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Charlie Wilson, Najee and Babyface set to perform at Jazz in the Gardens

caines | 3/14/2013, 5:30 a.m.

All roads lead to Miami Gardens this weekend when the 8th Annual Jazz in the Gardens returns with a star-studded line up that includes Charlie Wilson, Najee, Rachelle Ferrell, Earth Wind & Fire, local a cappella sensation Unselfish and a whole lot more. The venue will once again be Sun Life Stadium and the two-day event [March 16,17] kicks off on Saturday and Sunday at 4 p.m. Since its inception, the weekend has become one of the most anticipated music festivals in the country. Last year, ticket sales exceeded 48,000 and Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert believes the crowds will be even larger this year. We are very proud of the efforts that have gone into preparing for this years festival, he said. Its wonderful to have an event that brings so many people to Miami Gardens where they can come together to enjoy good music and to help stimulate our local economy. At its core its a weekend of great entertainment.

Festival has an old skool flair

Charlie Wilson, former lead singer for The Gap Band, brought his love train to the Gardens several years ago and was high energy from start to finish with gorgeous, talented dancers. He returns this year on Saturday evening to showcase his new CD, Love, Charlie, which hit the Billboard chart at # 1 and is still holding the top slot. Its incredible and Im having a really good time, he said. Im going to sing all of my hits thats for sure And the crowd is always amazing. Im the only old school act in most line-ups these days with new music and that feels great too. I guess Im the leader today because I understand R&B music. Saxophonist and flautist Najee also returns for an encore, bringing his instrumental wizardry for lovers of jazz. He first gained national attention in 1986 with his Najees Theme and hasnt looked back since. Hell perform cuts from his latest CD, The Smooth Side of Soul, and other hits. I grew up listening to the music of Coltrane, Grover Washington, Hubert Laws and Charlie Parker, he said. Theres always an audience that wants to hear instruments speak so even while the market may fluctuate, jazz in one form or another is here to stay.

Unselfish: Young, gifted and Black brothers

Get to the festival early on Saturday for a group called Unselfish four young men from Miami who are sure to set the tone for a great day. The group, which is comprised of Antwan Jackson, Anthony Frazier, Brandon Jackson and Kevin Taylor, describe themselves as singers/dancers and perform a cappella, four-part harmony. They were chosen from among 200 entries after 99JAMZ held an open competition on WEDR.com. The listeners made their choice, said WEDR-FM program director Derrick Baker, and it was unanimous. We are excited to see these young men perform and expect to see Unselfish headline this event in the next few years. Baker added. These kids have something special. [Look for our full-length interview with Miamis own Unselfish in next weeks edition]. The festival will also include a Womens Impact Conference and Luncheon on Friday and plenty of ethnically diverse foods and merchandise for sale. United Teachers of Dade [UTD] will be among the vendors for the first time, with an interactive booth on-site and with their members greeting the community including newly-elected UTD President Federick Ingram. For more information go to www.jazzinthegardens.com. Malika Wright contributed to this story.By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com