St. Lucia Jazz Festival 2001

St. Lucia JazzFestival Report 2001
St. Lucia Jazz
by Sidney Bechet-Mandela

The 10th annual St. Lucia Jazz Festival was held May 4th through the 13th, with a host of impressive jazz and pop stars from around the world. Among the performers were Luther Vandross, Miriam Makeba, Montell Jordan, Ronnie Laws, Randy Weston and Carl Thomas.

While the festival’s line-up was dazzling with a myriad of big stars, it was the beautiful 238 square mile island that shone as bright as any of the musicians.

One of the Windward Islands of the West Indies’ Lesser Antilles, St. Lucia is a brilliant green jewel in the blue Caribbean Sea. Carl ThomasEven without the lure of a world-class music festival, St. Lucia is a breathtaking combination of nature and romance. But the island’s tourism board, in association with BET, did indeed add music to the intoxicating mix for over a week of concerts.

The early part of the festival schedule is not only spread out over the island, but the shows are spaced apart wide enough to allow time to tour the island and enjoy the enormous hospitality St. Lucians are known for. Local musicians are the rule early on, with Melba Moore headlining on Sunday and Monday, and the British smooth jazz band, Acoustic Alchemy filling in the middle of the week.

Malcolm Jamaal WarnerBy Thursday, most of the action was concentrated in or near the island’s largest city Castries. And then there was so much music at over ten venues, that it was impossible to attend every concert. It is this aspect of the St. Lucia Jazz Festival, that easily puts it in the class of international festivals in cities and countries with four to ten times the population.

At the Derek Walcott Square, an open park in the middle of the city, a week of concerts was held. Without question, the best act presented there was Malcolm Jamal Warner and his group Miles Long.

The Cosby kid is also a bassist and poet who leads a hip-hop oriented contemporary jazz sextet that stresses showmanship over musicianship.

Eric BenetThe Cultural Centre concert hall was reserved for the harder brand of jazz, with the twin bills of Carmen Lundy & Taj Mahal, and Randy Weston & Clark Terry on consecutive nights.

It was obvious that at the Pigeon Island concert site, the people who market this festival had gone all out for attracting the African-American audience. It seemed that there were Black people from almost every major U.S. city at the weekend activities that was held in a park that was part Ravinia-part Taste of St. Lucia.

The Crowd at Pigeon IslandThe Saturday line-up was solid and enjoyable with, in chronological order was, Angie Stone, Carl Thomas, Eric Benet and Miriam Makeba. Fireworks flew from each set, and comparing any of the acts is like critiquing fruit.

Sunday, the closing night belonged to Luther, and he didn’t disappoint, with an hour-long set of his chestnuts and tracks from his new album.

At ten years of age, the St. Lucia affair is the oldest of all jazz festivals in the Caribbean, and the savvy experience shows. It is highly recommended next year. Next month- the Grenada Spice Island Jazz Festival.

For MORE PICTURES from the St. Lucia Jazz Festival visit this month’s Shooting Gallery.