Zara McFarlane and Jazzmeia Horn among highlights at St Lucia Jazz Fest

In recent times this event has had a tenuous relationship with jazz, as R&B and pop headliners kept pushing the 'real' exponents of the genre lower down the bill. 2018's edition bravely redresses the balance. There are instrumentalists and vocalists of the highest order, with an emphasis on Caribbean talent that also means that the week-long festival feels like much more than a roster of international musicians in an 'exotic' location. The appearance of Luther Francois at Sandals, one of the numerous hotels close to the capital Castries, is an absolute highlight. Largely unknown in Europe the St. Lucian saxophonist is an immense talent who has developed an approach to composing fully immersed in the folk and art music of the black diaspora, and he applies it to his superbly responsive 'inter-island' quintet with no concession to cliché. There is an evanescent, highly-nuanced character to many of the pieces on the setlist which is enhanced by the soloing of Antiguan trumpeter Herbert 'Happy' Lewis and leavened by St. Lucian pianist Emerson Nurse and Martiniquan double-bassist Alex Bernard, who both play prickly, off-kilter lines that infuse a delicious tension. Francois's desire to bring tempos right down, drag behind the beat or create elliptical, tantalising passages in an arrangement, is invigorating, and the contribution of the fine drummer Ricardo Francois is crucial in this respect.

The following evening British representation – with Caribbean heritage – comes from vocalist Zara McFarlane, whose dub and reggae-inflected songbook, which plays to the subtleties of her voice as well as the haunting keys of Peter Edwards, goes down well. More problematic is Dominican guitarist Cameron Pierre. On one hand his soloing and helming of an excellent rhythm section adept at calypso, swing and funk is impressive. On the other his 'banter' is seriously off-key. When he describes saxophonist Camilla George as 'a bit of eye candy' there is a gasp of disbelief if not consternation all around, a surefire indication of how misplaced such crude sexism is in this day and age. This is something of which the culprit must be aware, given that George told me that he later apologised for his misdemeanor, a totally unnecessary, embarrassing action that should never have been taken in the first place, regardless of how much rum Pierre, by his own admission, had downed prior to taking to the stage.

Had Jazzmeia Horn (pictured) been in the audience she would surely have had words of wisdom to drop, but she arrived a few days later to perform one of the standout gigs of the festival. Radiating charisma from the get-go, the vocalist lives up to the good press generated by her 2017 debut, A Social Call, through an incendiary scat technique with a range to match one of her role models, Betty Carter, as well as mature restraint on a number of ballads. Horn's acoustic quartet features the excellent alto-saxophonist Marcus G. Miller and is a compelling example of how a very classic, swing-based ensemble can vibrate with contemporary energy, primarily because of the hard edge of the rhythms, as well as the dynamic nature of the singer's approach to melody.

The closing day of the festival at the sumptuous Pigeon Point Island, just off the mainland, is literally a breath of fresh air. With a stage set up on the grassy slope near a fort which saw many a battle between the British and French in colonial times the location is an ideal pick-nick spot, and the audience, though noticeably smaller than in previous years, is in good spirits. Indeed R&R=Now, a supergroup spearheaded by Robert Glasper that features Christian Scott, Terrace Martin, Taylor McFerrin and Justin Tyson, is given a rapturous reception, in line with the stellar reputation of each member. The gig is hit and miss, though. Although this is contemporary electric fusion of the highest order it suffers from Glasper's self-indulgence, particularly when he 'sings' tracks like 'Calls' – where is Jill Scott when we need her? – and generally the arrangements are too meandering for their own good. It is in the final part of the set that the band starts to cook and the tapestry of electronics is thrillingly woven into the pulsating rhythm section. In contrast, Avery Sunshine hits the ground running and her sheer 'lift your voice to the lord' verve as well as vocal prowess has the crowd onside from the downbeat. This is a fine display of vintage soul with jazz inflections, and a firing four-piece band – complete with churchy B3 organ – makes Sunshine's references clear. She ends with a mash-up of Al Green and James Brown, and the audience turns the island from prayer meeting to funk revue under the night sky.

Kevin Le Gendre

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Kinch and Siegel lead the collective sto…

Ousted from its Colston Hall home by the builders, the...

Read More.....

Mark Nightingale's Big Band Go Large At …

  Trombonist Mark Nightingale is the most accommodating of virtuosi. He’ll...

Read More.....

Open letter leads protest at cuts to Rad…

Over 500 leading musicians from across the jazz, folk and...

Read More.....

Guinness Cork Jazz Festival director’s ‘…

The Irish jazz world has been shaken by the sudden...

