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Live Reviews

Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival: Sept. 2-3, 2011

By Published: September 23, 2011
Valdés' sister's vocals were strong and packed with emotion. On "Bésame Mucho," she had the audience singing the chorus in Spanish, before she scatted her way to its close, while on the balladic "Obatala," she exhibited her dramatic sense and strong pipes, and the band's groundswell behind her was just as crucial. This was a fantastic unit.

Of the remainder, Rubén Blades' music, with a blaring horn section and tight Latin percussion, was fun and freewheeling. It was hard not to move to that kind of music, and Blades vocals were packed with feeling. He knew how to get it across. Juan Luis Guerra's band, it seemed, was an attenuate to get the same things across and was good, but lacked the excitement and expressiveness of Blades' unit.

As for Dionne Warwick, a pop star from a few years gone by, her voice has become a bit weak with age, but was still pleasant. She had a piano trio, with the addition of a couple synthesizers to replicate string sections and other instruments. Hits like "This Guy's In Love With You," "Do You Know the Way to San José," and "What the World Needs Now" were rendered, but she also had the good taste to add songs people would hear at a jazz festival, like Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
1927 - 1994
piano
tunes including "Wave" "Waters of March" and "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars."

Curacao is an unheralded gem in the Caribbean. Everyone seems to know Aruba (some not-so-good press regarding Americans in recent years), yet Curacao is as luscious as can be. The jazz festival is something that might be growing, but for music fans, Latin-influenced music can be heard all over, all the time, and for jazz folks there could be more. The wonderful Eliane Elias
Eliane Elias
Eliane Elias
b.1960
piano
performed there just before the festival, in fact.

And one of the hotels, the Avila, has a place called Blues Bar that hosts blues music and a jazz jam each week that has been going on for years. A tenor sax-led group on jazz fest weekend very capably improvised over Herbie Hancock and Horace Silver tunes, and these were cats that came to jam. As the quintet went to town on a stage hovering above the bar, a young lady with guitar in case patiently awaited her turn to go up the steps and join in. On the ceiling were blown-up pictures of original album covers by artists like Keiko Taylor, B.B. King
B.B. King
B.B. King
b.1925
guitar, electric
and John Lee Hooker
John Lee Hooker
John Lee Hooker
1917 - 2001
guitar
.

So, digging Curacao is something music fans—as well as those wanting a taste of an exotic island with plenty of other things to do amid the vast sea—might well consider. This seems like a festival that will move forward, and it has an organization behind it that is absolutely full of experience. It's not a bad idea to keep your eyes on it—then get your feet and ears there, too.

Photo Credit
Courtesy of Curacao Tourist Board


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