Back To Radio


Percussionist Sammy Figueroa. Photo by Daniel Azoulay.

Before becoming a blog, Jazz With an Accent ® was a radio show, a 10-program series about global jazz for WDNA 88.9 FM, Miami, to be precise. I love radio, I had a great time being part of WDNA’s programming, truly the “Serious Jazz” radio station in Miami, and since that project ended I’ve been trying to figure out the right follow-up.

As it turns out, old friend and master percussionist Sammy Figueroa, who has had a successful parallel career as a broadcaster on WBAI 99.5 FM New York and has hosted a popular weekly program on WDNA for the past 12 years, was getting restless and looking to shake things up. Last week we talked and he generously invited me to join him on his show with the idea of developing a new radio project. The new show has no name yet but you can count on interesting music (and if you are reading this you know it will not be just jazz), a global perspective, good talk (Sammy is a very funny storyteller) and yes, improbable segues.

Listen every Monday at 11 am, Miami time, at and check this space afterward for our set list.

Daniel Jobim: About Grandfather, The Girl From Ipanema and So Much More

Daniel Jobim at WDNA 88.9 FM Miami, Friday

Daniel Jobim, singer, pianist, producer, and the grandson of Antonio Carlos Jobim, made an intimate, low-key appearance at WDNA 88.9 FM, the Miami jazz radio station, Friday. The event, which took place at the station’s gallery and performance area, was presented by WDNA and the recently announced Beachtone Jazz Festival.

Jobim is no piano virtuoso and his voice has a limited range, but that is precisely part of his charm. Bossa nova once proposed a kind of elegant, sophisticated artlessness (check the ironic lyrics of “Desafinado,” Out of Tune, a manifesto of sorts) and Jobim, an unpretentious performer whose singing effortlessly evokes his grandfather’s, suggests the embodiment of the idea.

He went through some of his grandfather’s classics simply and directly, intriguingly often in their English version — perhaps a considerate nod to place and audience. The set included “Samba de Una Nota So,” “So Danço Samba,” “Luiza,” Ligia,” “Corcovado,” “Aguas de Março,” the inevitable “Girl From Ipanema,” and “Chega de Saudade,” the song that might have started all the trouble.

“He brought it to Joao Gilberto, but told him he didn’t think it was that good,” recalled Jobim in one of his brief asides. “But Joao tried it and said ‘No, no it’s good, it’s good’.”
It was the title track of Gilberto’s debut album in 1959 (he also included two other Jobim pieces, “Desafinado” and “Brigas, Nunca Mais”) considered the first bossa nova recording.

Great music and smart lyrics presented simply, without special effects, dancers or auto-tuners at the ready might sound to some like a risky proposition these days — but that’s only true if the songs or the performer are just not good enough.

Daniel Jobim’s no-frills concert Friday suggested not only a tribute to his grandfather’s work but also a celebration of a certain way of performing and sharing music.

More, please.


Betsayda Machado & La Parranda El Clavo: Music, Storytelling, And Food For The Soul


Singer Betsayda Machado, second from the left, and the drums-and-voices ensemble La Parranda El Clavo Photo courtesy Xavier Lujan

Presenting music from a foreign tradition poses particular challenges. Yes, music transcends much, but much is lost in the translation. How to make an audience experience the culture, live the stories and meet the people who created it? How to transport an audience — fresh from a parking lot, now properly seated in a theater — to the natural setting of the music?

“Viva La Parranda!,” the new show from Miami New Drama now playing at the Colony Theatre in Miami Beach, is billed as a musical, but it plays like a richly layered, live documentary on a slice of Afro-Venezuelan music and culture. Featuring singer Betsayda Machado and the drums-and-voices ensemble La Parranda El Clavo, “Viva La Parranda!” was created by Machado and the group in collaboration with director Juan Souki

Set on El Clavo, a small town in the Barlovento region of Venezuela that, Machado notes, “is not in Wikipedia,” “Viva La Parranda!” has no plot per se. Instead, it slowly builds on stirring musical numbers, storytelling, dancing, live onstage cooking and video projections. The result feels as close as a traditional-music performance can get to an immersive experience.

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