There was music for every appetite over this past weekend. While downtown was the neon scene for Ultra Music Festival, Sun Life Stadium offered a change of pace with the 11th edition of Jazz in the Gardens. The Miami Gardens festival offered food alongside jazz, gospel, funk, rock, and R&B. A few weeks ago, we caught up with City of Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert, and he told us how Jazz in the Gardens has grown from something very small and primarily just for locals to something massive, with more than 70,000 fans from around Florida and the world.
Despite a late and questionable cancellation from Aretha Franklin – the festival owned, operated, and supported by the City of Miami Gardens soldiered on. Thanks to Charlie Wilson, Janelle Monáe, Kool & the Gang, Babyface, Brian Culbertson, and Usher, the 11th-annual Jazz in the Gardens was two days of good vibes, delicious food, and incredible live music.
On day one, there was Charlie Wilson’s two-hour set (which featured four wardrobe changes). He capped the evening at 2 a.m. Around 1:45 in the morning, fans were still chanting, “Charlie! Charlie!” and it seemed unlikely he would ever stop. The moving and raspy voice of Michael McDonald (not the MMA fighter, in case you were wondering) had toes a tappin’ all over Sun Life Stadium with classics like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Kool & the Gang’s grand finale, which consisted of “Ladies' Night,” "Get Down on It,” and “Celebrate,” was truly incredible — the live version of “Celebrate” is so much better than the one we almost exclusively hear from cheesy wedding DJs.
On day two, Brian Culbertson’s keyboard solo was arguably the highlight of the weekend. He played backward, reverse, standard, missionary, and doggy style – it was brilliant. Janelle Monáe’s energetic set started with heavy metal, and, surprisingly, worked. She also covered James Brown and the Jackson 5 and shared a stronger message. “I wear black and white to pay respect to all races, and if you believe women should be paid as much as men, make some noise!” The ladies roared.
Babyface strolled through various hits — some of which he wrote and produced for other artists — from Bobby Brown’s “Rock Wit'cha” to Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road.” It proved to be a stellar trip down R&B's memory lane. Even Usher couldn’t resist joining Babyface, as the two joined onstage for a quick cameo.
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The final set of the weekend was Usher. He played one of those sets consisting of endless hits, which led us to realize just how many hits Usher actually has. It's a lot — trust us.
He played nearly all of them: "
While Ultra might have gotten all of the attention, they didn't care over in the Gardens. They did just fine without EDM.