The line-up for the 2011 Saint Lucia Jazz was announced on Monday January 17, 2011, at the Golf Club in Cap Estate. As usual, the event drew a packed house comprising the media, tourism officials, sponsors, musicians and performers and other supporters and invited guests.
This year, Saint Lucia Jazz will be marking its 20th year and within this period has seen a number of upstart festivals throughout the region, some of which have disappeared altogether. This year in particular, a number of these festivals, including Barbados Jazz have been radically scaled down, while Saint Lucia Jazz remains atop the world festival playlist, among the top five. This, despite some heavy public and media criticism in the past, which may have helped keep the event in check and also speaks to the high standard of production and quality acts that it has attracted.
This year’s line-up attempts, as the Chairman of the special events committee Cuthbert Didier said Monday, to offer “something for everyone.” However it has always been a tedious task proposing so called “big names” before a Saint Lucian audience at the launch, an audience who while making up a large percentage of the Jazz crowd, tend to often forget that they are not the primary target audience of the festival. This is also generally lost on the local media and audience themselves, who often look for “big, popular names” as opposed to quality acts who can sustain a 90-minute performance and attract visitors from all over the globe to our shores to see and hear them perform.
But in all fairness, over the years, the SLTB has wet that music saccharine appetite by offering some sugar coated performers and big names (at the time) like Ciara, Ashanti, El De Barge, and Rihanna (in 2006) when she was still very green. While the announcement of these names drew some excitement at the time, and drew a large audience of young people, they did not earn the international reviews which the SLTB depend on as part of the international public relations. And then there is always the challenge to return to basics and offer more “Jazz” as the foundation on which the event was built.
This year the SLTB attempts a balancing act with a mix of straight ahead Jazz, Caribbean rhythms and some R&B with fewer so called “big and popular names.”
For the 2011 Saint Lucia Jazz, the SLTB is relying on singer/songwriter/musician, John Legend to end the event on Sunday May 8 with a bang. In 2007 when he first performed here, Legend attracted the biggest side lawn crowd, when he performed on Friday May 11. This time around John Legend will be backed by the acclaimed Roots band project with which he has recorded his latest CD which features a remake of the Teddy Pendergrass classic “Wake up Everybody.”
The SLTB is also banking on another R&B star to close off the main-stage event on Saturday May 7. Trey Songz, who in 2005 released his debut single “Gotta Make It” featuring Twista, will be the headliner on that day. Some of Songz most recent hits include “Neighbours know my Name,” “I Invented sex,” “Say ah” and “Can’t be Friends.”
The Saturday and Sunday main-stage will also feature a number of legendary Jazz performers including the funkiest saxophonist in the person of Maceo Parker and Yellow Jackets who have wowed Saint Lucia Jazz audiences in the past. There is also Chuck Brown, Richard Bona (another repeat performer) the guitarist and vocalist from Cameroon whose haunting vocals are always mesmerizing.
The event will also feature an all-female Cuban ensemble called Anacaona, as well as Taj Weeks, Saint Lucia Collective (Ronald “Boo” Hinkson, Emerson Nurse, Luther Francois and Barbara Cadet) all from Saint Lucia.
Saint Lucia Jazz main-stage however starts on Wednesday May 4 at the Gaiety and will feature from Saint Lucia Alison Marquis and Eclectic Pan Jazz, Regina Carter and Ledisi who thanks to her 2007 album featuring the hit single “Alright” was nominated for two Grammys. Thursday May 5, Gaiety will see performances by Bad Ass Brass, Augustin “Jab” Duplesis featuring Derede Williams and Sixun.
On Friday May 6, Pigeon Island will come alive with Caribbean and African music when Saint Lucia’s Mervyn Wilkinson, Carimi (of Haiti) Angelique Kidjo (from Benin) and Jamaica’s Morgan Heritage takes the stage. Morgan Heritage is expected to be joined by another Reggae performer to be announced soon.
During the weekend Jazz events Saint Lucia’s TEM band, 4th World and DYP will be performing on what has come to be known as the “side-stage.”
Saint Lucia Jazz kicks off on April 30th with a number of fringe events and shows like Jazz on the Square, Jazz on the Pier, Tea time Jazz, Fond d’Or Jazz whilst the main-stage events run from May 4-8 2011.
In its’ 20 year history, the event has seen some truly great acts like Santana, George Benson, En Vogue, Harry Belafonte, Al Jarreau, Tito Puente, Al Green, The Neville Brothers, The Isley Brothers, Gerald and Eddie Levert, Grover Washington Jr. Najee, Kenny G, Kenny Burrell, Herbie Hancock, Natalie Cole, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Mary J Blige, Nancy Wilson, Regina Belle, Luther Vandross, Patti Labelle, Beres Hammond, Chaka Khan, Roberta Flack, Kassav and Ashford and Simpson among many others.