SMDCAC — A miracle on 211th Street

SMDCAC — A miracle on 211th Street
Stay Human

All the odds seemed to be against what ultimately happened and success was teetering like Philippe Petit tiptoeing on the high wire as mother and daughter next to me disturbed Jon Batiste’s percussive piano rendition of The Star Spangled Banner.

They were diving into their bags of potato chips like chubby kids doing cannonballs at the neighborhood pool, then chomping on them with the ferocity of pit bulls. They were disturbing everybody so much that my wife started elbowing me, and I had visions of speaking and becoming the next victim of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. This nightmare really was dancing in my head and I thought all was lost. Then, a miracle! Jon Batiste hypnotized them.

This is the fourth time this year that I have written about what is going on at our South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center, and it is only March. That’s how hot this winter has been in Cutler Bay. Next up at SMDCAC (we need a nickname for the place, something like “Fridge in the Ol’ Ridge”) is Poncho Sanchez with his Latin Jazz Band, with special guest James Carter giving love to Coltrane. All signs point to one more can’t-miss event scheduled for Saturday, April 5 at 8 p.m. C’mon people, get your tickets.

GM Eric Fliss, whose thoughtful, community- loving introductions drip with humility, is simply on a serious, Vegas-like hot streak here, coming up with winner after winner. You should have seen his face after the show! Proud, my brother, proud! I can only imagine the high fives among him, Nicolle, Gisella and crew.

In my real life — though many would dispute it — I teach. Part of what I am expected to do is to teach writing. If you have been my student, you have been criticized for all the hackneyed, cheesy adjectives you have routinely dumped into your essays to increase length and take up space. Like, I mean, totally awesome, unnecessary adjectives. Well the egg is about to hit my face as I break the rules for Jon Batiste and Stay Human. Lest you think I’m exaggerating, ask anyone who attended. Amazing, awesome, fantastic, indescribable, brilliant, great! This show was shoutit- from-the-mountaintop unforgettable. I need action verbs.

I have never been a self-esteem guy. I am extremely critical. I can barely find a place to eat in Miami (though Palmetto Bay’s Bistro Foly has been getting it done beautifully pre-concert), so for me to be raving so is out of character.

The pre-show sounds spun vintage James Brown; not a head in the place failed to bob. There were three costume changes. Stay Human rocked, funked, danced and sang the Blues. They were formal, informal, stage side, stage front, back of the auditorium.

Then they took the music straight to the lobby to get down there.
Fugees got a shout out — one time. So did My Favorite Things — two times.

Some Michael Jackson thrown in. Big time sax player Eddie Barbash. Crazy drummer Joe Saylor. Killer vocalist and percussionist Jamison Ross. Vicious bassist Barry Stephenson from the 305. Smiling Ibanda Ruhumbika on tuba and sax. Batiste on the Steinway. Game, set, match — I rest my case — shut up! Joy to the masses.

Perhaps you don’t believe in miracles. Maybe it was just a coincidence; two ladies had no more chips in a bag and then music took over. I don’t know. Either way, I have become a true believer in the spirit of the South Dade mojo.

Carl Rachelson is a teacher at Palmer Trinity School and a regular contributor to the Pinecrest Tribune. He may be contacted by addressing email to

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