Making Bold Decisions

By Jules Dean | Photos: Brad Stevens

It was an intriguing decision to kick off the first full day of GroundUp with the most eclectic and high-energy act in this year’s lineup then cap it off with a late-night set from a trio of virtuoso bassists. Lucky for everyone in attendance, that bold decision served to bookend a day that delivered some big rewards and many pleasant surprises.

Louis Cole’s Huge Band kicked off Saturday on the main stage at GroundUp. The Huge Band was composed mostly of Snarky Puppy members with Genevieve Artardi, Fuensenta and Chiquita Magic taking the roles of the skeleton body-suited backup singers. Louis Cole’s ferocious drumming was dialed-in by the tight grooves and quirky yet memorable melodies provided by the Huge Band.

Following Louis Cole’s set, Entienne Charles and Creole Soul played on the park stage.  Entienne, currently a professor of Studio Music and Jazz at University of Miami’s Frost School of Music,  gave context into the development and inpiration for each tune (For example, writing a song with Jorge Glem on the Subway in NYC).  Some of his standouts from the set were “Continuum: A Tribute: and his version of “Stand by Me” in a timba clave style.

Back on the main stage, the collective of Joe, Sput, Casey and Dominique took the stage and gave a stellar Jazz Fusion performance.  Choosing to launch their set with Weather Report’s “Havona”, although not explicitly stated, felt like a hat tip to Jaco Pastorius given his native son status as well as setting the tone for the rest of the set. They followed that up with a homage to Bernard Wright, a revered mentor to a lot of the performers at the festival, by covering his song “Music is the Key”. They filled out the rest of the set with a lot of funky improvisations that kept the crowd energized.

In a respite from the more intense performances earlier in the day, Chantae Cann created a restorative vibe on the Park Stage through her artistry rooted in jazz, soul and gospel.  One of the standouts was her soulful take on Nina Simone’s “A New Day” which has the audience singing along.

As evening rolled in, Snarky Puppy started their performance on the Main stage.  Their set mostly consisted of songs from Empire Central with a few older tunes from their album 17 (“Flood”) and the song “Xavi” from Immigrance.  Near the end of the set, they brought out the Artist-at-Large for this year’s festival, Elena Pinderhughes, to join them on flute for Trinity.  Not to be outdone, on the final song “Pineapple”, Mike “Maz” Miller brought out an actual pineapple which was later thrown into the eager crowd a few moments later by fellow member Justin Stanton.

This years Late Night took place at Zey Zey, located in an emerging neighborhood in Miami known as Magic City. The night started out with the keyboard and drummer duo called TWYN who performed their brand of jazztronica that blended elements of hip-hop, funk and EDM.

One of the pleasant surprises of the night was the duo of Justin Stanton accompanying the vocalist (and his girlfriend) Gisela Joao.  The dimly lit indoor space created an intimate atmosphere for the explorations of their relationship through song.  Between each of the Portuguese folk tune, Gisela would provide ephemeral glimpses into the dynamics of their courtship.

Late Night closed out with Basstardos, a trio of three virtuoso bassists (Munir Hossn, Michael Pipoquinha, Hadrien Feraud). There was a lot of chemistry between the three as they traded off soloing, harmonic and melodic duties throughout the set. One of the standout moment was when they played a musical jenga with a looper (each would contribute a musical motif to the loop) which ended up as a motif for them to improvise over. It was quite an amazing feat of improve to cap off on another stellar edition of the GroundUp Music festival.

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