Miami Gardens celebrates 10 years of great music with legendary artists
BY LISA ROGERS-CHERRY
Music lovers from around the world converged on South Florida for the 10th Annual Jazz in the Gardens March 21-22, a weekend packed with well-known jazz and R&B artists.
The first day of the popular Miami Gardens music festival at Sun Life Stadium was a treat for those attendees eager for some good old-school R&B. Comedians and radio talk show hosts D.L. Hughley and Rickey Smiley served as the weekend hosts.
Saturday was sold out as hundreds of thousands listened and partied to some of the nation’s best R&B performers. The March 21 lineup included local artists Karina Iglesias from “The Voice’’ and saxophonist John Erinosho; drummer extraordinaire Sheila E.; Men of Soul, made up of R&B crooners Freddie Jackson, Jeffrey Osborne and Peabo Bryson; along with soulful singers Toni Braxton and R. Kelly.
The glamorous Sheila E
Although R. Kelly was the headliner, the crowd seemed to clearly enjoy Sheila E and Men of Soul the most on Saturday. Sheila E., 57, played the drums and performed with as much pizzazz and vigor as she did when she performed with the legendary Prince.
Still looking absolutely amazing, she performed several of her hit songs, including “The Glamorous Life’’ and “A Love Bizarre.’’
“It was an awesome lineup with Grammy Award-winning recording artists from all over the country. I enjoyed Jeffrey Osborne the most! The performers were as happy to be in South Florida, as we were happy to see them,” said Attorney Burnadette Norris-Weeks, who sat on the first row, directly in the center both days.
Plenty of ‘woo, woo, woo’
She wasn’t alone. I heard repeatedly that Men of Soul were the best performers on Saturday.
Between singing “Jam Tonight’’ and “You Are My Lady,’’ the soulful and very thin Freddie Jackson shared, “I’ve lost 107 pounds, but I’m fine.”
Jackson invited his good friend Howard Hewitt up on stage to sing a song. Osborne “woo woo woo’d’’ the crowd who loudly sang along and danced to his popular songs “You Should Be Mine, “Concentrate on You,’’ “On the Wings of Love’’ and “I’m Only Human.’’
The crowd also went crazy when Peabo Bryson belted “Feel the Fire,’’ “If Ever You’re In My Arms Again’’ and “Can You Stop the Rain?’’ The Men of Soul clearly have not missed a beat and still sing with as much soul as they ever did.
Braxton brings it
Toni Braxton looked adorable in a white bodysuit and short shorts as she and two of her sisters who sang back up graced the stage. The fact that many in the audience couldn’t hear her because of sound system issues didn’t stop the talented performer from giving it her all. She invited several men up on stage to sing along and dance with her.
A Miami Gardens police officer was even summoned and Braxton serenaded him with the song “Breathe Again,’’ which was apropos because he looked like he was about to hyperventilate.
The crowd sang along when she performed “Seven Whole Days’’ and “You Mean the World to Me.’’
‘Just sing, R!’
I’m not sure if it was R. Kelly’s offensive language, the lateness of the hour, the singer not having a band, his self-promoting videos that he showed during the performance, or the corny gimmicks (including passing out Victoria Secret panties), but the audience had almost totally cleared out before his show ended at 1:30 a.m.
People in the audience were yelling “Just sing, R!’’ He promised to sing something from every album.
He moved the women as he performed “Leg Shakin’,’’ “You Remind Me of Something (the Jeep song),’’ “Half On A Baby,’’ “Down Low’’ and many others. He quipped, “Everybody else took their time so I’m going to take my time!” He did just that.
Combo of jazz greats
Sunday’s lineup did not disappoint, especially for those hankering for some great jazz.
Even though the event is tagged “Jazz in the Gardens,” the headliners are mainly R&B musicians.
The March 22 performers included local artist Valerie Tyson; the Jazz in the Gardens Allstar Band featuring Roy Ayers on vibes, Lonnie Liston Smith on keyboards, Ronnie Laws on sax and trumpeter Tom Browne; Brian Culbertson; RUN-DMC; Erykah Badu; and Maxwell.
The audience thoroughly enjoyed the jazz musicians who performed on Sunday.
