The 21st edition of Saint Lucia Jazz came to a climax under clear skies on Sunday May 13; with a line-up of top notch entertainers and a considerable audience, outstripping the rest of the festival as expected. The event however showed bald spots in places, highlighting the need for the promised overhaul by presenters the Saint Lucia Tourist Board (SLTB).
Though persistent rain from early in the week threatened to present a challenge for the Tourist Board, the effects were mainly seen during Wednesday’s and Thursday’s shows at the Gaiety on Rodney Bay.
The earlier shows thrilled audiences with a heavy focus on jazz rhythms. On Wednesday, the smooth style of Saint Lucia’s Ronald “Boo” Hinkson followed by the intensely energetic Joshua Redman, started the main stage events with exuberance. The rain failed to dampen the show but the muddy parking lot did intrude on the mood at the end of the night.
Luther Francois and Mario Canonge demonstrated a flowing expertise that suited the ambience of the Gaiety. Francois, who doesn’t often grace the Saint Lucia stage but is acknowledged as one of the island’s most accomplished jazz musicians, did not disappoint.
Friday night saw some patrons donning boots and sneakers in case of rain but they only served to protect from the loads of sand poured over the soggy grounds. Ziggy Marley’s uptempo Reggae, slotted in with the Gipsy Kings and the Derek Yarde Project at Pigeon Island National Landmark (PINL) on Friday drew a curious mix of spectators that did not seem to gel.
Reports that gate receipts for Saturday’s show were down 20% from last year, where numbers were 5% reduced from 2010, did not seem far-fetched. The show ended on a high note performance wise, as Kirk Franklin made a soulful connection with the hundreds at the park but the numbers were less when Alison Marquis Nonet took the stage with Andy Narell and even the rush of Keri Hilson’s young fans failed to reach the peak of previous years.
The final main stage event at the park saw the crowd leisurely swelling over the afternoon; many missing the beginning of the main stage show that featured the charming Melanie Fiona, followed by the skilful collaboration of the Wespe Pou Ayiti Project and a lively set from Hugh Masekela. The crowd was thickening and on its feet when Toni Braxton took the stage and got even more energised as Diana Ross delivered some of her biggest hits. Although they were replacements for Lionel Richie, the two proved they more than deserved to be on main stage, captivating the massive crowd to close the 21st Saint Lucia Jazz in style.
By the end of Sunday night’s event the festival definitely looked like one of the top five jazz festivals in the world, as it has previously been tagged.