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Barbados Jazz Festival

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Submitted on behalf of Ron Bernthal

During a week of warm January sunshine, and an occasional cool rain shower, the 9th Annual Barbados Jazz Festival brought an assortment of musical talent to this lovely Caribbean island.
As festival promoter Gilbert Rowe said, following a stirring performance by drummer Sonny Emory, “We took a chance this year on not running a pure jazz line-up, and it seems to be working. ”

Judging from the crowds that came to see performers such as Dionne Warwick, Freddy Cole, Jesse Cook, David Sanborn, Rachelle Ferrell, the Cuban band Orquesta Enrique Jorrin and many others during this seven-day event, the festival was a smash hit, and perhaps a sweet appetizer to an even more spectacular 10th anniversary festival next year.
The festival opened at Sunbury Plantation House with Kalabash, a Caribbean band presently based in Canada. Pannist David Shepherd and keyboardist Andrew Craig offered funky music, including the calypso-style Bash and Pan Rebellion. Colleen Allen played sax, as well as a stirring flute solo of From Whence We Came, a wonderful, soulful Caribbean song.
As the evening grew later, Canadian guitarist Jesse Cook and his band took the stage, playing a selection of flamenco-style music that included such favorite pieces as Byzantium, Viva and Virtue, and That’s Right! Band violinist Christopher Church, drummer Paul Tongo, rhythm guitarist Kevin Laliberti, bassist Eric Lyons, and percussionist Art Avalos kept the crowd on its feet throughout the entire performance. Many of the songs were from Cook’s CD called Vertigo.

With the next night’s events moving outdoors, onto the grass and under the trees of the Sherbourne Conference Centre, the audience was treated to the music of Dianne Reeves and Della Manley. Reeves, who followed Manley’s opening act, created an emotional vocal mix of Sarah Vaughn and African tribalism. Opening with Morning Has Broken Reeves added her Yoruba chants to the song and got everyone into the mood for some unique music.

Afro Blue came next, with conga drums and timbales, and more African chanting. Covering several Sarah Vaughn ballads, including Misty, the crowed was enraptured. Band pianist Peter Parker was a strong addition to her music, and Reeves, who has been invited to sing at the closing ceremony of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics on February 24, didn’t disappoint her many fans in the audience.

Jamaican singer Della Manley, daughter of the late Jamaican leader Michael Manley, opened the show but didn’t quite set the audience on fire with her soft, non-jazzy, songs. Although she played a few reggae pieces, like Bob Marley’s Waiting in Vain, most of the music was more sedate, gentle Caribbean tunes that festival promoter Rowe had in mind when he planned to mix up the shows with pure rock’in jazz and the less “in your face” music of performers like Della Manley.

The headline act came in the middle of the week, at the indoor Garfield Sports Complex, when Dionne Warwick and her band took the stage before about 3,000 adoring Bajans and tourists. Warwick, another of the festival’s “non-jazzy” entertainers, was true to form, and kept her rapt audience singing along to old favorites such as Don’t Make Me Over, Do You Know The Way to San Jose, Walk on By, and I’ll Never Fall in Love Again. After about an hour of oldies, Warwick performed several Brazilian numbers, some from her CD Aquarela Do Brazil, and she was very vocal about mentioning her great love for the country of Brazil. Later, at a post-concert news conference, Warwick said that she was living happily in Rio, and was planning a move to the Bahia region of the country, where she will continue to collaborate with Brazilian musicians on upcoming CD’s.


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