Five Unmissable Acts at Jazz in the Gardens 2017

Esperanza Spalding
Esperanza Spalding
Photo by Holly Andres
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Five acts you won't want to miss at Jazz in the Gardens.

For the past decade, music lovers from all over South Florida have gathered for Jazz in the Gardens in Miami Gardens. As the fastest-growing jazz and R&B festival in America, the event curates a mix of artists who embody soul music, with plenty of new acts to provide a bit of flavor for the younger crowd. This year's stacked lineup includes some of the world's most sought-after musicians. You'll want to plan your weekend around these artists.

LL Cool J. He might not be the first person on your mind when it comes to jazz, but LL Cool J's jazz-inspired production promises to leave an impression at this year's fest. The hip-hop mogul has rocked stages since his debut studio album, 1985's Radio, giving rap a true voice. LL's latest project, 2013's Authentic, wasn't a crowd favorite, but that doesn't mean his stage show won't be up to par. You know you want him to throw it back to singles like "Mama Said Knock You Out," "Headsprung," and "Luv U Better."

Jill Scott. If there's one thing you can say about Jill Scott, it's this: Her voice fills a room. Scott embodies soul music, and it's almost guaranteed she will leave the Jazz in the Gardens audience speechless. But don't take our word for it; just ask Barack Obama, for whom she performed at the White House, where she swept her audience off their feet via a mix of R&B, soul, spoken word, hip-hop, and jazz. Although the three-time Grammy-winning artist hasn't released a new project since 2011, she will likely revisit her older hits, including "Gettin' in the Way," "Golden," and "So in Love." The songstress' latest project is set to be released in July, so if you're lucky, you might hear an unreleased track or two.

Esperanza Spalding. When Esperanza Spalding snatched the Best New Artist award from Justin Bieber and Drake at the Grammys in 2011, it was clear she would become a star. The jazz artist grew up a musical prodigy, learning to play the violin at age 5 and later taking up the double bass and electric bass. The bass is now a signature instrument in her performance, adding to her unforgettable stage presence. Last year, Spalding released her fifth studio album, Emily's D+Evolution, allowing fans to see another side of her. The rock- and soul-infused album sounds like Prince and Janelle Monáe had a musical love child. That alone is worth the price of admission.

Robin Thicke. He might be better known these days for his messy split from ex-wife Paula Patton, but don't let that drama overshadow Robin Thicke's musical talents. The singer, songwriter, and producer has contributed to the R&B and hip-hop scene through collaborations with T.I., Pharrell, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson, Kid Cudi, and many others. Besides, Thicke's own hits — "Blurred Lines," "Lost Without U," and "Sex Therapy" — are a true fan's dream to see live. And because he has new music on the way, you can hope for unreleased songs performed during his set.

The Roots. Between their New Year's Eve gig at the Arsht Center and their collaboration with Usher at the Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival, the Roots have seen a lot of South Florida lately. And no one is complaining. The band takes an eclectic approach to hip-hop that generates an unmatchable sound. That's what earned the Roots house-band status on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and why superstars such as Pharrell partner with the group. At Jazz in the Gardens, expect to hear tracks from the Roots' 2014 album, ...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, and maybe the guys will offer a glimpse of their latest project, set to drop this year.

Jazz in the Gardens
With Jill Scott, Common, LL Cool J, and others. 4 p.m. Saturday, March 18, and Sunday, March 19, at Hard Rock Stadium, 347 Don Shula Dr., Miami Gardens; 305-943-8000; hardrockstadium.com. Tickets cost $96 to $222 via jazzinthegardens.com.

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