Showed up and showed out

Jazz In The Gardens (JITG) is known for its surprises. You go into the event knowing who you are looking forward to hearing and seeing, but you never know which artist will make you a new fan of theirs, simply because of their performance at this increasingly popular City of Miami Gardens Music Festival.

And in the 12th year, while they covered all of genres of music, JITG officials made a concerted effort to put jazz into the schedule’s prime time to the delight of many of the festival’s fans who return year after year. And with an icon like the legendary Herbie Hancock in your lineup, you simply have to.

Herbie Hancock was simply amazing on day one of the festival, even as he performed a different version to his hit “Watermelon Man”. The man who was known as a child prodigy let it be known that he doesn’t like performing the same song over and over because he gets bored. He definitely switched it up.

No problem Herbie Hancock — you’re the man and can do whatever you want to do.

He set the stage up perfectly for Robin Thicke’s smooth R&B vocals and falsetto performances. In his second time around at JITG, Robin Thicke was again a hit.

And the beautiful, tell-it-like-it-is Jill Scott — wow! The diva brought down the house again, in her second appearance at the festival. To be honest, not too many people can do it as smoothly as Jill Scott can, and when she kicked off her shoes and got comfortable, you knew the show was just beginning. So all you needed to do was sit back, relax, and just take in the soulful, musical stylings of the diva.

Prior to Hancock, Thicke and Scott on day one, Morris Day & The Time, Betty Wright, Chante Moore, Marion Meadows and Will Downing proved that great music is ageless and stands the test of time.

Day one set the perfect stage for day two with the likes of LL Cool J, Common, Andra Day, the Roots, Esperanza Spalding and Smokie Norful.

What a day! What a day!

The conscious performance by Common, with smooth lyrics that he seemed to just pull out of the ethers, really surprised me. He was so smoothly lyrical, that you couldn’t help but love his performance — even though he didn’t reach back to perform his former hits like “Love of My Life” with Erykah Badu. Rather, he focused on the social issues of today and reminded everyone of why they should care. Common pricked the conscience for his hour-long performance for which he barely broke a sweat, or a breath.

After this, Andra Day will probably have to be referred to as Ms. Day.

While she has her own style, she reminded me of the likes of Jill Scott, because her music is about storytelling, and tell stories she did. You heard her loss, her love, her heartbreak, her hope, and everything in between. You felt her music, in the style that is inimitably Andra Day.

Like Jill Scott’s kicking off of her shoes, when Andra Day tossed her cape aside, you knew she was ready to really deliver the goods. Her performance was impassioned to say the least.

Not to be outdone on the day, The Roots showed why they’ve become one of the best-known and most respected hip-hop acts in the business.

Everyone knows that the LL in LL Cool J stands for ladies love — and he again proved why the ladies, and the men, love LL Cool J as he performed hit after hit — reaching back to the 1980s that had fans rapping right along with him. If it ain’t broke, you ain’t gotta fix it. And that proved so true in LL’s second JITG performance, as he brought the house down to close out the music festival.

But before that, Esperanza Spaulding, a composer, bassist and vocalist who brilliantly marries genres and pushes boundaries — stunned, for lack of a better word.

And you have to bring the gospel when there’s a Sunday performance, and Smokie Norful took the audience to church during his performance. Even though other artists throughout the day paid their dues to a little gospel offering on the Lord’s day.

Not to be forgotten, this year most of the background performers and musicians emerged into the foreground — they were that good, and whichever artist they performed with ensured that they got their due. As much as I enjoyed the main artists, I enjoyed their supporting vocalists and musicians just as much.

Even though JITG showcased a number of return acts, they once again proved to be crowd pleasers and helped to make the event the success that it has become. Looking forward to seeing who will be in next year’s lineup.


The Nassau Guardian