A glance at Jazz in the Gardens’ growth over its nine years brings to mind the famous ad slogan: You’ve come a long way, baby.
The festival’s modest beginnings in 2006, when it attracted a grand total of 2,500 people, couldn’t have foretold the success to come. Today, Jazz in the Gardens — which hits Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday, March 15 and Sunday, March 16 — is a major international draw, attracting multiple Grammy Award-winning artists and commanding mad respect within the industry.
Last year, the festival drew 63,000 fans on the strength of headlining acts Charlie Wilson, Babyface, Ne-Yo, New Edition, Fantasia and Earth, Wind & Fire.
This year, the star power reaches even higher, with rapper and Grammy host LL Cool J, Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx, bass legend Stanley Clarke, soul man Anthony Hamilton, Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland, R&B star Trey Songz, silky soul group Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, six-octave singer Rachelle Ferrell, R&B/funk group Mint Condition and sax man Boney James. And host D.L. Hughley adds a stand-up comic dimension, keeping fans in merry spirits in between all the musical chops.
R&B prince Songz is equally adept at drawing you in to his emotional world with a heartfelt ballad, or wowing you with clever wordplay and rapid-fire raps. Whether you’re nursing your wounds from romantic loss or getting ready to party at the club, he’s got the perfect song.
Songz – born Tremaine Neverson – has also found success collaborating with fellow hip-hop stars, including Rick Ross, T.I., Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj, among many others. He takes the stage Saturday night at Jazz in the Gardens in support of his fifth studio album, appropriately named “Chapter V.”
Songz talked about the show, his burgeoning acting career, and how he chose his stage name.
What attracted you to Jazz in the Gardens?
Miami is home for me, so any chance I get to perform in my city and for the people here, I try to make it happen. There's an amazing energy and so much excitement around Jazz in the Gardens that I couldn't pass up this opportunity.
Is there anyone else on the bill you’re really excited to see perform?
Jamie Foxx is a good friend of mine, and I know he's going to put on a hell of a show. And I'm always happy to see the beautiful Kelly Rowland. She has an amazing spirit and kills every performance.
As a hip-hop and R&B guy, will you tailor your set a little toward a jazzier side?
Jazz is a type of music that really paved the way for the growth of the genre of hip-hop and had a huge influence on soul music and R&B. I think a lot of the roots of the music I sing have been birthed from it. I love that the festival is supporting not just the classic definition of jazz that everyone associates with it, but also the evolution of it.
How much of “Chapter V” will we hear, and what else can we expect from your set?
Since “Chapter V” is my most recent album, I'll have quite a few songs from it on my set list, but it's not exclusive. I'll work in songs from my entire career as well as some surprises and glimpses into the new work that I'm doing. But I can't tell you everything yet - you have to come check me out.
You starred in “Texas Chainsaw 3D” – how did you enjoy the experience, and what’s next for you as an actor?
The experience with “Texas Chainsaw 3D” was amazing. It was my first feature movie, first time my name was near the top of the call sheet, almost a surreal experience. I got to be in “Baggage Claim” most recently, starring alongside Paula Patton, Boris Kodjoe, Derek Luke, and several other A-list actors, and it was great because it was a completely different genre than “Texas” was. I'm looking at a few scripts and trying to see what my next movie will be, but my focus as of late truly has been on recording.
How’d you come up with your stage name?
When I first began working with my longtime producer Troy Taylor, he had a CD for me full of songs to listen to and learn from. Songs from soul to rock and everything in between. On the CD, he wrote "Trey Songs" and I loved it and just changed it to a Z instead of an S. My mother didn't like it in the beginning, but I knew it was going to work.
What artist has had the most influence on you as a musician?
Marvin Gaye and R Kelly are two of the most influential and truly two of the best to ever do it. But also Jay-Z. Just the way that he rhymes and the way he can command a crowd is inspiring. I've learned a lot from him.