Thousands of music lovers descended upon historic Maymont Park in Richmond, Virginia for the 2023 Richmond Jazz And Music Festival on Saturday, August 12th and Sunday, August 13th. The annual festival, which got its start in 2010, made a triumphant return after three years of cancellations due to the pandemic. This year’s RJMF welcomed local acts, international talent, indies, majors, established artists and those on the come-up to perform on their two stages, and impressive performances were noted throughout the weekend across jazz, R&B, hip-hop and gospel.
Day 1 of the 2023 Richmond Jazz And Music Festival began with performances by some of RVA’s finest, Zhé Aqueen and Erin & The Wildfire, who got the crowd hyped up on the Virginia Is For Lovers Stage. The Hope Dealer MAJOR. was up next, and he won over the crowd almost instantly with his infectious personality and powerful vocals.
His heartfelt renditions of “Why I Love You,” “Even More” and “Baby Will You Love Me” combined with his unique blend of R&B, pop, gospel and even a little country left everyone entertained and wanting more. It was evident he wanted to spread love to those in attendance, and he accomplished that during his set.
Robert Glasper arrived on stage with his band and his usual calm, humble demeanor. The in-demand maestro stayed true to his style, sporting shades, jeans and a black statement tee as he took his seat in front of the keys.
He greeted the crowd and informed them he was dedicating his performance to one of his musical heroes, the living legend Herbie Hancock. Glasper then led his band on an extended jam session. In addition to performing songs from his iconic Black Radio projects, Robert and his talented crew changed things up a little bit as they laid down their version of the hip-hop classic “Stakes Is High” by De La Soul, which got the hip-hop heads in the audience going.
Over on the Dominion Energy Stage, Mario set the evening performances off. His set was slightly delayed, but once he stepped out, he and his band brought the energy that the crowd wanted and needed.
The Baltimore native who’s been at this since a teen showed that he still has the moves that helped make him famous. He started off dancing on an elevated platform at the back of the stage as he started his set with “Break Up.” He soon descended from the platform and made his way to the front of the stage where his adoring fans welcomed him with open arms. Mario kept up the energy throughout his performance as he belted out his hits, including the classic “Let Me Love You.”
R&B’s It-girl Coco Jones brought her soul, sass and sexy to the main stage. The multi-talented starlet has been outside practically all summer, embarking on her own tour and performing at multiple festivals. Her hard work is paying off and the 2023 RJMF crowd (many of whom were hearing of her for the first time) were not disappointed.- Advertisement -
Often flanked by two dancers, Coco performed songs from her acclaimed debut project What I Didn’t Tell You. She started off her set with “Crazy For Me” and “Caliber,” then broke folks off with her SWV “Rain”-sampling cut “Double Back.” She ended her jam-filled set with a soulful rendition of her instant classic “ICU” and left the stage with even more fans.
Given that hip-hop is celebrating its 50th anniversary, it was only fitting to include the genre in this year’s festival. RJFM made a solid choice by inviting one of the DMV’s finest, Wale. The audience gathered at the second stage was hungry for hip-hop, and he delivered with his DJ helping to set things off.- Advertisement -
Wale’s signature song “Lotus Flower Bomb” was a highlight of his set. He delivered his bars and near the end of the first verse, moved to the center of the stage and asked the crowd to sing the lyrics, and they gladly obliged. He kept the momentum going with “LoveHate Thing,” and the crowd reciprocated his energy throughout the entire set.
“Living legend” is a term reserved for just a few, and Chaka Khan most definitely fits that description. Festivalgoers of all ages were buzzing with anticipation for Chaka and her band to come on stage, and when she finally emerged – looking fabulous as always – the crowd lost it.- Advertisement -
Khan took everyone down memory lane with hit after hit. She started off her set with “This Is My Night” before belting out “Tell Me Something Good” (featuring guitarist Rob Bacon on the vocoder), “Everlasting Love,” “Whatcha Gonna Do For Me” and “Stay.”
Chaka also gave RJMF an unexpected treat as she briefly played the timbales before segueing into her upbeat jam “I Know You, I Live You.” Queen Khan closed things out with her anthems “I Feel For You,” “I’m Every Woman” and “Ain’t Nobody” giving us all a performance to remember and properly shutting down Day 1.- Advertisement -
Day 2 brought more homegrown talent to the 2023 Richmond Jazz And Music Festival’s stages with artists such as Jerel Crocket and Weekend Plans helping to kick the festivities off. There were some delays throughout the day, but that did not stop the crowd from keeping the positive vibes going and enjoying the music and the sunshine.
As she’s known to do, Lalah Hathaway showed up and showed out on the Dominion Energy Stage. She began her performance with her iconic “Heaven Knows” from her debut album. Her velvety smooth vocals resonated with the Sunday crowd as they grooved along with her.- Advertisement -
Due to a temporary technical issue, Lalah took the opportunity to deliver an impromptu, soul-stirring a cappella version of “A Song For You,” one of her father Donny Hathaway’s signature songs. She proceeded to give the crowd a taste of her latest single “The Energy” and followed with a beautiful cover of Anita Baker’s “Angel” and “Love, Love, Love” also by her dad before closing her set.
Chanté Moore graced the stage next and kept the momentum going with a passionate performance of her hits. She worked the stage like the seasoned pro she is and engaged the audience. She came out to the up-tempo track “Who Do I Turn To” from her 1992 debut album Precious. She followed up with her classic love song “Love’s Taken Over,” and the crowd sang every word with her.- Advertisement -
Moore slowed it down a bit with “Old School Lovin’” and other slow jams from her catalog. She closed things out by speaking to the crowd about the importance of finding a good relationship as a prelude to her anthem “Chanté’s Got A Man.” The crowd truly appreciated the tremendous effort she put out to entertain and connect with them.
At this point in the festival, it was time for the ladies to have their moment, and Joe was just the right person to take them there. The crooner and his band hit the stage and everyone went into a frenzy when it became evident it was showtime. The theme from Power played briefly before the vibe switched suddenly, and Joe made his way to center stage and sang “Stutter” from his 2000 album My Name Is Joe. The crowd was all in at this point and he kept it moving, stopping ever so often to wipe the sweat from his brow.- Advertisement -
Joe put his own spin on the Maze featuring Frankie Beverly classic “Before I Let Go” and followed that up with a few of his own classics, “Let’s Stay Home Tonight” and “Faded Pictures.” The crooner picked out a few lucky ladies at the front of the stage to sing to and the audience ate it up. Joe flipped it back to up-tempo with the certified banger “Still Not A Player,” which had people amped up for the rest of his set.
The final artist of the night and the festival was the incredibly talented Ledisi. As an advocate for women and female empowerment, she did her best to encourage all the ladies watching her to love themselves and demand more from their relationships. She started her set off with the uplifting song “Bravo” from her album Pieces Of Me and followed that with “Add To Me” from Let Love Rule.- Advertisement -
Ledisi then sang “Alright,” an anthem for so many to stay the course and keep moving forward. Toward the end of the song, she began to dance around the stage and told the crowd she was just trying to warm up. The crowd loved that and cheered her on. She kept it moving with her smash “Pieces Of Me” and got some crowd participation from people joining her to sing the word “woman” to show appreciation for all that women do for us. Ledisi delivered a strong, highly motivating performance that those in attendance won’t soon forget.
The 2023 Richmond Jazz And Music Festival ended as strongly as it began. When we first saw this year’s lineup, we knew it would be something special, and it surpassed all expectations. The pandemic might have stolen three years of RJMF from us, but this year more than made up for the loss.