Read More.....

George Coleman, Jimmy Owens and Frank Lo…

The Annual SAM Benefit concert will be held on 13 April...

Read More.....

Cécile McLorin Salvant, Makaya McCraven …

The first names have been unveiled for this year’s EFG...

Read More.....

Turville's Quintet Dare To Dream At Brig…

This is the last show in the tour and there’s...

Read More.....

Durrant At The Double With Duo Of Improv…

Phil Durrant and Martin Vishnick (pictured) launch, Rifinitori di Momenti, their forthcoming...

Read More.....

GoGo Penguin, SEED Ensemble and Marquis …

The wider jazz programme for this year’s Love Supreme Jazz...

Read More.....

Branford Marsalis Quartet Muster Technic…

  Bookended by a short opening solo piano set from Nikki...

Read More.....

Snarky Puppy announce Royal Albert Hall …

Grammy-winning powerhouse group Snarky Puppy are gearing up for a...

Read More.....

Waithe On Song At Huntley Conference

  Along with Allison & Busby and New Beacon, Bogle L’Ouverture...

Read More.....

Turquazz: Anatolian Jazz & Roots Fes…

The inaugural Turquazz: Anatolian Jazz & Roots Festival – a...

Read More.....

Saxophonist Seamus Blake launches new al…

Acclaimed saxophonist Seamus Blake releases his new album, Guardians of...

Read More.....

Taborn's Finessed Tapestry Of Textures F…

  The large number of musicians at this sold-out show says...

Read More.....

Abdullah Ibrahim, Gregory Porter, Yazz A…

The full line-up has been announced for Cheltenham Jazz Festival...

Read More.....

Irreversible Entanglements + Matana Robe…

  Matana Roberts (above) is so relaxed tonight her short opening set...

Read More.....

Jazz FM Awards nominations celebrate gia…

The names for the 2019 Jazz FM Awards were revealed...

Read More.....

Patchwork Jazz Orchestra premiere ‘Badge…

The London-based 17-piece Patchwork Jazz Orchestra are set to release...

Read More.....

NJYO, JCM, friends and family pay tribut…

As Jon Hiseman would say: “If you are going to...

Read More.....

Sons of Kemet, Moses Boyd, Nubya Garcia …

The programme has been announced the inaugural We Out Here...

Read More.....

NCO hit bullseye with CTI at Ronnie Scot…

Tomorrow’s Warriors’ role as a springboard for emerging talent in...

Read More.....

Countdown To Ecstasy: Royal Academy Big …

  There are some people, who I've never understood, who smirk...

Read More.....

Melt Yourself Down, Laura Mvula and Kama…

The second edition of Love Supreme at the Roundhouse takes...

Read More.....

Michel Legrand 24/02/1932 – 26/01/2019

The prolific French film composer and pianist Michel Legrand was...

Read More.....

Hamasyan In Inspired Orchestral Manoeuvr…

The Brussels Jazz Festival is a relative newcomer, but this...

Read More.....

Zara McFarlane and Soweto Kinch turn up …

The night goes on and they keep on coming, a...

Read More.....

Jazz meets theatrical protest with The A…

Few styles of music can claim to have come as...

Read More.....

Snarky Puppy return with new album Immig…

Grammy-winning groove crew Snarky Puppy return with a new studio...

Read More.....

Blue Note spearheads 80th Anniversary Ye…

The iconic Blue Note label will celebrate its milestone 80th...

Read More.....

John Turville dives in Head First – new …

Pianist and composer John Turville returns with a new album...

Read More.....

Uri Caine and Henri Texier dazzle while …

Jazzfestival Münster is celebrating its 40th anniversary, but has only...

Read More.....

Ezra Collective bring the Brit-Jazz Nois…

Much like in other recent editions of New York's Winter...

Read More.....

Yazz Ahmed and Jasper Høiby line-up for …

For some there is a Holy Grail in jazz: to...

Read More.....

Matthew Herbert marks Brexit with Big Ba…

Composer, conductor and sampling-supremo Matthew Herbert is set to release...

Read More.....

Joseph Jarman 14/09/37 – 9/01/19

  The recitation of 'Non-Cognitive Aspects Of The City' by Dante...

Read More.....

Making The Cut Mpu 300x500px

Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

Kinch and Siegel lead the collective storm at seventh Bristol International Jazz & Blues fest… https://t.co/Zx9QG0gneT
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
@matanaroberts Catherine Lamb - Atmospheres Transparent/Opaque Cynic - Focus
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA