Trinidad and Tobago’s music operates within a seasonal cycle that would intrigue music lovers or music business observers outside these islands. Christmas has it’s music, obviously, as does Carnival, and those limits must not be breached out of tradition, or plainly, because the public’s appetite is prescribed by habits not easily broken, despite some soca creep. The recent Carnival gives way to what is a wasteland for all other musics in this island to battle for the appreciation of the consumer and the fancy of the music programmer. Jazz, or more specifically jazz in the Caribbean, including pan jazz, seems to have the commercial and aesthetic appeal of a wide cross-section of the community.
There are now at least nine produced events, some annual, that are for the picking of listeners of music, or as was seen recently, for the dancing of patrons. In the forty-two (42) days between Jazz Artists on the Greens and Jazz Under the Stars, patrons can partake jazz in a school yard, in a studio, in a church hall, on the beach, by the sea, and on a terrace. This could be a boon to local musicians or a bust, depending on whom you speak to. Tobago will host 3 events: the main “Tobago Jazz Experience,” Mt. Irvine Bay Hotel and Golf Club’s “Jazz on the Beach” and the new Magdalena Grand Beach Resort’s “Word and Jazz.”
All these options point to something that should be recognised and officially collated; the growing trend for music targeted to a local demographic with money to spend. A number of these events have the same recurring patrons signalling that price is not a concern at a couple hundred dollars each. Another significant point is that aside from Tobago Jazz Experience, these events are not “state-funded” event tourism products that serve functions beyond music appreciation. The trend throughout the Caribbean since the advent of the boom (and bust) of the “jazz festival” in the 1990s is for governments to fund these events. Competition on a level playing field was a myth. (Full disclosure: I am part of the team that produces the annual Jazz Artists on the Greens.)
I recently published a magazine, Jazz in the Islands, that tries to capture this growth in the appreciation of this thing we call jazz here. The context of the audience-artist conversation has as much to do with the music as the ability “to improvise on a blues scale and swing,” and our definition is not always the Jazz at Lincoln Center definition. We should all rejoice with the notion that there are still many options not posted including a soon-to-be-notified UTT Big Band jazz performance at SAPA featuring Cuban saxophonist, Roman Filiu; the weekly Women in Jazz series at Fiesta Plaza, MovieTowne POS, on Saturdays in the month of April. The rest of the year promises the annual concerts of Anthony Woodroffe Jr, Vaughnette Bigford, and concerts in Holy Cross College, Arima and on San Fernando Hill.
Now is a good time for the music. Let’s not let it slip away due to apathy or fall prey to the cyclical nature of our new Carnival mentality: the ebb and flow of create and destroy with artificial seasonal boundaries. “An old soca tune is old,” says the young, an old jazz tune is a timeless standard!
© 2015, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.