The first "destination" jazz festival took place in Newport, R.I., in 1954 — multiple days, one stage and gorgeous scenery. These days, Newport is going strong, as is Monterey in California, and the festival model has expanded to multiple stages and far beyond big-brimmed hats and lawn chairs.
Still, Snarky Puppy leader Michael League saw a void and an opportunity. After years of performing at festivals around the world, the 34-year-old bassist founded the GroundUP Music Festival in order to bring musicians and fans together in an intimate setting: the beach. Miami Beach, to be exact.
At GroundUP, "the line between stage and audiences doesn't really exist," says musician Magda Giannikou, who led a massive drum and vocal session on the sand. "It's a very interactive and creative festival. It feels like spending three days with your family."
Jazz Night in America takes you to the GroundUP Music Festival, practically plopping you on South Beach for an hour of exploration. We'll get a taste of League's vision for music festivals: healthy local food, a cap of 2,000 tickets sold per day, and no overlapping sets. Our show is a sampler of sorts, featuring banjo adventurist Bela Fleck; a new quartet led by Snarky Puppy trumpeter Jay Jennings and saxophonist Bob Reynolds; some solo work by Snarky keyboardist Bill Laurance; and a funky, one-time meeting of League, saxophonist Joshua Redman, guitarist Lionel Loueke and drummer Larnell Lewis.