BY LISA ROGERS CHERRY
When asked why they came to the 12th Annual Jazz in the Gardens Music Festival, attendees of the Miami Gardens event had many different responses.
As in past years, some were there for the incredible lineup of artists. Whether it was Will Downing, Robin Thicke, Common or Jilly from Philly this year, some were attracted by one particular artist.
Some came for their favorite conch salad in a pineapple bowl appetizer, some were there to reunite with family, friends, sorors or fraternity brothers. Some were drawn to the tropical, colorful, fruit-filled icy drinks and, of course, others were there just to chill.
From far away they came: To sell original art, T-shirts, handmade jewelry and fancy hats. Some were there because they wanted to see the hilarious host comedian and talk-show host Rickey Smiley in person and some just wanted to take in all of the sights.
And, boy, were there sights to see! Hairdos, outfits, stilettos, hole-filled jeans, daisy dukes, African attire, graphic baby T’s. You name it, we saw it!
Ready to party
The Jazz in the Gardens planners were strategic in the lineup for the two-day festival held annually at Hard Rock Stadium, the home of the Miami Dolphins.
Some folks already were lined up and waiting before 2 p.m. both days when the gates opened at the stadium so that they could get first dibs on placing their lawn chairs in the front of the general admission section and get as close as possible to their favorite acts.
Although many of the attendees cut their after-church naps short on Sunday to see longtime favorites Will Downing and Chante Moore, jazz musician Marion Meadows was also a treat.
Talent, and eye candy
Tina Witherspoon from Palatka, who attends every year, exclaimed, “Will Downing could have sang to me all night!”
Chante Moore was more than just eye candy to many of the guys at the festival.
Antwon Blackmon from Mobile, Alabama stated, “Chante looks and sounds exactly like she did 20 years ago. That woman is so hot.’’
‘Good for the soul’
To Maliaka Bell from Detroit, Michigan, a third time JITG attendee, the atmosphere was worth more than the acts. Bell and her friends were up and doing “The Bird” with Morris Day and the Time.
She shared, “There are so many handsome and friendly guys. Me, my cousin, and two girlfriends enjoy taking this trip and party all weekend. We plan ahead and get good cheap flights and a hotel on the beach. The weather was perfect on both days. JITG is good for the soul. Yes, we’ll be back again.”
The crowd swayed to Herbie Hancock’s performance of “Watermelon Man.’’
“It’s always exciting to see major talent live and in person. I’ve followed Herbie Hancock’s career for years,” remarked Michelle Parker of Delray Beach.
I ventured over into the VIP section where everybody was moving and grooving and found Ms. Tamara G of the syndicated “Michael Baisden Show.’’ Tamara G likes the family feel of Jazz in the Gardens.
“It always feels like a mini-family reunion. My favorite performance this year was a toss-up between our own local celeb Betty Wright and Andra Day. Robin Thicke was one of the best this year. I’ll definitely be back next year. I’d love to be one of the on-stage hosts,’’ she added.
Gospel artist Smokie Norful was a big hit and a terrific uplifting way to start off the concert on day two with the Sunday crowd. Grammy Award-winning jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding and eclectic hip-hop house band The Roots were both well-received. But when Andra Day sang, “Rise Up,’’ her Grammy-nominated Black Lives Matter-inspired anthem, the audience went crazy.
There for the conch
For Alva Bell Bullard, seeing old friends from back in the day and partying in the city’s largest outdoor club is a major reason the she attends each year.
“I love good music, but another reason that I attend this festival is because they always have the most tender fried conch that I’ve ever tasted. I don’t have to chew my brains out,’’ she said with a chuckle. Bullard attended JITG with her her Delta Sigma Theta Sorority sister, Veronica Boyd of Lauderhill.
“I enjoyed everything! My favorite on Saturday was the phenomenal Jill Scott who never disappoints,” Boyd related. “Unfortunately, Jill’s show was abruptly cut short because of the late hour and the city’s noise ordinance. Robin Thicke was a close second.
Common a favorite
“My favorite on Sunday was Common, who is as fine as wine,” she continued. “His smooth melodies and freestyles, narrowly edged out LL Cool J, who only lost points because of the inner ear-jarring volume of the blasting bass of his booming system.”
Many had to cover their ears during portions of his show. But there is no doubt that LL brought the house all the way down.
While over in the food court, we bumped into Cheresa Jackson from Chicago, who had purchased a large shrimp and tilapia combo.
She pleaded, “Please don’t take my picture, because I’m not supposed to be eating fried food, but I can’t resist all of this goodness.”
No matter their reasons for coming, the Jazz in the Gardens 2017 attendees reported that they had a magnificent time. With minimal complaints, the majority walked away extremely pleased with plans to attend again next year.