WHEN the Allen Chastanet administration decided to undertake a review of the popular musical experience known as the St. Lucia Jazz Festival and decided to change its format to one of pure jazz in 2017, it seemed to have reduced most St. Lucians’ level of enthusiasm to that musical genre.
The island is no longer throbbing with expectations of seeing big names in pop, reggae, dance hall, soca and other musical genres, which, over the years, had performed side-by-side with big names in jazz music. In fact, it was the big names in the other musical genres that boosted the crowds at the jazz acts — and not the other way around.
Clear evidence of that was last year at its biggest venue – the Pigeon Island National Landmark — when the new format called ‘St. Lucia Jazz’ (shortened from St. Lucia Jazz Festival) fell flat on its face, not producing a fraction of the crowds it usually pulled over the years.
The Saturday event at the national landmark was a flop, crowd-wise. And while attendance the following day – Mother’s Day — at the same venue — was better, it was still a far cry from the usual.
But this did not dampen the spirit of the organizers, who underscored the point that this was new and needed time to hit its stride.
This year, the same thing — so far — could be said. It seems that organizers may have realized that they overstretched their hands with the poor showings at the Saturday and Sunday shows at the Landmark last year and decided to change things around this year.
Perhaps not to suffer another embarrassment, they decided not to have a Saturday show at the Landmark. They may also have realized that this ‘pure jazz’ experience they are pushing might not be all-embracing and therefore, to fill the Landmark, they would have to tamper with its purity.
Obviously, a lot of thinking went into this year’s event, as is evident in the soca session introduced immediately after the pure jazz acts slated for Sunday – Mothers’ Day.
This session, called “Carnival Kick-Off” — featuring big names such as Destra and our own Ezra D Fun Machine and much more, both locally and regionally — was a smart move to booster gate receipts and bring the crowds back to the Landmark. Will it work? We will have to wait for tomorrow – definitely a big day for St. Lucia Jazz.
But clearly the hype, the puff, the excitement, the flim0-flam (or whatever one may choose to call it) certainly is not there this year. Yes,the hotel venues — up to Thursday night — were filled: Case in point, Sandals Grande with Cameron Pierre and Luther Francois; and Harbor Club with its dinner set which featured Jazzmeia “Jazz” Horn giving patrons ‘A Taste of Bourbon Street’.
But this was no unusual achievement, as hotel venues in the past have always been filled, some more than others.
The biggest show of the St. Lucia Jazz event is the Sunday one, popularly known as the ‘Mother’s Day Show’. It has always been a seller, a crowd attraction. Some of the biggest names in music — from jazz to soca, from pop to lovers rock, from reggae to soul — have traversed that stage.
From tomorrow, it will be the Frantz Laurac Quartet, Ronald “Boo” Hinkson and Friends, R+R=NOW with Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin, Christian Scott, Derrick Hodge, Taylor McFerrin and Justin Tyson. Avery Sunshine will also perform — and then comes the Soca Explosion (also called ‘The After Party’.
St. Lucia Jazz is a music festival, even though jazz is not the only music genre that is played. And there is no such thing as ‘a pure music festival’. It would do organizers well to bring other music genres into the mix, just to give more St. Lucians a chance to come out and experience the atmosphere, the experience.
There is nothing wrong in promoting ‘St. Lucia Jazz’ as ‘70 percent jazz and 30 percent Rhythm and Blues/Reggae/Soul/Dance Hall, etc.’
The jazz influence will still be maintained with a format like this.