills.

The dish: Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra

The ingredients: Multiculti, 15-piece wrecking ball from Brooklyn.

The flavor: Following in the footsteps of Afrobeat originator Fela Kuti, Antibalas rains down heavy horns, blistering percussion, syncopated guitar, and thundering bass lines over politically charged vocal chants.

Noodle factor: La-la-lasagna. Antibalas stacks up thick and steamy layers of big-band polyrhythms.

The dish: Michael Franti and Spearhead

The ingredients: Socially conscious, buoyant R&B with a dash of hip-hop fire

The flavor: In the tradition of Bob Marley and Curtis Mayfield, Franti is a powerful performer, possessing a booming voice and staunchly humanistic outlook. He's definitely magnetic, but his five-piece band's effortless soul will grab your attention too.

Noodle factor: Vegan ravioli. The perennially barefoot Franti stuffs deeply personal insight and sharp political awareness inside shiny, happy grooves.

The dish: Benevento/Russo Duo

The ingredients: Two of the most insanely talented musos from the downtown Manhattan scene

The flavor: That's Marco Benevento on keys and Joe Russo on drums, and yeah, it's just the two of them making that holy, hellacious racket. The Duo play facing off against each other, like an organ 'n' drums spazz-jazz duel using digitally enhanced weapons. Watch out for their suite of Radiohead covers; it's borderline evil.

Noodle factor: Pasta alla diavola! Red-hot, seething with spunk, this one's gonna leave a mark.

The dish: The String Cheese Incident

The ingredients: Five former ski bums who busted out of the tiny mountain town of Crested Butte, Colorado

The flavor: SCI is the band that schismed the jam scene. Either you go gooey for their their nü-blue-fusiongrass, light-in-the-Birkenstocks funk, and well-chosen covers or you wanna hang the band and its fans with a Hula-Hoop for a noose.

Noodle factor: A no-brainer -- macaroni and cheese (and plenty of it).

The dish: Keller Williams

The ingredients: Loopy, one-man, Colorado-mountain-man band.

The flavor: A staple on the festival circuit and jam scene, Williams loops his own guitar, beatbox, and didgeridoos to a rabid following of some of the headiest dreadies around. The music might be flighty, but Williams is a terrific songwriter, a multi-instrumentalist, and a truly engaging performer. Case in point: his solo version of "Don't Stop til You Get Enough."

Noodle Factor: If Williams had a penne for each of his Grateful Dead covers, he'd be knee-deep in semolina.

The dish: Mofro

The ingredients: Florida's own front-porch soul outfit

The flavor: Steeped in saltwater, sunshine, and whiskey, lead Mofro men JJ Grey (vocals, harmonica) and Daryl Hance (slide guitar, lap steel) churn out Jacksonville-style backwater blues with straightforward honesty and lots of heart.

Noodle factor: There ain't no noodles in the swamp, son!

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Jonathan Zwickel

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