“That’s what I came for,” said an older woman from Tampa who drove down with her two daughters.
She and her daughters were grooving to the Allstar Band.
Jazz in the Gardens first-timer, Shalima Mohamed offered, “Overall, Jazz in the Gardens was a well put together event. There was a good variety of genres. My favorite performer of the weekend was Brian Culbertson. I had never heard of him, but I liked him the most.”
Many people waved their Adidas sneakers in the air as RUN-DMC performed its popular song “My Adidas.’’ Run of RUN-DMC stated, “I left Rev. Run home today. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still saved, but you are getting Run the Rapper of RUN-DMC today.”
The legendary hip-hop group rocked the crowd while performing “It’s Tricky’’ and “Walk This Way.’’
Run asked for a moment of silence in memory of Jam Master Jay and featured two of the late group member’s sons.
A Badu singalong
Singer-songwriter, record producer, activist and actress Erykah Badu was definitely one of the weekend favorites of many of those who attended this year.
“It was cool seeing all of the races together in one place enjoying themselves in a positive manner, but I enjoyed Erykah Badu singing and playing the instruments the most,’’ said Jeffery Bryant of Dania Beach. The crowd sang along on every song.
They cheered as she performed “On & On’’ “Window Seat,’’ “Love of My Life,’’ “Bag Lady,’’ “Next Lifetime’’ and “Tyrone.’’ Before leaving the stage, she reminded us: “If you change your perspective, you will change your circumstance.”
‘Amen’ to Maxwell
The final performer for the weekend was the once described as the savior of soul music in the 1990s.
Singer, Songwriter Maxwell, whose mother was Puerto Rican and father was Haitian, felt right at home as he greeted the culturally mixed audience.
He certainly pleased the crowd with his electrifyingly soulful voice as he sang “Lifetime,” “ Til the Cops Come Knocking, “Fist Full of Tears,’’ “Get to Know Ya,” “Sumthin’ Sumthin’ ‘’, “Fortunate,’’ “Shouldn’t I Realize’’ and “Pretty Wings.’’ Maxwell said, “Standing and performing before a crowd like this is a dream come true.” He then began to sing, “Let the Church Say Amen.”
More surprise guests
Jazz in the Gardens has a history of having surprise guests each year. This year was no different.
Miami’s own comedian Marvin Dixon cracked up the crowd as did J. Anthony Brown from the “Tom Joyner Morning Show,’’ who had the audience in stitches.
The biggest surprise came when Lucious and Cookie Lyon’s two youngest sons Jamal (Jussie Smollett) and Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) from the hot television show “Empire” graced the stage and performed “Drip Drop,” the hit tune from the show.
Festival vendors get clever
If you wanted fancy hats, sexy dresses, cute shoes, assorted bowties, unique purses, decorative jewelry or books for a reasonable price, you didn’t have to go to the mall. Jazz in the Gardens offered a great selection of everything. The vendors were very friendly and ready to give assistance to quickly find the right colors and sizes.
Some of the vendors were from South Florida while others traveled from Atlanta and other places to participate. If the economy is bad, you couldn’t tell by the money that was changing hands this weekend.
In addition to the various items being sold, the Rev. John White II and some members of Immanuel Temple were ministering to guests in front of their booth.
The largest Black-owned bank in the country, One United Bank had several individuals wearing boxers robes and distributing information about their bank near their booth.
On the menu: Fried ribs, fritters
There was so much food, that I didn’t know which way to go. Fried fish, fried shrimp, wings, barbecued ribs and chicken, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, turkey legs, chicken tenders, funnel cakes, conch fritters, fried conch, fried ribs, conch salad, desserts, pastries, fresh fruit, fruity drinks and much more.
As in years past, the longest lines were for conch and ribs. Because I had never heard of fried ribs, I had to try them. I must say they were moist and very good. I also ate the fried conch fritters and fried grouper.
“The conch salad in the pineapple bowl was tasty and delicious!” agreed Kimberly and her husband from Jacksonville. “We come every year and wait in the long line. We don’t mind. It’s definitely worth the wait.”
For more information about the festival, visit www.jazzinthegardens.com.