While on spring break in my hometown of Miami, Fl., I had the opportunity to experience a relaxing night with local jazz band the Jazz Monkeys. The night was cool and breezy; the atmosphere, romantic and intimate. At the Village Chalet in Cauley Square the Jazz Monkeys trio covered several well-known jazz compositions and added their own flair of funk to the nights’ performance. The trio consisted of bandleader Branden DeCaso on tenor sax, Joel Chavarria on bass, and Michael Rodriguez on drums.
The flickering of lights, which wrap around every tree branch at the Village Chalet, created a canopy of illumination almost synchronizing the band’s sound. They opened the night with one of my favorites, “A Night in Tunisia” by Dizzy Gillespie. Although the group began the song with an unfamiliar intro, I recognized it was “A Night In Tunisia” when Branden DeCaso mimicked Gillespie in his climb of the notes and the main melody.
Another song I enjoyed was with a bluesier feel. It began with Joel Chavarria walking the bass and allowed me to really be able to distinguish his instrument, where at times can be difficult to hear by the average listener. The fullness in the bass was perfect with the swing beat being played by the drummer. Both complemented each other nicely.
After some wine and appetizers the night seemed magical. I continued to listen as they went on to play another tune that really stood out. This song opened with Michael on drums introducing a steady swing groove leaving space for the other musicians enter the song, which gave them room to experiment. As the sax player took a magnificent solo, I felt out of air and breath for him. He really used his lips to accentuate the high notes, and involved several sections of scatting to add to the drama in his solo.
Toward the end of the evening, the Jazz Monkeys decided to tone down the night with a slower song. The sax player opened this piece by introducing the main melody in a dense and enjoyable way. Not giving away too much off the bat, he sparked interest to what would come next, almost teasing listeners. This made those present, who might have tuned out the band by this point; shift their attention back to them. It was something unexpected, which raised question. As the song progressed, the drummer took a solo and they closed the track with an abrupt stop. Again, catching the intimate audiences’ attention.
Overall the performance was interesting. There were moments where I thought it might be over, but then they would pick back up and kick off a new song with much more energy then the last. I found that exciting, since it was hard to know what to expect thereafter. The Jazz Monkeys definitely gave a great performance, and allowed us to hear their own renditions of some of my favorite jazz songs.
I would have enjoyed seeing a guitarist, and suggest they have one at every performance since it would have helped complete the sound, and could have added even more spunk to the solo and improvisation sections. As a whole, the performance was very cozy and allowed those present to feel as though they had their own private show. That was, by far, my favorite portion. When else do you get the chance to have your own private jazz band, all to yourself?
If you haven’t caught them in action, I highly suggest you do. They can be seen playing throughout various places in Miami from CocoWalk to Cauley Square to private events; follow them to stay updated on their next gig!
Visit their facebook page for bookings and gig dates — JazzMonkeys