The 3rd Annual Jazz in the Gardens

An impressive line up of music greats took over Jazz in the Gardens, popular South Florida festival held in Miami Gardens, Florida March 15th and 16th. The bill wooed a mixed crowd of nearly 15, 000 jazz enthusiasts, contemporary R&B fans, as well as those anxious to dance to Caribbean rhythms. This years line up included The Ojays, Chaka Khan, Wyclef Jean, Nancy Wilson, George Benson, Stanley Clarke, George Duke, KEM, Algebra, Chrisette Michele, Mike Phillips, Anthony David and Elin, among many other special guests.

This premiere festival was presented by the city of Miami Gardens and produced by K. Leon Saunders and Reje Showers of Concertz Event Productions. Beyond sharing a sincere passion for quality Jazz performances, the two producers strived to deliver an authentic feeling reminiscent of the Woodstock and Playboy Jazz Era. The more-than-classy affair was perfectly constructed and infused with professionalism from start to finish. The consistent sets, dynamic audio visuals and ample seating provided Mayor Shirley Gibson with the perfect atmosphere to confidently announce to an adoring crowd, "We do everything first class in Miami Gardens!"

Outdoor elegance rich with colorful décor, art deco furnishings and of course, a posh life size garden
fittingly illustrated the idyllic vibes that flowed through the festival. In tow with the performers, a host of guest artists, media personalities and political figures dropped in. At any given time during the festival, one could see the likes of Tom Joyner, Tavis Smiley, Michael Basden, Congressman Kendrick Meek, Betty Wright, and Marcus Johnson comfortably mingling with the crowd.

George Benson followed George Duke and Stanley Clark, entering the stage to a warm welcome from the audience capturing the attention of the crowd with his repertoire of hits including "Turn Your Love Around, " "On Broadway, " and "Give Me The Night". Benson's set was infused with the sounds of his wildly popular electric guitar.

The one and only Chaka Khan was also a crowd pleaser. Her un-withered voice resonated through the crowd, as she belted out favorites "Ain't Nobody, " "Stay, " "Tell Me Something Good, " and "Sweet Thing, " among others. Chaka Khan closed her intense set with the powerful anthem "Every Woman." Needless to say, she had the audience in frenzy.

Finally, Wyclef Jean closed out day one with a larger-than-life performance. Not only did Wyclef belt hits from the stage, he joined fans in the audience which sparked an all-out party. Wyclef eased his way in with "911" and "Gone to November." But it was his melodic ode to Senator Barack Obama followed by a climactic performance of songs from his "Welcome to the Carnival" album that united the crowd and ignited thousands to dance into a collective sweat.

Day two was equally spectacular, introducing artists Chrisette Michelle, Algebra and Anthony David. The youngsters, new to the adult contemporary scene, delivered knock-out performances singing songs from their debut albums. The younger set paved the way for the smooth sounds of platinum recording artist Kem.

The legendary Nancy Wilson regally took center stage. The audience beamed as the jazz great sang "Take It Easy, " "These Golden Years" and "How Long". Flawlessly delivering over 56 years of classics, Ms.Wilson's performance was genuinely heartfelt moving the crowd emotionally as she humbly shared with the audience her concern about her husband's illness.

The mighty O'Jays closed out Jazz in the Gardens with a top notch performance. The crowd danced and belted out lyrics verbatim, while the O'Jays laced the venue with countless hits. From ballads like "Stairway to Heaven", "We Cried Together", "Wildflower" and "Let Me Make Love to You" to mid-tempo favorites like "Backstabbers", "I Love Music" and "For the Love of Money", the O'Jays left no stone unturned.

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