Was it really ever about the music anyway? Saint Lucia Jazz has always been the place to see, and be seen. Good music? Well, that was just the cherry on top of a very expensive pie. So costly were the events on the jazz calendar that they were out of reach for most Saint Lucians who opted instead for side stage jazz events like teatime jazz, the opening of Jazz, Fond d’Or, and other events. Others were fortunate enough to secure free tickets to take in the full weekend of events that had always been intended by organizers to draw visitors to the island during a typically low season.
This year, I made up my mind that I would attend the festival. I hadn’t been in years, and critics were buzzing about changes made by organizers. I wanted to see for myself what the jazzed up event would have in store. Before I could even get there, of course people had predicted it would flop. One event promoter told me, “They’ll be lucky if they get 2,000 people on both days.”
With low expectations from naysayers, the revamped Jazz Festival started with events at Royalton on Thursday and Friday, leading the way to David Rudder’s performance at Pigeon Island. While the event didn’t pull a record crowd, most who attended the show that also featured Andy Narell and Saint Lucian artiste Michael Robinson felt they’d gotten their money’s worth for top-notch performances.
Music-wise, things were looking up. I dressed up and showed out on Saturday to find a much older crowd, and the park a little more filled than it was the night before. Though I’ll be the first to admit I’m not any kind of hard-core jazz fan, Saturday’s arts fanned an appreciation for jazz within me I suspect had been building for years. By Sunday, I was all in. It might have helped that I had the most insightful conversation with jazz musician Rupert Lay, who will be featured in next weekend’s edition of the STAR, whose passion for the art stood out in every thread of his performance. His most memorable words to me were “Music takes you somewhere; jazz takes you all the way.”
Midway through Sunday’s performance I was practically scatting along with Rachelle Ferrell, and taking Victor Provost Quartet’s performance like I’d never heard steel pan music before in my life. And then came Vanessa Williams, and all the nostalgic moments shared with her and the rest of the audience. During her performance we were taken down memory lane, through her full repertoire of music, particularly Save the Best For Last, which I love.
Every performer at the event offered intricate uniqueness, and throughout the event, up until Martinican band Malavoi’s feelgood closing, I felt as though I was part of a scene that was helping bring people together, through the love of music. According to musician Rachelle Ferrell, “Your my family, and I’m satisfied.”
What was clear after this year’s festivities was that sometimes the thought of change results in thousands of people protesting against a cause, as was seen in Saint Lucia last week at the Labour Party-led demonstration, and at other times it leads to pure serenity. I really do wish Soleil, and the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival, the absolute best in the future!