By Rhonda Swan
Kenny G has what Nicole Henry wants and what Ledisi has finally gotten to taste.
Commercial success in the music industry.
The beauty of this year’s Jazz in the Gardens music festival is that music fans will get to experience them all.
The seventh annual event at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens will feature legends such as the Grammy Award-winning saxophonist who’s been topping the charts since the 1980s, the jazz vocalist searching for her first major record deal and the R&B songtress whose name recognition grows with each single released.
Kenny G, known for his R&B, pop and Latin influenced contemporary jazz solos, partly attributes his longevity to the fact that there were so few instrumentalists when he began his career that he was able to stand out. “I grew up in a period when there weren’t that many artists out there and if you stayed in there and kept quality music coming you became more of staple rather than coming and going quickly,” he said. “Today there’s so many new artists, that it’s hard to get that same focus.”
He will perform fan favorites, such as Songbird, Silhouette, and Forever in Love, along with a Christmas song and tunes from Heart and Soul, his 13th studio album and latest release.
“It will be a lot more energetic and fun than people would imagine based on listening to my CDs,” he said. “They’re usually pretty surprised at the power and the energy level that we have when we do our shows.”
Kenny G said there are many musicians now who do what he does, but he prefers listening to the older jazz greats that influenced him.
Nicole Henry also was inspired by the jazz of old. The former pop music singer settled in South Florida after attending the University of Miami. While performing on South Beach, she discovered jazz standards and found her voice and her purpose. “My purpose in life,” she said, “is to inspire people through music.” At this year’s Jazz in the Gardens, she will get to share that inspiration on the same stage as Patti LaBelle, Mary J. Blige, and Ramsey Lewis.
An independent artist who has released several CDs, Henry has been able to support herself singing jazz in countries across the world. Still, she would like to get that one big break that lands her a major record deal. “I would love to get signed by someone,” she said. “It’s strenuous to be the artist, the manager and the business owner. It takes a lot out of you.”
Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Ledisi knows firsthand the struggle of trying to make it in the music business. She had all but given up hope on getting a record deal after going broke on two independent CDs. With no money to pay her mortgage or car note she moved to New York and slept on a friend’s couch. Then Chaka Khan needed an opening act and the rest is history.
“I’ve been at the bottom so there was nowhere else to go but up,” she said. “Now that I’m here this is like wow. It keeps getting better and better.”
Ledisi recently wrapped up her first tour as a headliner and is planning a second for later in the year. The Pieces of Me tour is named for the title track of her fifth album, which was nominated for Best R&B song.
She takes nothing about her success for granted and is grateful for the opportunity to perform at Jazz in the Gardens.
“I learned I had to humble myself and be grateful for every little thing,” she said. “God keeps blowing my mind. It’s about the journey and I don’t want to miss anything.”
For those who don’t want to miss out on some great music, check out jazzinthegardens.com.
JAZZ IN THE GARDENS
Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens
When: Saturday, March 17, and Sunday, March 18
Tickets: Available at TicketMaster
General admission advance purchase: $45 one day ticket, $75 two-day ticket. Day of show purchase at the gate: $57 one day ticket, $95 two-day ticket
Saturday, March 17
Doors open 3 p.m.
Jody Hill, 4 p.m.
Ike and Val, 4:30 p.m.
Ramsey Lewis, 5 p.m.
Doug E. Fresh, 6:15 p.m.
Ledisi, 7:30 p.m.
Kem, 9 p.m.
Jill Scott, 10:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 18
Doors open 3 p.m.
Sensere, 4 p.m.
Nicole Henry, 4:30 p.m.
Kevin Eubanks, 5 p.m.
Kenny G, 6:15 p.m.
Patti Labelle, 7:50 p.m.
Mary J. Blige, 9:20 p.m.