St. Lucia Jazz: Soleil Summer of Festivals

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Written by Tevyn Gill | Photos courtesy of Soleil Summer Festival

Amidst the infinite Instagram posts, beautiful bouquets and other quintessential Mother’s Day celebrations, the Soleil Summer Festival’s St. Lucia Jazz event gave life to Pigeon Island National Heritage Park on May 13th. The first of four (4) feature events falling under the Soleil Summer of Festivals 2018, Saint Lucia Jazz (May 6th – 13th) kicked off an impressive line-up that also includes Saint Lucia Carnival (June to July), Roots & Soul Reggae concert (Aug. 31st to Sept. 2nd) and culminating with Arts & Heritage Month in October.

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Showcasing a combined display of local, regional and international acts, the final day of a week of diversely styled jazz events proved to be quite the climax to a jive weekend, while simultaneously ushering in the commencement of a crazy carnival season!

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Complete with designated parking areas and a convenient shuttle service upon arrival, the transition from your car to the entrance and finally into the colourfully decorated venue was impressively streamlined. The ambient aesthetic immediately prepared you for an elegant evening of jazz, with the music blaring gently from the grand half dome stage and the subtle buzz of casual conversation combining gracefully at the ear.

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It was almost natural to drift toward the bars as these alluringly decorated platforms that could be seen from anywhere in the venue beckoned all the way from the entrance. The Chairman’s deck was a connoisseur’s dream, with their list of delicious offerings of captivating rum creations. The Heineken deck was a haven for beer lovers at heart, with unbelievable deals on beer all day long.

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Excluding the VIP area, the promotional decks also serving as bars for their respective brands and a lightly covered sitting area near the food court- the layout remained very much park picnic styled.

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The lush lawn was littered with mats, blankets and portable chairs of every kind, with people sitting, laying, and some even standing, swaying to the smooth, soothing music that filled the open air.

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Though mainly patronized by a more mature crowd, the show attracted couples, families and groups of friends of various ages that all came out to enjoy the soulful sounds of The Frantz Laurac Quartet, Ronald ‘Boo’ Hinkson & Friends and R + R = NOW to name a few.

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The initially sparse crowd grew gradually throughout the day as people filed in slowly and steadily until the venue looked mostly filled- but not quite resembling the masses of previous festivals. Still, the audience provided a nice mixture, comprised of people from all over the island and even from all over the world that flew in for the festivities.

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Spaces on the green continued to dwindle as people visibly fell deeper and deeper into a vibe and claimed their own spaces to do so. At this point, conversations also became easier and introductions became effortless as everyone mixed and mingled to the magical melody of jazz.

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If you hadn’t already made at least one new friend from Martinique, the UK, the US or even right here in St. Lucia as a result of one random interaction or the other, were you even there? Chatty socialites dominated the outskirts and bar areas while the jazz enthusiasts could be seen lounging closer to the stage, lost in the balanced blend of bass, piano and sax. When cocktails finally kicked in, a visit to the food court became vital. There was a satisfactory selection of eats available, from snacks like popcorn, nuts and chips, to a variety of fine caribbean cuisine on sale by local vendors. In the VIP section, there were also finger foods available for those fortunate enough, and those who were not inclined to sit outside for a full meal. After sampling a few of the festival foods, it was time to settle into a, now limited, space of your own to enjoy the rest of the acts.

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As night began to fall, we were treated to the delightful talents of Robert Glasper, rapper Terrace Martin, Trumpeter, composer and producer Christian Scott, Derrick Hodge – Grammy Award-winning bassist, composer, music producer, keyboardist & beatboxer Taylor McFerrin, as well as Justin Tyson, drummer extraordinaire. However, it would be the headliner, Avery Sunshine, that would finally steal the show and cap it all off with her thunderous, gospel bred pipes and heart-to-heart content. Her powerful presence and heavenly vocals blew all of Pigeon Island away with graceful ease. Her performance ended with an eruption of applause that signified the unfortunate end to St. Lucia Jazz, but a welcomed beginning to St. Lucia Carnival.

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The Soleil Summer Festival also ingeniously held an after party following the Jazz event. It essentially turned the elegant evening into a full-on Carnival Concert, featuring the likes of local artistes Mata & Migos, Ezra D Fun Machine, Shemmy J and Imran Nerdy. Regional superstars Destra Garcia and Shal Marshall also graced the Soca Stage for the after party, creating an infectiously familiar atmosphere with some of their biggest carnival hits, new and old.

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Redbull Thre3style World Champion, DJ Puffy, also made an appearance that turned the vibe all the way up with help from DJ Hollywood HP to give the show a well-rounded and star-studded feel from start to finish. Undeniably a good product overall, the St. Lucia Jazz offering of the Soleil Summer of Festivals is an event that can be enjoyed by music and event enthusiasts alike. And with a seamless transition into the next installment of the Festivals calendar of events, St. Lucia Carnival 2018, we can only expect great things for the upcoming June-July season.

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