For the Love of Jazz

The Saint Lucia Jazz Festival has been revamped to the point where it is almost unrecognizable. In so many ways, it is completely set apart from what it had established itself to be in the past. Transformations of this festival had been in the works for years, and judging by the looks of the line-up, it is complete, and positioned just the way organizers would like it to be. Popular events like Jazz on the Square have long since been booted from the calendar, replaced by a mixture of posh and casual events at various hotels and other venues on island, featuring local and international artistes alike.

‘True’ Jazz fans are the targeted audience, and performers range from Nina Simone and Ledisi, to Dianne Reeves and Nubya Garcia. The jazz crowd of the past, who would’ve made it their business to secure tickets for the event that once resembled many other international music festivals, will now think twice before committing to an event with acts some would not even recognize. Of course, that in no way speaks to the quality of the overall event, or the aptitude of the performers themselves.

So much has changed with the festival that it is indeed worth reflecting. As Saint Lucia’s entertainment landscape continues to shift, the festival moves with it. There are no longer just one or two main events or locations which are guaranteed to pull the biggest crowd. Small and intimate venues and new open air locations mean there’s a bit more diversity in the kind of experience that comes with the cost of a ticket, and the people one will meet along the way. At previous events you were guaranteed to see the Who’s Who of Saint Lucia during the ultimate main stage jazz weekend, which was at the time something people both young and old looked forward to.

The one constant in life is change, and if there is any event that has demonstrated this best over the years, you guessed it – it’s the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival.

Jazz events of the past have featured entertainers including Rihanna, UB40, Mary J. Blige, Ashanti, Boyz II Men, Yolanda Adams, NeYo, John Legend, and others. We’ve had so many popular acts visit our shores over the years, that when you really think about it, perhaps the longevity of us being able to use their names is enough validation for organizers wanting to shift the scope and save money. The jazz name has in a sense already been made for Saint Lucia. Even with that said organizers should still pay attention to the artistes they choose to bring to our shores, in an effort to maximize profits and potential, and keep the festival alive.

This year’s Jazz includes a host of new venues as the featured locations, including The Pearl, the Rodney Bay Marina, and the Gros Islet Park. Notably, use of the latter means that regular recreation and play for children of the community is at a standstill while jazz lovers get their fix, but we can only hope that after the fact, the park is made even better for the festive inconvenience.

While many of the performers slated for this year’s event are not mainstream artistes, there is no doubt that festival goers will be kept entertained. If you’re one of the skeptics still undecided about heading out this weekend, perhaps you might want to reconsider. You may just be surprised to find that you walk away a converted jazz lover. In the words of popular local jazz artiste Rupert Lay, “Jazz music is freedom, and a way of life.”

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