Concert Review: Miami Wings' Thursday Night Jazz Jam

Categories: Concert Review
miamiwingsjazz.jpg
Photo by Ben Thacker
Every Thursday, Miami Wings hosts a jazz jam event.
Click here to view the full slideshow from this event.

Miami Wings Jazz Jam
Thursday, July 23, 2009


Better Than: Bedtime on a Thursday night.

Miami Wings is a wings joint(duh)/sports bar way down in B.F.E that hosts a weekly underground jazz jam with the help of local serious jazz radio station 88.9 FM WDNA, and longtime neighborhood instrument shop Musician's Discount Center, which is located next door.

Though a highly unlikely venue for the sophisticated sounds of some of Miami's most talented up-and-coming and veteran jazz players, the stage at this local favorite, hole-in the-wall/down-south grease trap has seen some real deal jazz dudes jam out in its day.
Greats like Ira Sullivan, Joe Donato, Dante Luciani, Jeff Zavac, Andy Harlow, and Roberto Rodriquez drop by on any given Thursday night to get down with the regulars.

The house band, Wings Band, is comprised of alto saxophonist Steve Kirkland with drummer Mike Cohen, along with bassist Joe Yeargin, guitarist Brian Russell, and keyboardist Ryan Ellis. Ellis was apparently out last night, replaced by a recent Coral Reef High School-graduate named Chris. Little Chris can play, by the way. This kid wowed the mostly older crowd with his on-point pianissimo, and out-of-nowhere solos. The band sounded great as a whole, led melodically by Kirkland's alto and Russel's sweet-toned hollow body electric, and backed rhythmically by Cohen's hard-hitting bebop beats and rock-steady senior citizen/handsome-guy-jazz-vet Yeargin's upright bass lines.

Wings Band warmed things up with a handful of well-handled standards, while audience members sat at tables grubbing on curly fries and hot wings and Philly cheese-steak sangwhiches, washed down with beer and sweet tea. The healthy food/good beer selection was somewhat lacking, in my snobbish opinion, but it is after all a chicken wing venue. I tried the (greasy, chicken nugget-tasting and sometimes chewy) gator bites and the very cold and very reasonably priced Amber Boch draught. I wrote both off as cultural indulgences/attempts at journalistic assimilation. The dolphin fingers may have been a better choice, but they were all out of fish when I was there. The service was excellent though, and the place was packed with customers, including a large, non-jazz clientele in the section by the front door.  

As the evening progressed, and the vibe settled in, the older musicians offered up their seats to an array of brightly gifted youngsters, who had been waiting eagerly with their instruments in the audience. New World High School drummer guy was super smooth, rocking a clean minimalist style, and looking extra comfortable back there. Bespectacled trumpet player too with his Miles Davis moves. Regretfully I had to leave early and wasn't able to get everyone's names, including the young bearded electric bass player, who busted out the funkiest groove of the night for one jam.

If you're tired of all the political "cool" of the new Miami, and just want to catch some raw talent, head down to the old Miami for a reality check and a chill pill. It don't get cooler than jazz.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: It don't get cooler than jazz.

Random Detail: No cover, no drink minimum.

By the Way: I hear Tuesday night is Blues night.

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