The African Heritage Cultural Arts Center (AHCAC) held its sixth annual Sankofa Jazz Festival on Saturday, April 3, at 6161 NW 22nd Ave. in Liberty City.
Hosted by Hot 105’s Rodney Baltimore, this year's outdoor concert celebrated the legacy of one of Miami’s own – legendary jazz musician and composer Melton Mustafa Sr. The center's concert hall also was renamed in his honor in a private ceremony.
Mustafa studied at Boston’s Berklee College of Music and Mississippi Valley State College before earning a degree in music education at Florida A&M University. In the late 1960s, he worked in backing bands of soul musicians such as Sam & Dave, Betty Wright, Latimore, The Marvelettes and Joe Simon. He eventually became active in Miami’s jazz scene and joined Ira Sullivan's band.
In the early 1980s, Mustafa played in Florida in Jaco Pastorius' Word of Mouth Band, and in 1986 he began performing with the Count Basie Orchestra. He also worked with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, among many others. In 1995, Mustafa recorded the big band album “Boiling Point” under his own name, followed by “St. Louis Blues” in 1997. He also recorded with Eric Allison (“Mean Streets Beat,” 1996) and his brother, saxophonist Jesse Jones Jr. (“Soul Serenade,” 1996). His last album, “The Travelling Man,” was recorded in 2012. As a teacher, Mustafa founded the program for jazz studies at Florida Memorial University and held the annual Melton Mustafa Jazz Festival in the 1990s as a fundraiser for college and high school jazz students.
This year's “Sankofa Jazz Fest” lineup included Mustafa’s brother, Jones; Chris Walker, most well-known for being Al Jarreau’s longtime musical director, co-vocalist and bassist; jazz vocalist Nikki Kidd; and singer Cachita Lopez.