Got a glimpse into the future—82 degrees, fluffy white clouds, clear blue sky during the day gives way to the twinkling stars and gentle cool breeze at night. The calendar reveals to us that it’s spring, so we know that we’ll be at that point, eventually. Honest! As for now, though, if you want to be about that life, an airport will need to be involved. Pleasant weather aside, however, it wasn’t enough to make that move to Miami though. That would have been the lineup for the 13th annual Jazz in the Gardens Festival. It was serious on paper. Taking place this past weekend, March 17 and 18 at the Hard Rock Stadium in the city of Miami Gardens, Jazz in the Gardens officially set off the festival season for jazz/soul/R&B music and furthered solidified its growing stature as one of the pre-eminent music events for fans and artists alike.
Opening the performance portion of the festival and keeping with their tradition of inclusion of artists from the area was this year’s benefactor the A. Randolph Band & Smash Room Project. The talented collective not only performed as a featured band but also double-dipped and served as the Jazz in the Gardens house band, keeping the vast audience engaged with live funk/soul music between set changes. A. Randolph has not just ingratiated his hometown with his music. As a philanthropist, he founded World of Music Arts and Technology, a not-for-profit organization fostering youth to become the next great innovators in music technology.
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue maintained the pace and heightened the anticipation for the future and certified legends, Fantasia, Smokey Robinson and Chaka Khan. Having appeared on the Jazz in the Gardens stage a few years prior and acknowledged by the Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver G. Gilbert III as one of his favorite performers, Fantasia left it all onstage. Smokey Robinson, as one of the most prolific songwriters ever, showed that his array of legendary material not only withstands the test of time but also is much more impactful when performed by SMOKEY! The bump in the road occurred, as reported online and in social media, with the show’s closer. As a fan from Atlanta disappointingly admitted to me as she exited early, “I need to see Chaka, cuz that woman onstage now is not her!” Ouch.
Day Two, though, was virtually flawless. If there was anything to scratch your head about it was the quick cameo of Avery Sunshine. Albeit she was part of the Jazz All Stars (along with Walter Beasley and Pieces of a Dream) so it was understandable. It’ll only be a matter of time before she’ll have her own slot. Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Joe and the “I Love the 90s” tribute performers of Salt-N-Pepa, Kid ‘n Play, Biz Markie and Trick Daddy all went above and beyond. Even so, it was all about one artist. Since she announced 2018 would be her farewell, Anita Baker’s immense fan base needed to see if she could be swayed to reconsider. If that show of love and support fails, then at least Anita will get her flowers now. Her style was what it’s always been. “I didn’t bring anything new. I just came with some old love songs,” she told us. No need to try to put it in words; everyone’s experience was different. That’s when you know that her music affected people’s lives. Homeward bound.
Over and out. Holla next week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife.