Virgin Islands (Br.)
I have had some time to think about the Jazz events that took place in the British Virgin Islands at the end of the season of improvisation in May. Well, I usually give myself quite a while anyway to ponder, review footage and to sober up my initial impressions.
In mid-month, Virgin Gorda’s St. Mary’s School put on another edition of Jazz on the Hill. The ‘international acts‘ were received by me with a mix of euphoria and depression, to be honest. Then there was one act from the Caribbean that struck me as a bit too competent (though that is not necessarily a bad thing). And of course, the BVI presented some of its own, based at home and abroad.
At the end of the month, the H. Lavity Stout Community College ended the Thirteenth Performing Arts Series with a Summer Music Fest, which serves as a sort of coming out party for the music students of the Community College itself, the Government operated Elmore Stoutt High School – the only public High School on Tortola – and musical friends of the College.
My reviews of these events have already been written, though not yet published. I choose to hold them back a while longer. Instead, I wish to share my thoughts on the Summer Fest 2009, held on May 30 2009.
In it was a wonderful display of talent all around, not exceptional to be sure, but very encouraging in terms of the depth of potential and real talent that was on show on the night.
Referring specifically to the performance of the Jazz Band, I came away with the impression that the orchestrations by Conductor Andre Braithwaite were finely tuned to the point of near seamlessness. However, the solo spaces offered were so staggered and stunted that the instrumentalists who stood up to glow in their spotlights were unable to tell discernible and structured stories because they simply did not have enough choruses for that. The balance of solo interpretations with the melodic blaring of the horns and reeds and punctuated, percussive blasts, was just right though.
Where the Jazz Band failed was in the rushing of their charts. That was manifest not only in terms of how dwarfed, stunted and abrupt the solos were; it was as though the soloists were eyeing the finish line like distance runners, completely out of wind, willing the tape to meet them. (I know how that feels now that I have regained my passion for jogging.)
My one recommendation to Andre Braithwaite, therefore, would be to train next year’s batch of Jazz Band instrumentalists to draw out themes from the compositions presented to them, themes they could work original motifs from to help them create their own sounds and personalities.
Then there is the issue of emotional attachment. A solo that lacks ‘empathy’ (the latest political buzz word is in order here; think US Supreme Court nominee) risks becoming mechanical and uninspiring.
The point? Notes may be played to near perfection if that is the objective, but the end results must never lead to a disconnect with the audience, loud and sustained applause aside.
Thus, for a soloist to capture my soul, he or she must take me on a journey, a fantasy if you will, that transcends the sheet music and leaves me with a lofty feeling when it is all over. At least that is what I search for as food for my spirit.
Maybe all of this cannot be achieved in the next academic year, or the next. Nevertheless, this must be the goal for the HLSCC Jazz Band. How about that Mr. Braithwaite?
Complete reviews of the HLSCC Summer Music Fest and Jazz on the Hill soon come…