As you know by now, Dominica’s annual Hike Fest definitely has a grip on me. But this year, I decided to sample some of the Jazz ‘n Creole offerings as well. Sweets sounds did abound during the week of May 15th -19th, which formed part of the numerous activities during Tourism Awareness Month on the Nature Island.
While I didn’t do any of the special hikes that were offered during that midweek time period, I did attend the Pan ‘n Jazz Soireé at the Evergreen Hotel on the evening of May 15th. When I arrived just after 7 p.m., I was surprised to see that the hotel’s dining room and bar area were packed with enthusiastic guests who were all engaged in conversation. Because the room was so full, I remained close to the exit door. After I few minutes, I detected beautiful sounds of steel pan, piano and saxophone drifting in from the outside patio. I followed the melody to its source and was one of a
very few who stood in front of this intimate group of amazing musicians, two of whom are well-known to me. The man playing the cool tunes on the saxophone was complete mystery. After a couple of quick enquiries, I found out that these mellow tones were emanating from the instrument of none other than Luther Francois, St. Lucia’s acclaimed jazz saxophonist! While the performance was low-key and the spectators were few, I delighted in the smooth music of these exquisite artistes.
When their set was complete, the music moved to the seaside terrace, where the Shades of Green band entertained with their Creole-Jazz fusion sounds. They collected a crowd, and everyone was tapping their toes to the beat. After their pleasing renditions, emerging jazz songstress Tiffany Mayne and popular local saxophonist Marvin Marie of the renowned Swinging Stars band really got the entire gathering into the groove. By the time I left around 10 p.m., I noticed smiles on the faces of everyone in the room. The opening Fringe Event of Jazz ‘n Creole met with resounding success.
While there was lots more to hear that week, it wasn’t until after the Jaco Flats and Jaco Steps hike on Saturday that I got a bigger taste of Fringe Event Jazz ‘n Creole fusion sounds. While we dined post-hike at the RiverStone Bar ‘n’ Grill near the village of Bells in the heart of Dominica, we got to relax and unwind from the morning’s exertions over some exceptional sounds. On the patio overlooking the River Laurent, we watched cultural guru Gregory Rabess and his band bring Creole stories to life through some of his original compositions. With experienced back-up musicians such as the bass player from Swinging Stars and the keyboardist from Shades of Green, the sound was tight and well rehearsed. Rabess and soprano back-up Miriam blended their voices well. He also expressed musical sentiments through traditional drums, steel pan and guitar. Towards the end of this Creole-Jazz Segment, a number of the Hike Festers were on the floor moving their hips to the beat. This was our cool-down in the mid-afternoon! We had by then worked out any muscle soreness and stiffness that was setting in!
If you`ve read my previous post about our morning foray to Jaco Flats and Jaco Steps, you will know that my camera met the mighty Layou River and was out of commission (permanently, I think!). Therefore, I have no photos to offer you, but I assume you might find some elsewhere online!
Most of the hikers had left by the time the hot sounds of one of Dominica`s newer bands took the stage. BREVE is a group of young men with a very musical, melodious, rhythmically tight, well-rehearsed, jazzy sound that is quickly earning them top marks in Dominica and around the region. I first saw and heard them at the World Creole Music Festival last October. I`ve been hooked ever since. While they didn`t have their horn section with them this time (saxophone and trumpet), they did not disappoint with their vibrant performance.
A big surprise of the late afternoon was a guest performance by Maxine, proprietress of RiverStone . She is a well-known Dominican chanteuse, but I had not heard her sing for some time. When she suddenly appeared on stage where she sang `Misty`, she had the audience in the palm of her hand! Her 1950`s vocal performance style, subtle gestures and expressive face absolutely captured the mood of this sultry song. I was completely blown away by her interpretation. Maxine, you go girl!
The second big treat of the afternoon was the song or two I heard from Golda James of Salisbury, a village on the west coast of Dominica. Her powerful, gutsy, versatile voice perfectly suited the accomplished style of all the musicians in the BREVE band. I wish them well and can`t wait to hear them again.
Although the night was young, the remaining few tired and bedraggled hikers departed at 5:30 p.m., as we all had places to go and things to do after our long day .
`Can`t we stay a little longer,“ pleaded Abigail. Unfortunately not, but I reminded her that she would be heading to the main stage event at Cabrits National Park at Portsmouth the following day. There, an assembly of superb Jazz `n Creole music makers, such as Dominica`s incomparable Michele Henderson would entertain thousands on the grounds of restored Fort Shirley.
Abigail, I hope you had a great time! I have no doubt that you were surrounded in mellow sounds at Dominica`s 4th annual Jazz `n Creole. I`ll see you there next year!