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The Los Cabos Jazz Experience 2018

Wendy Ross By

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Life Luxe Jazz -The Los Cabos Jazz Experience
Norman Brown, Boney James, et al.
Los Cabos, Baja California, Sur, Mexico
November 1-4, 2018

Life Luxe Jazz -The Los Cabos, Jazz Experience took place at the Pueblo Bonita Pacifica Golf and Spa Resort November 1-4. The first annual Life Luxe Jazz Festival flourished under the beneficence of the Mexican sun, as it grooved into life. The cradle of limitless sand, and sea with the subtle scent of spices from the grill, was the perfect birth place for a festival touting a luxury cultural experience with jazz as the focus. The goal was to bring together people with common interests in music, culture and cuisine. They also sought to appeal to those with discerning tastes and global consciousness, interested not only in their own best experiences, but also, in spreading health and cross-cultural enrichment to the local Los Cabos community through charitable organizations.

At the tip of the Baja, California Peninsula, where the powerful Pacific meets the calmer waters of the Sea of Cortez, a sprinkle of huge, granite rocks, jut up from the rippled, turquoise sea. Like the breaching whales that populate these waters, each sighting is a shock for the senses. The most famous landmark, a hollowed rock formation called El Arco, embodies the rough magic of this setting.

The festival was a combination of smooth jazz favorites and rich R&B vocals, but like the unexpected jagged surprises in the environment, the performers brought the rough with the smooth, reprising historical references to contemporary jazz, R&B, rock and funk classics, while weaving in newer releases.

This thirty-million-year-old promontory, nick-named Land's End, gives the beaches of Cabo San Lucas their own tidal rhythm of pounding surf, against dessert sand. Whether it's the passionate roar of the Pacific, or the soothing wash provided by the Sea of Cortez, these contrasts reveal the tremendous geological forces that created these wonders. There are a pair of twin beaches connected through a narrow valley in the mountainous rocks that span the tip of the peninsula near El Arco. Lover's Beach, faces the smooth waters of the Sea of Cortez, while Divorce Beach, faces the rougher, more dangerous waters of the Pacific.

Like nesting parents, the festival founders located an ideal spot to share a love of music, nature, and cultural exchange. This thought was echoed by many of the performers, as they commented on the beauty and made pitches from the stage to return next year. Los Cabos has a rich jazz scene and history, with several clubs and community arts and music festivals during the year.

The lineup included a who's who of the smooth jazz and R&B genres. Headliners, Boney James, and Norman Brown, were thrilled to be there as were festival veterans Najee, Bobby Caldwell, Keiko Matsui, Maysa, Meli'sa Morgan, Michael Manson, Kirk Whalum, Lin Roundtree, Gregory Porter, Mindy Abair , and Lindsey Webster. Many of the performers have their own charities, and global causes.

The Pueblo Bonita Pacifica Golf Spa and resort could not be a more inspired venue. The posh five star resort, with a Jack Nicklaus golf course and world class spa, spread across the desert setting with different levels of seating, from a VIP veranda with sofas, to white sheeted cabanas, to festival style canvas chairs. Food and drink was convenient to seating, whether acquired from the bar and food line, or ferried by waiters.

The singer/songwriter, Lindsey Webster opened on Saturday, her smooth, introspective love ballads ushered in the arrivals, as they stopped at the food and drink oasis, before finding their seat. The mid-afternoon sun brought out sorely needed hats and sunglasses, as the ladies swept by pools in gauzy whites and bright florals, while the men sported tropical shirts, roomy capris and leather sandals.

Lindsey Webster has gained worldwide popularity since her first single, "Fool Me Once" went to the top of the Billboard Jazz Charts in 2016, the first vocal to do so since Sade's "Soldier of Love," in 2010. On her last two albums, she has songs featuring fellow festival performers Kirk Whalum, "One at a Time" Back To Your Heart 2016, and Norman Brown "Free to Be Me"Love Inside 2018. Her version of blue-eyed soul crosses genres easily from jazz to pop to R&B. Her vocals are light and airy and go down smoothly, until she turns unexpectedly sultry. It was a great start to the show.

Kudos to the sound director, and technicians, all the acts had a beautiful clear sound that was much appreciated by the artists themselves. A smooth jazz and R&B playlist filled the intermissions between performers, allowing the audience to socialize and take comfort breaks.

The next performer, Najee, needs no introduction. With two Platinum, and four Gold albums under his belt, he is the ultimate smooth jazz and R&B icon. From his Stevie Wonder Tribute album, Songs in the Key of Life, he played "Sir Duke." He engaged the audience easily, as he went into "Knocks Me Off My Feet." and called the ladies and then the fellows to singalong.

Whether demonstrating his mastery as a flautist or saxophonist, he is always a sure bet, and right in the smooth jazz, R&B pocket. His skill makes his runs so effortless, it seems almost too easy, but taking him for granted would be a mistake because there's always a surprise around the next corner. After twenty-five plus years in the business he has an unerring instinct for choosing the right vocalist and accompanying artists. Najee gave a tribute to the legendary jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove who had passed away at the age of forty-nine the day before. Hargrove had played on a song of his called "We Gone Ride." Najee said he appreciated him and would miss him. He dedicated the next song to Hargrove.

R&B songstress Meli'sa Morgan joined Najee on stage to provide the vocals to "Funny Valentine" a song for which Hargrove was well known. She encouraged the audience to feel the music, her voice soaring on skilled runs. Later they performed "In the Mood to Take it Slow" a slumberous ballad from Najee's 2013 album, The Morning After, which the audience really seemed to appreciate.
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