JAOTG 2011: WASA Grounds Transformed…and then some

poster-smallNow that the music is over on the ninth edition of Production One Ltd.’s Jazz Artists on the Greens, much can be said about the performances on the stages—and there are many deserving accolades for the group of Caribbean Jazz singers and musicians—but foremost in the minds of many that I spoke to was the smashing of the myth that WASA grounds could spell the end of this annual retreat to great music after Carnival. In a space more associated with “fête ’til you wet” carnival-isms, Production One Ltd., has made a concession for more space, unique ambience and an opportunity to transform a field of dreams for public service sports folk into the listening fields for music that entertains and enhances. Courteous, abundant and tight security, orderly branded sponsor tents with merchandise, and fine food and wines and other snacks and give-aways greeted the eyes and taste buds, and erased the idea that we were descending into a bacchanal. Blanket, mats and folding chairs were prevalent. Wine glasses too! When last you had lobster as a food choice at an event that you didn’t pay $800 to go to! For $250 dollars, that and more were among the offerings, and of course, the music.

Niquet Goldson

Jazz artists, singing, playing their instruments, creating the mood for relaxation and reflection. This group of entertainers delivered over 5 hours of music that had all the elements we listen to on radio in Trinidad and Tobago. Jamaican Niquet Goldson, a vision in white and dreadlocks, is the most petite lady I have seen in a while, with a voice that far exceeds her size. She sang a little jazz, a little reggae, a little R&B, and for good measure, “Old Time Days” by Nappy Meyers. Even rock guitarist Dax Cartar soloed on Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved” to applause. This SONGBIRD—another Production One Ltd. Event—who also last year graduated as a veterinarian from UWI Mt. Hope promises to return often and should be heard again.

Mikhail Salcedo

Mikhail Salcedo is a pan artist. Playing with 4 sticks, mind you, he had the audience in awe with original compositions and an interpretation of Chick Corea’s “Spain” that had master of ceremonies, radio personality Robert “RJ” Williams ecstatic with praise. Pan jazz is a kind of fall back position for anybody defining Caribbean jazz. This musician and his crew of five used the pan, not just to play a calypso or two, but to create melodies and harmonies that make even the casual jazz listener want to listen to jazz. Improvisation is that risk a musician takes as they break down the music and reinterpret it. Local audiences for hard jazz are small, but artists like Mikhail may be among the few who can change that perception. Easy to listen to, easy on the eyes too.

Marisa Lindsay accompanied by Eddie Bullen on keyboards.

In that small group of artists are certainly Eddie Bullen and Marisa Lindsay, from Grenada and Barbados respectively, but based in Toronto. Eddie’s smooth jazz quartet played to the audience’s sense of “chill” and returned to back-up the star of the night, Marisa. Aretha’s “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman” as an encore had everyone on their feet. That Bajan lady sang, entertained, danced, joked like an entertainer should; it’s all about connecting with your audience. Both were professional in their approach and delivery. Both seemed “international” in their appeal. There must be something in the Canadian water that we in the Caribbean not getting. Why there and not here? This could be a signal that the audience for jazz musicians is small in the Caribbean, although the region boasts a number of jazz festivals throughout the year, but with diminishing returns. With the spectacular demise of Plymouth Jazz Festival, Tobago Jazz Experience is a poor replacement with fewer big name stars and filler over seven days of every genre except jazz. Barbados and the Cayman Islands Jazz festivals were the victims of the economic fallout in the last year, both opting not to have shows in 2011. Production One Ltd. should be commended for still plodding along after nine years.

Ernesto Camilo Vega with Gastón Joya on double bass
Ernesto Camilo Vega with Gastón Joya on double bass

The Cuban connection is a mainstay of Jazz Artists on the Greens for a number of years. Superlative jazz musicians from that island, Ernesto Camilo Vega with his accompanists Gastón Joya on double bass and Mauricio Gutiérrez on drums and percussion, performed an excellent a set of classic Latin jazz,son and bolero. It is a pity that some members of the audience chose to leave at this time. At this point in the show, more than 4 hours after the start, it could be said that even the most earnest jazz aficionado would tire after dip in energy from Marisa Lindsay to the Cubans. This is something the producers would be advised to look at for the forthcoming shows, as the energy level should never dip. The final band Friends of Life which featured pannist Dane Gulston had the energy, but a diminished audience as they put a cap on a wonderful evening of music and fun. The idea of transformation was set in this writer’s mind. WASA will forever be seen with different eyes. Caribbean musicians mingling and setting new standards of entertainment is a spectacle for all to see. The Caribbean from Cuba and Jamaica to Grenada, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago is a small cauldron of talent from which we should all be privileged to hear, to experience, to enjoy. JAOTG 2012, March 24, promises, and I can’t wait.

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