Great Music, Ocean Breezes, Palm Trees, It Must Be The GroundUP Music Festival Again

Snarky Puppy performing at the opening night of the GroundUP Music Festival at the North Beach Bandshell. Photo courtesy Ground Up Music.

The fourth annual edition of the GroundUP Music Festival, held at the North Beach Bandshell over the Valentine Day´s weekend, was a smartly curated showcase for creative music (borderlines between genres were simply ignored) playing out in a beautiful setting and a low-key atmosphere. It’s a combination that’s hard to beat.

Created and 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, the festival reflects some of the group’s musical curiosity and aesthetics and also suggests a collaborative spirit at work that feels at once ambitious and down-to-earth. (The event is presented in conjunction with the local Rhythm Foundation, which manages the Bandshell)

Obviously, the performances are the attraction and the anchor of the GroundUP Music Festival. But outdoor music events are cultural contraptions, as much musical feasts as they are social gatherings and businesses. They have many moving parts which, because of their different purposes, often do not fit right. Here, they do.

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Cecile McLorin Salvant Comes Home at the Ground Up Music Festival in North Beach

The inimitable Cecile McLorin Salvant with pianist Sullivan Fortner turning the Bandshell in North Beach into a small, open-air club at the Ground Up Music Festival Sunday afternoon. Not many singers would have dared to try.
“I’m not sure if it was daring or just crazy,” she said later, breaking into a laugh as she walked out the festival grounds, later in the day.
A Miami-native (her mom was in attendance, she noted from the stage) McLorin Salvant sounded completely at ease, engaging and good-humored when introducing the songs but also seemingly fearless with her on-the-spot repertoire choices and in her singing.
She had the afternoon crowd mesmerized and by the end of the set, singing along.

Hats off to Fortner, a sensitive and enormously resourceful accompanist who both followed and pushed her, always providing a safety net. The addition of saxophonist Chris Potter for a couple of songs (including a sly version of “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was”) was just the proverbial cherry on top in a performance that probably earned McLorin Salvant a good number of new followers.


From left to right, Sullivan Fortner, piano; Cecile McLorin Salvant, and Chris Potter, sax, Sunday at the Ground Up Music Festival in North Miami Beach

Back To School for Maria Schneider — This Time, to Lead

Maria Schneider conducting the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra, featuring guest Donny McCaslin saxophone, at Gusman Hall, University of Miami. Photo by Jenny Abreu

The concert debut of composer, arranger, and conductor Maria Schneider as Artistic Director of the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music Henry Mancini Institute on January 25 was as much a musical event as a statement of purpose.

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