MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (FNN News) – Sun Life Stadium saw 70,000+ attendees on its grounds Saturday and Sunday—despite the rainfall—for the 11th annual Jazz in the Gardens (JITG11). Saturday’s lineup included local artists CriStyle Renae, Ronnie VOP, and April Raquel & The Kouture Funk Band; Jazz in the Gardens All-Stars Najee, Regina Belle, and Alex Bugnon; Average White Band; Michael McDonald; Kool & The Gang; and the explosive closing show by Charlie Wilson. Sunday’s lineup featured South Florida’s own LaVie, followed by Fred Hammond, Brian Culbertson, Janelle Monae, Babyface, and Usher’s thrilling finale. The two-night festival was hosted by Rickey Smiley, a veteran in his own right. The JITG11 artists have consistent careers spanning two decades or more, and some, like Charlie Wilson, have made massive comebacks, making fans in a new generation. They shared the keys to their long-lasting success at JITG. “The key is to not let anything stop you,” Babyface told FNN News of his experience. “If you come up on roadblocks, find a way to work around them, but keep pushing forward.”
Additionally, artists like Kool & The Gang and the Jazz in the Gardens All Stars learned firsthand that the key to staying power is remaining relevant. When asked of their biggest challenge in this current age of music, Najee, Belle, and Bugnon all agreed on one: technology. “Technology is always changing,” Belle told FNN News. “I miss the days of being in the record shops…and doing signings. We would interact with the fans more. Now, anybody can download a song—and they usually download one song [at a time].”
Keeping up with and working with younger artists, as well as staying young themselves, are equally important. Kool & The Gang told FNN News that their biggest musical influences today include Kendrick Lamar and fellow JITG11 performer Janelle Monae (above). On staying young, the artists keep health first. Charlie Wilson shared that he works out regularly. Babyface said, smiling, “I drink my green drink every day…and I stay away from the salty foods, ‘cause salty foods aren’t good to black people.” He showcased his youthfulness on stage during the performance of his final song, Boy II Men hit “End of the Road,” unbuttoning his shirt and walking the audience, raising the pulse of every woman in attendance.
Jazz in the Gardens was a blast for the multi-generational artists, who enjoy pouring into the fans. For Babyface, an additional joy was watching his protege, Usher, close out Sunday’s show—in fact, he requested his press conference be quick so that he could leave before Usher graced the stage. Fred Hammond gushed that he loves Miami Gardens, and would in fact soon return for a gospel concert in April; and Charlie Wilson (above), who performed at JITG two years ago, had gotten the itch to perform and was glad to step in when he received the call last week to perform in Aretha Franklin’s absence. As for the fans, all 70,000+ were all too happy to have them.
Jamaica-born author and freelance journalist Mellissa Thomas is a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with degrees in Entertainment Business and Film. She helps CEOs and executives, advisors, coaches, consultants, and speakers double their income and clinch the credibility they deserve by walking them step by step through the process of developing, completing, marketing, and publishing their first book.