Tag Archives: St. Croix Blue Bay Jazz Festival

What’s the word on Cayman’s Jazz talent? None, really!

                  The Cayman Islands Jazz Festival is the epitome of what is wrong with some Jazz Festivals in the Caribbean.  I complained last year about the Plymouth Jazz Festival in Tobago and St. Croix’s Blue Bay Jazz Festival, festivals that did not bother to profile their local Jazz artists who they put on the bills. 

In the case of the Tobago Jazz Festival, the debate was more about how gay Elton John is and how he would destroy the moral fibre of Trinidad and Tobago rather than about the value and integrity of the very artists that the Jazz Festival is supposed to nurture.

Cayman Jazz did better than either Plymouth Jazz or St. Croix’s Blue Bay Jazz Festival in this respect.  At least, the Cayman organisers put their local Jazzers under the spotlight during the promotional campaign for the festival and on the center stages at the Westin Casaurina Resort and at Pageant Beach, Grand Cayman.  So much so, Shomari Scott, Deputy Director of Tourism, International Marketing was moved to express the pride that he felt when considering how well the Caymanian Jazz units stood up against the impressive international line up that included the likes of Monty Alexander and Mike Phillips - fresh from the Anguilla Tranquility Jazz Fest – and the Jazz powerhouses in the persons of Dianne Reeves and Alex Bugnon.  Scott said this to caymannetnews.com: “Each of the international artistes gave an incredible performance, however the highlight was watching our local talent hold their own alongside the big names.”

Unfortunately, that was pretty much it as far as an exposé of the local Caymanian Jazz talent who performed at the November to December Jazz Festival was concerned.

So as far as I am aware, having researched the Cayman Jazz Fest vigorously for the past two months, the Cayman Jazz musicians got little more than lip service in the mainstream media.  All of the gushing was for Brian McKnight and to a lesser extent saxophonist Mike Phillips.

But as for K K Alese?  Nothing to speak of.  Gary Ebanks Quartet + 2?  Zilch!  Triple Play?  Plus mal!! (that means “worse still” in French)

Now if the mainstream media or the blogging community do not fly the flags of local Caribbean Jazz artists – or all artists in general – I do not know who will. 


Vox pop Jazz: St. Croix Blue Bay Jazz Fest 2007

 

 

I am indeed flattered that two phrases (in bold) from woodshedentertainment were incorporated into and published as part of the following Jazz News report, which was subsequently carried by All About Jazz, both resources that I go to frequently for information.  I refer here to the first sentence and the final paragraph of the following story.  I have to point out though that I am not a “St. Croix jazz enthusiast,” as much as I would like to be considered a Cruzan by virtue of my Caribbean birth.

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The St. Croix Blue Bay Jazz Fest 2007 let loose a star-studded compact of New Orleans Jazz greats and the very best that St. Croix has on offer in a four-day long event from Thursday, November 15 to Sunday, November 18.  Bridget Dawson, Executive Director of the Frederiksted Economic Development Association, proclaimed the festival the “best event in nearly 20-years on the island, “touting the economic boom to the local downtown economy.

Bill Kassler writes, “Walking up and down Strand Street among the well behaved throng were a veritable who’s who of St. Croix society, with senators, commissioners and characters mingling with musicians and tourists, saying hello to friends, eating drinking and dancing.”

“It looks like the night life is coming back to Frederiksted,” Sen. Terrence “Positive” Nelson said, when cornered in Buddhoe Park on his way to the stage.

The New Orleans Trumpet Summit, composed of the best Big Easy trumpet players, opened with a string of Louis Armstrong and other old-school jazz classics and modern interpretations.  James “12” Andrews and his brother Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews of the large musical Andrews family, Christian Scott and Marlon Jordan of the Jordans, another New Orleans family with several generations of musicians.  The Trumpet Summit sizzled.

Henry Butler, the blind keyboard player from the Crescent City brought the waterside crowd to their feet with a series of rhythm and blues numbers.  “Butler sprinkled his repertoire with tunes that have become emblems of New Orleans and Mardi Gras: Robert Parker’s “All Night Long”, “Hey Pocky-Away”, made famous by the Funky Meters, and Professor Longhair’s street party classics “Going to the Mardi Gras” and “Big Chief.”

Backing up Stephanie Jordan’s lush vocals were sister Rachel on violin, brothers Kent on flute and Marlon on trumpet, Mike Esnault on keyboards, Peter Harris on bass and drummer John Jones. Stephanie held the crowd captured by her silky voice and fluid movements, more than earning the label the “JazzHot!”

Stephanie Jordan and the Jordan Family held true to the straight-ahead jazz style which has become their signature sound.  Opening with “Fly with the Wind, ” Kent Jordan used the tune to show his range on the piccolo while Marlon’s feature on “The Great City” exposed St. Croix to his encyclopedic knowledge of the entire jazz trumpet tradition.

The Jordan Family paid special tribute to their late uncle, jazz clarinetist Alvin Batiste, performing two selections, one from Batiste’s Music D’Afique suite and the latter from the Marsalis Music Honors Alvin Batiste CD.  Stephanie led the group in an up-tempo bounce blues of “My Life Is a Tree” which had the crowd tapping and singing along to the vocals (a message about steadfastness) written by Edith Batiste.  On “Glimpses”, Rachel played a stunning violin solo which had the audience mesmerized in a trance-like state.

