Intermittent showers didn’t dampen weekend for music lovers attending Jazz in the Gardens
BY LISA ROGERS-CHERRY
Not even a forecast of 50 percent chance of scattered showers could keep many music lovers away from the 11th annual Jazz in the Gardens, held March 19 and 20 in Miami Gardens.
They came from as close as a few blocks away and as far as Germany, donned with ponchos, umbrellas, rain bonnets and galoshes for this hot ticket weekend.
Comedian and radio personality Rickey Smiley was the hilarious show host. He kept the show moving and the audience in stitches. He quickly snapped back on hecklers from the audience.
He took us down memory lane when he joked about government cheese making the best macaroni and cheese. Smiley also offered to buy a few fish sandwiches for the single ladies and to take a few women to the nail shop to get their cuticles pushed back instead of a full manicure. He said he couldn’t deal with the younger women because they were too high maintenance.
The weather on Saturday was a beautiful 84 degrees with bright sunshiny skies when local artists Cristyle Renae, Ronnie VOP and April Raquel took the stage. April Raquel received extra support from her fellow Florida A&M University (FAMU) Rattlers and sorors of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Many Deltas were in town for their Florida Cluster. The local artists all were well-received by the audience who slowly filled in the seats Saturday afternoon.
Real music from legendary artists
The laidback crowd really started to groove when the multitalented solo jazz instrumentalist Jerome Najee Rasheed, best known simply as Najee, took the stage. Jazz pianist and composer Alex Bugnon was another favorite of the older crowd. When Regina Belle began to sing, “Baby Come to Me,” many women in the audience gladly joined in.
The Average White Band was far from average in the Gardens. Their song “A Love of Your Own” was most certainly a crowd-pleaser. The music lovers reminisced and sang along with all of their songs. Valerie Wooten of Miramar remarked, “Both nights were fantastic. I really came to Jazz in the Gardens to see the Average White Band. They are my favorite. This was my first time seeing them. They were worth every dime.”
Many attendees were excited about how many live bands were performing this year. “Having a live band is so much better than just having a deejay playing tracks in the background,” one excited attendee remarked.
Nobody could forget soulful singer Michael McDonald. Formerly with Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, the singer wowed the women by singing “I Keep Forgetting,” “What a Fool Believes,” and “Minute by Minute.”
Nobody was cooler than Kool & the Gang when they performed “Hollywood Swinging.’’ You could hear guys yelling, “Hey, Hey, Hey!” all across Miami Gardens. “Ladies Night’’ and “Cherish’’ also were crowd movers. People were up on their feet.
Charlie Wilson takes ’em to church
The final performer for Saturday night was Mr. Charlie, “Last Name” Wilson. The singer didn’t disappoint although most folks wanted a little more R.E.S.P.E.C.T. from “Queen of Soul’’ Aretha Franklin, who cited the lack of band personnel for her absence. Some were surprised that she couldn’t get a band together with all of her pull.
Wilson was a true performer. He kept the crowd excited until two o’clock in the morning. With “Goodnight Kisses,’’ “Charlie, Last Name Wilson,’’ “You Send Me,” “You Are.’’ He then had a 10-minute praise break and took us to church when he started singing the gospel song, “I Need Thee.’’
Uncle Charlie unashamedly testified about the goodness of God. He stated that he is a prostate cancer survivor and has been clean and sober for 21 years. He apologized to those who were offended, but shared he was “too blessed’’ not to pause and give thanks and encouraged members of the audience to join in the praise party if God had ever done anything for them.
After giving praise, he went right back to the party in the Gardens that many folk came to see.
Day 2: From ‘Blessed’ to ‘Whip Appeal’
Overcast skies loomed on Day 2, and we were certain that the weather forecasters had predicted accurately when they said it would rain Sunday evening. But that didn’t stop the raincoat, poncho-wearing party people from making their way to Sun Life Stadium for the second day of Jazz in the Gardens.
The eclectic contemporary sounds of La Vie opened the show on Sunday. The crowd was buzzing mainly about the multiple Grammy, Dove, and Stellar-award winner Fred Hammond. He took the crowd to church and they enjoyed every minute of it.
We all realized that “No Weapon” that was formed against Fred could prosper after he shared his touching testimony about how his mother had unsuccessfully attempted to have him aborted.
That’s why Fred said that he doesn’t have time to play church and that God had a plan for his broken situation. You could hear attendees shouting “Amen” and “Hallelujah” all over the parking grounds at Sun Life Stadium. That moment really gave new meaning to the song “Blessed” and quickly got everyone up and clapping and singing along.
Brian Culbertson, the popular contemporary jazz/R&B/funk musician, instrumentalist, and producer was a repeat performer. The crowd swayed and danced to his smooth jazz sounds.
Janelle Monae, one of the youngest performers in the lineup, dazzled the crowd with all of her hot moves and her jazzy black-and-white outfits. She captured everyone’s attention although not too many of the 40-something attendees knew the words of her songs. She surprised everyone when she ran up the middle aisle in the pouring rain, directly out into the crowd.
Worth the wait: Babyface, Usher
By the time R&B musician, singer-songwriter and record producer Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds got up to perform, the rain was falling steadily. That didn’t stop him or the attendees from enjoying a fantastic performance.
Seventh-time Jazz in the Gardens attendee Theresa Loving said, “Babyface still has it going on at almost 57 years old. I was really surprised that the event wasn’t as crowded this year, given the vast array of talent. I am so glad that I came.” The crowd was up and dancing as Babyface started off his set with “For the Cool in You,” then sang “Every Time I Close My Eyes,” “Secrets,” “Whip Appeal,” “Tenderoni,” “Can We Talk,” “We Belong Together” and the “End of the Road.” The performer had to pause a few times to catch his breath. However, he was definitely a favorite of the women, even in the rain.
The final performer of the evening, R&B musician, singer-songwriter and record-producer Usher, was definitely worth the wait in the drizzling rain. Usher had the women spellbound as he sang “Confessions,” “Let Me Ride” and “My Boo.” He teased the women as he took off his shirt and performed “Good Kisser.” Even Usher had a live band, which really pleased the audience. Last year’s headline performer, R. Kelly, used a deejay.
Tiffany Robinson of Liberty City didn’t miss a beat while sitting on the second row of the VIP section. She shared, “This year’s lineup had me flashing back to the old and jamming to the new.
Usher was the highlight for me. Kudos to Mayor Oliver Gilbert and his wonderful team on a job well done. I will definitely return next year.”
Conch still a food favorite
In addition to the music, the attendees enjoyed a great variety of food and a larger section of vendors.
Anthony, a vendor from Raleigh, N.C. was selling jackets and caps from the Negro Baseball League.
He said, “Jazz in the Gardens is one of my favorite festivals. This is my fifth year attending.”
There were all kinds of items for sell. Beautiful jewelry, African attire, dresses, shoes, unique art, crafts, and paintings galore. Black natural hair care products were a big ticket item this year. There were at least five booths that focused on hair care. The women were happy to accept the free hair care samples. Cynthia Bailey’s sunglasses also were popular in the vendor section this year.
The lines were not quite as long this year. However, the tasty conch salad stuffed pineapples, fried fish, the large ears of corn, and the colorful drinks were the biggest sellers this year. Everywhere you turned, someone was enjoying one of these items. The conch was fresh and absolutely delicious. For a brief moment, while chowing down it seemed as if I was in Nassau.
Overall, once again Jazz in the Gardens was a fun-filled experience. On Saturday, the crowd seemed slightly smaller than last year and the food lines were a little shorter, but the audience was most certainly satisfied. In spite of a few delays, the rain did not stop the show.