'Jazz Roots' Celebrates 10 Years

George Benson, Tribute To Ella Part Of the Lineup

Michelle F. Solomon, ATCA, FFCC

(Each week, throughout the month of August, will spotlight the upcoming seasons of performing arts organizations throughout South Florida.)

When legendary music producer/entrepreneur Larry Rosen founded the Jazz Roots series in 2008, Miami jazz aficionados knew they'd be in for a treat. Rosen was connected in the jazz world, so the lineups would no doubt show some of that moxy.

When he passed away in 2015, there wasn't a question that the Roots series would continue its momentum, and it has. Looking at the 10th year's upcoming season, Rosen would be proud.

From tributes to great singers to up and comers to jazz legends, this will be yet another season to be remembered.

According to Liz Wallace, vice president, programming of the Arsht Center, 80,000 guests have seen a Jazz Roots show in the last decade, and more than 8,000 students have been part of the educational series that Rosen and the Arsht created as an integral mission of the series.

“The Arsht Center, as the home of the 'Jazz Roots' series, has added to the vibrant musical scene in Miami,” said Liz Wallace, vice president, programming of the Arsht Center. Artistic advisor Dean Shelly Berg continues Rosen's legacy as artistic advisor for the series.

The concert lineup for the JAZZ ROOTS 2017-2018 six-concert season in the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall is as follows:


Direct from the Apollo Theater

Friday, Nov. 3, 2017 at 8 p.m.

John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall

The 10th anniversary season kicks off with a star-studded tribute celebrating the centennial of the Queen of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald, with a special blockbuster concert. Featuring the Frost School of Music’s Henry Mancini Jazz Orchestra and an all-star line-up, this engagement will honor the career of the “First Lady of Song.”




Friday Dec. 15, 2017 at 8 p.m.

John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall

Ring n the holiday season with the Arsht Center debut of one of the most innovative and uplifting bands on the scene today. The program will feature the unique genre-blending sounds Batiste and Stay Human call “social music” as well as holiday favorites. With his soulful voice, virtuosic piano chops and signature “harmonaboard” (a combination of harmonica and keyboard), Batiste has ignited the music scene. The Forbes “30 under 30” honoree balances a demanding performance schedule – which often includes his signature, impromptu ‘love riot’ street parades – with his role as bandleader with The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Artistic Director at Large of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, public speaking engagements, master classes and occasional acting gigs. He played himself on the HBO series Treme and most recently appeared in director Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer.




Friday, Jan. 12, 2018 at 8 p.m.

John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall

Showcasing the extraordinary talents of two generations spanning six decades, the reigning king of jazz piano,  Ramsey Lewis and his quartet, will be joined by 13-year-old jazz piano prodigy, Joey Alexander,  and his trio. An iconic leader in the contemporary jazz movement for over 50 years, Lewis has had a prolific career recording over 80 albums since his debut release, Ramsey Lewis & His Gentlemen of Jazz, back in 1956. He successfully crossed over to the pop and R&B charts with hits such as “The ‘In’ Crowd,” “Wade in the Water,” and “Hang on Sloopy,” with his unforgettable trademark sound – funky, soulful jazz.

At just 13 years old, Alexander has already earned two Grammy Award nominations for his debut album, My Favorite Things. He is a master of improvisation with a deft touch and adventurous spirit that belies his age. “Joey is a little genius…playing with emotional depth like that of above a young adult.” - Wynton Marsalis




Jake Shimabukuro, special guest

Friday, Feb. 16, 2018 at 8 p.m.

John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall

Simply one of the greatest artists in jazz history, 10-time GRAMMY winner and NEA Jazz Master Benson is an amazingly versatile musician, whose adept skills find him crossing easily between straight-ahead jazz, smooth jazz, and contemporary R&B. At various points along the five-decade continuum of his storied career, he has been heralded as a jazz guitarist of unparalleled chops, a vocalist with great emotional range and sophistication or a combination of both. However, he regards himself as an entertainer in the broadest sense of the word – a singer of songs, a spinner of tales.

The evening will begin with Shimabukuro, who has become one of the most exceptional and innovative uke players in the history of the instrument—an artist who has drawn comparisons to musical titans such as Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis.  He has collaborated with artists from Yo-Yo Ma, Jimmy Buffett, Jack Johnson and Cyndi Lauper to Ziggy Marley, Dave Koz, Lyle Lovett and Bette Midler, and wowed audiences at SXSW, Bonnaroo, the Playboy Jazz Festival, and the cutting-edge TED conference.




Friday, March 2, 2018 at 8 p.m.

John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall

An artist whose music is at once timeless yet utterly of its time, Porter  solidifies his standing as his generation’s most soulful jazz singer-songwriter with Take Me to the Alley, winner of the 2017 Grammy Award for Jazz Vocal Album of the Year and the much-anticipated follow-upto his sensational 2013 Blue Note debut Liquid Spirit. Porter has time and again demonstrated an innate ability to transcend genre and connect with audiences from all walks of life, and his new music reflects the singer’s continued and mindful growth as an artist and as a person amidst the constant touring demands that have resulted from tremendous international success.

Liquid Spirit followed the critically acclaimed and Grammy-nominated albums Water (2010) and Be Good (2012) and quickly grew into a global phenomenon, selling one million albums worldwide and becoming the most streamed jazz album of all time with over 20 million streams. The album has sold Platinum in the U.K. and Germany, and Gold in France, The Netherlands, and Austria. In the U.S., Porter made his first-ever national TV appearances on “The TonightShow” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” while both ESQUIRE and NPR Music declared him “America’s next great jazz singer.”




Friday, April 20, 2018 at 8 p.m.

John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall

Cuban pianist, composer and arranger Valdes  is the most influential figure in modern Afro-Cuban jazz. Winner of six Grammy and three Latin GrammyAwards, the giant of Cuban piano makes a rare Miami appearance with his very special project, IRAKERE 45, in honor of the legendary group Irakere, for which he was the director, pianist, main composer and arranger for more than 30 years. Joined by his band of top young Cuban musicians, Valdés will revisit and reinterpret the music of the legendary group in conjunction with its 45th anniversary.

Launched in 1973, Irakere created an extraordinary body of work that includes seminal hits of Cuban popular dance music and Afro-Cuban jazz in many forms. Tribute to Irakere: Live at Marciac, a celebration of 40 years of Irakere, won a Grammy as the Best Latin Jazz Album of 2016. Since 2005, he has focused on his personal career, highlighting his work as a pianist and leading small ensembles. His 2014 recording, Border-Free, finds Chucho at the top of his game, leading his Afro-Cuban Messengers, a spectacular quintet comprising yet another generation of young brilliant Cuban musicians, in a search that transcends styles and traditions.


JAZZ ROOTS 2017-2018 series subscriptions, which include tickets to all six performances, are on sale to the public beginning June 21 at 12 p.m. with seating priority given to renewing subscribers. Subscribers can save up to 25% with six-show packages ranging in price from $232-$760*.

Subscriptions can be purchased through the Adrienne Arsht Center Box Office at 1300 Biscayne Blvd., by calling (305) 949-6722, or online at Single tickets, if available after the subscription campaign ends, will go on sale later this summer.

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