This year’s inaugural Blue Bay Jazz Fest was dedicated to the memory of the late clarinetist Alvin Batiste who died at 74 on May 6, 2007.  While the ideal for the New Orleans-themed festival was hatched in St. Croix and (nurtured) by Dawson, it was Alvin and New Orleans’ Vincent Sylvain (who) teamed (up) for the suggestion of selected artists.

“We had so much fun on St. Croix we hate to go back home,” said trumpeter Christian Scott in a pre-show interview.  “St Croix’s culture, architecture and cuisine are really special,” Scott told interviewer Carol Buchanan.  Scott said his music blurs the lines between neo-soul, indie rock and 19th century Western classical music.  His sextet performed selections such as “Like That” from their latest CD, “Anthem.”

Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and his band Orleans Avenue, got the evening heated up with funk, pop, hip-hop and a mix of jazz in tunes “I Want My Money Back, ” “Orleans Claiborne” and “Act Bad 5th Ward Weebie.”

Their performance transcended generations.  “This is doin’ it”, said Harold DeMund, dancing with his wife Norma, both in their 60s.

“These young lions amaze me,” said Jerry Jones, DJ from Mongoose radio 104.9, and master of ceremonies for jazz fest.  “It sounds like they have been playing and playing together for 40 or 50 years.”

Saturday’s headliner Donald Harrison Jr. and his band started off set with Louis Armstrong’s classic tune, “What a Wonderful World.”  Their rendition of the Jackson Five’s “Want You Back” got the crowd shaking.  Joining alto saxophonist Harrison in a jam session was pianist Henry Butler, Harrison’s nephew Scott and Andrews.

The week began on Thursday, November 15 with an invitation-only Hugo to Katrina benefit hosted by the United States Virgin Islands Governor John deJongh Jr. and FEDA at the Government House in St. Croix.  Lieutenant Governor Gregory Francis welcomed the New Orleans musicians and thanked them for sharing their musical talents with the people of St. Croix. He spoke of the many similarities between New Orleans and St. Croix.

“All the seats on flights to St. Croix are full and hotels are close to capacity”, added Rupert Ross, chairman of the board of directors of FEDA.  “St Croix is a sleeping giant awakening and we’re making it happen.”  Entertainment at the Governor’s Ballroom was provided by St. Croix’s Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights with a cameo performance by New Orleans’ Donald Harrison.

“All in all, the Blue Bay Jazz Fest promises to become a major event on the Caribbean’s Jazz calendar so long as the producers can come up with exciting rosters in the future as was conceived for this year’s edition.  The concept, New Orleans style, is unprecedented in our region to my knowledge” according to a St. Croix (?) jazz enthusiast.


St. Croix Blue Bay Jazz Fest 2007 closed Sunday, November 18

The St. Croix Blue Bay Jazz Fest 2007 let loose a star-studded compact of New Orleans Jazz greats and the very best that St. Croix has on offer in a four-day long event from Thursday, November 15 to Sunday, November 18.  To start off, United States Virgin Islands Governor John deJongh Jr. and the Frederiksted Economic Development Association hosted a Hugo to Katrina benefit at Government House in St. Croix on Thursday, November 15.

This year’s inaugural fest was dedicated to the memory of the late clarinetist Alvin Batiste, sometimes called the “New Orleans clarinetist,” who died at 74 on May 6, 2007.  His wife was on hand on Saturday, November 17 to recite a poem in his honour.  

Conceptualised by Crucian Jazz enthusiast Carmelo Rivera who wanted to transcend Sunset Jazz, a long-running showcase for local Jazz musicians on the Frederiksted Waterfront, the Blue Bay Jazz Fest 2007 opened, for all intents and purposes, with Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights.  STSK provided the entertainment for the invitation-only cast of 150 in the Governor’s Ballroom.

Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights were back on stage again on Friday, November 16 with their distinctive blend of Quelbe and Jazz.  But this time the STSK was in cahoots with the Don Moors Ensemble.  Don Moors, a percussionist, would later accompany Donald Harrison on Saturday, November 11. 

On this Friday night also, The Eddie Russell Quelbe Latin Jazz Band held court at Pier 69.    These acts followed the main Nawleanian personalities, pianist Dr. Henry Butler and chanteuse Stephanie Jordan and the Jordan Family, a band that included Marlon Jordan on trumpet and his brother Kent on flute.   

Saturday, November 17 was headlined by Troy (Trombone Shorty) Andrews, Christian Scott and Donald Harrison.

    Christian Scott (CRISTIAN SIMESCU of The VI Daily News)                                          
  
    Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue perform Saturday

The Sunday Jazz Jams, which took place at Cane Bay (Jazz on the Bay) and at Christiansted (Christiansted Town Crawl) were preceded by a Jazz Vespers worship service in the morning.

All in all, the Blue Bay Jazz Fest promises to become a major event on the Caribbean’s Jazz calendar so long as the producers can come up with exciting rosters in the future as was conceived for this year’s edition.  The concept, New Orleans style, is unprecedented in our region to my knowledge.  (Correct me if I am wrong.) 

There are lots more concepts to be plucked from the Jazz tree and they should be pursued vigorously.  There is certainly a niche market for this, I believe.  I have already marked my 2008 calendar; it is just for the folks out there in St. Croix to fill in the blanks for me.

But after all that, I am still not sure that the Crucian Jazz musicians got a fair shake as they would have had they enjoyed a much greater presence on the Main Stage.  The “Out-fest” Jazz Jams are fine.  However, as the name implies, an “Out-fest” is just that “by the way.”  I am confident that this will be worked on for 2008 and beyond.


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