The concert on Saturday opened up with some home-cooking, Miami’s own Jesse Jones, Jr. Jones who is considered to be a legend in his own right maneuver through a repertoire of musical tracks which could only be described as intricate, soul-searching and sometimes riveting. Jazzy, Jr. as Jesse is affectionately called put together an ensemble of rhythm and sounds with his saxophone and his signature "scatting" which had the crowd showing him some love.
Haitian born trumpet player, Jean Caze was the next artist to hit the stage. The winner of the 2006 International Trumpet Guild Competition did more than just hold his own on a stage where legends were to follow him that night. Caze could be easy well be considered as a veteran even though he is only 25 years old. His lyrical tones and taste blend of music was showcased on Saturday evening. Jean definitely hit it out of the park, Florida Marlins style.
Swedish, born and raised, singing sensation Elin (pronounced EE-a-Leen) followed the smooth sounds and enchanted performance of Jean Caze. She was electrifying as she was talented, she performed music inspired by her Peruvian roots and incorporated a Brazilian, Latin and contemporary jazz sound. Let’s just say that she was a little samba and a whole lot of Basia performing music from her latest CD entitled Lazy Afternoon. Elin’s stock has risen even more after her performance at Jazz In The Garden.
Hidden Beach recording artist Mike Phillips woke up the over ten thousand patrons when he took the stage in Miami Gardens, Florida. The confident young saxophone player was all about hip hop, funk and contemporary jazz, as he blew that sax like a veteran with years under his belt. He played a mixture of songs from his two albums and some of his favorites from others. After his set, Mike and I spoke about his trip to South Africa, where he performed with Steve Wonder and Michael Jackson for Nelson Mandela’s birthday party. A jazz musician with a great sense of humor is quite different from, what I have seen and heard from jazz musicians, they are normally eccentric, quite and soft spoken. But Mike, who seemed very outgoing and free spirited, chopped it up with the members of the press. He said that he was excited to perform at Jazz In The Gardens, and hope to be back next year. As the release of his third album MP3 approaches, Mike continues to tour and showcase his music.
It was my first time seeing either George Duke or Stanley Clarke perform, so to be able to see them perform together was more than a treat. The performance was electrifying, Clarke was mean on the guitar, and his solos were definitely a signature to his performance. George Duke was equally complementary, he played several of hits, but the old school medley paying tribute to funk, was the highlight of his performance for me. George said that his love for the music keeps him coming back to make good music year after year. He said that Johnny Guitar Watson was of his influences. George said that he is currently in studio working with Diane Reeves, Shante Moore and Tower of Power on their new album. He said that he is also working on a new album of his own. As a musician, he said that the Internet has given him great exposure as a musician. Duke said that kids, who are learning to arrange music, should learn to play instruments instead of just using the computer to just push a bottom.
Stanley Clarke, who is considered to one of the most talented jazz musician alive, gave a stellar performance at the Jazz In The Garden. Appearing with George Duke, there could be no bigger reward for the jazz fan, as they gave a high energy performance. The crowd was literally up their feet cheering. Stanley said that he blames his mother who was a fine artist, for taking him to museums and galleries, and introducing to different sounds. Clarke, who has done music for over 50 films, says his latest project - First Sunday starring Kat Williams, Tracy Morgan and Ice Cube was a lot of fun, because he has a lot of respect for the young comedians. His advice to young musicians is work hard to hone their skills and to be disciplined from the start. He said that bass player Charlie Mingus was a great influence on his life. Clarke said that he would sit for hours talking about philosophy and music with Mingus.
After Duke and Clarke, the night belonged to the man they call the Greatest George Benson. There was no stopping him on Broadway, as he hit the stage running. His mean guitar, just strummed off hit after hit. It was Love Times Love, Turn Your Love Around, Kisses in the Moonlight, as the crowd stood together for this up-tempo, finger-clicking performance. There was no time to waste, no ad-libbing, no talking to the crowd, Benson allowed his vocals and guitar to for the talking. In short, George’s set was to the point, he was confident; the music was priceless and vintage. Jazz In The Garden rocked with Benson.