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The fourth annual edition of the GroundUP Music Festival, which took place at the North Beach Bandshell in Miami Beach over a three-day weekend in mid-February, was a smartly curated showcase of creative music in a beautiful setting and a relaxed, low-key atmosphere.
The festival was created and is produced by Paul Lehr, CEO of GroundUP Music, Snarky Puppy’s artist-run label, and bassist, composer and Snarky Puppy instigator Michael League, who is also the festival’s artistic director.
This year’s highlights included singer and songwriter Michael McDonald, who revisited old hits, proving again that with his voice, the telling is the story; drummer Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band, which offered a master class in musical storytelling and ensemble playing; and singer Cécile McLorin Salvant, who daringly performed a quirky club set in an open-air venue, accompanied solely by pianist Sullivan Fortner.
Other notables included saxophonist Chris Potter, the festival’s artist-at-large, who over the weekend sat in with several acts, including McDonald and McLorin Salvant; trumpeter Christian Scott aAtunde Adjuah, who offered a muscular set of ideas for “the second century of jazz,” as he put it; and Brazilian mandolinist Hamilton de Holanda, who made astonishing appearances leading his own quartet and also sitting in with Snarky Puppy. The all-female mariachi group Flor de Toloache, offered a delightful performance that was warm and entertaining. As in previous editions of the festival, Snarky Puppy played host, performing at the bandshell every day and closing the event on Sunday evening.
Outdoor music festivals are a combination of cultural feast, social event and businesses. At the GroundUP Music Festival, those many parts move beautifully as one. —Fernando Gonzalez