Combining international performers with the tropical warmth and hospitality of beautiful Barbados produces a winning combination. Paint It Jazz 2000 was the most ambitious festival in its seven year history, drawing world-renowned artists from Canada, the Netherlands and the USA as well as providing a venue for local performers to be heard by an international audience.
DENISE JANNAH: The opening night concert, on January 12, was performed in the spacious and acoustically fine Garfield Sobers Gymnasium situated just off the ABC Highway outside of Barbados’ capital of Bridgetown. After the formal welcomes, the Suriname-born Jannah graced the stage with her alto vocal backed by a musically tightly trio that complemented her voice. Jannah is considered by many to be one of the top jazz singers to appear in recent years. She gave a hint of her roots in the calypso-influenced version of Them There Eyes, proved her ability to scat in My Favorite Things and featured a number of classics including Thelonius Monk’s Roun’ Midnight. Currently residing in the Netherlands, she is the first Dutch jazz musician to be signed up with Blue Note and has been featured with the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra and the Dutch Jazz Orchestra.
WYNTON MARSALIS: For the second set, the 38 year-old jazz icon Wynton Marsalis took everyone on a musical history excursion with a range of time-honoured standards that highlighted the work of pianist Jelly Roll Morton and other jazz greats. Marsalis, who covered everything from ragtime to pre-bop swing, was backed by the strong brass of the Lincoln Centre group. Marsalis, who believes that the New Orleans roots of jazz will live forever, performed soul, blues and classic jazz with such numbers as Jungle Blues, Courthhouse Bump and a lively version of Red Hot Peppers. Just as much a teacher as a performer, he delighted local school children, teachers and musicians by presenting workshops where he encouraged all to learn to "really listen to music".
DEMO CATES: The second night of the festival changed venue where locals and visitors alike enjoyed the softly lit mahogany trees that served as a stage backdrop at historic Sunbury Plantation in St. Philip Parish. The enthusiastic audience welcomed Detroit-born DEMO CATES who has been performing at a club in Toronto, Canada called "N’awlins" for several years. Backed by THE MONSOONS, the master of both the soprano and alto sax starting off with a couple of funk-jazz tunes reminiscent of Grover Washington Jr. and continued with the Dave Brubeck standard, Take Five, before blending blues and reggae in Compassion. Eddie Bullen, a Grenadian-Canadian keyboardist, delighted the audience with an improvisation of Branches, destined to become a Caribbean standard with its strong calypso inspiration.
REGINA CARTER: Jazz violinist Regina Carter demonstrate that it is the performer, not the instrument, that makes jazz. Carter drew on her classical training and a variety of strong influences from Brazil to West African to produce an amazing performance that ranged from her rendition of the ballad Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most to the lively salsa number Centro Habana.
AL HAREWOOD QUINTET: Day three saw the return to Sunbury House and began with the Al Harewood Quintet. Harewood, a Barbadian, has performed with artists such as George Benson, Glenn Zottola, Norman Simmons and Valerie Capers. The group produced a solid sound with a good blend of arrangements including Cherokee and Summer Night with its definite Bossa Nova beat.
THE LENNY MARCUS TRIO: The 30-year old Marcus took a fresh approach to traditional jazz as he masterfully played the grand piano. Although Marcus lived in New Orleans for a number of years studying with Ellis Marsalis, he current works out of Washington, DC The trio’s newest CD, provisionally titled "Jazzbalaya", features Sonny Fortune who delighted the audience with his tenor sax and flute. Featured numbers included It Ain’t What It Was and Song For My Father.
BARBADOS COMMUNITY COLLEGE JAZZ COMBO and JAMARI: Day four saw another change of venue for a Concert on the Hill. Beautiful Farley Hill Park became the setting for a daytime performance attended by several thousand music lovers. The first set featured community college music students with their selection of standards and original compositions followed by the strong local jazz trio of Jamari.
TITO PUENTE: Standing in front of the band surrounded by his drums, the 77-year old Puente seemed to be having as much fun as the audience, which by now was up and dancing. Smiling, laughing, singing, he became immersed in his music and would often proudly yell out "Am I getting to you?". It was quite a sight to look down over thousands of happy people dancing and swaying to the Latin rhythms as streaks of sunlight shone through the tree coverings.
REGINA BELLE: Even though a late flight delayed her entrance, the crowd loved the Grammy award-winner as she sang Love TKO. She almost canceled the performance due to feeling tired and ill and to make matters worse her backup singers didn’t make it. This meant she had to cover for them as well as sing her own parts which resulted in her vocals sounding forced and a bit flat. She took time to speak to the crowd, which was all hers, "about what’s important" - family, God, love.
LUTHER VANDROSS: The closing night featured the festival’s drawing card, Luther Vandross, who performed to a sold-out audience at the Garfield Sobers Gymnasium. With a Los Vegas style set, the slim and trim Vandross worked the crowd for 90 minutes, catering especially to the women who were anything but calm and composed.
BARBADOS is a tropical paradise worth exploring both for its beauty and its jazz. Situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea it is a friendly, lush island with a constant year-round comfortable climate. Barbados has a uniquely British atmosphere and English, with a Bajan accent, is the national language.
The capital, Bridgetown, is an historic community with an array of shops along Broad Street and a variety of sites worth visiting (museum, parliament buildings, cathedral, Trafalgar Square). Farther afield visitors will find lush tropical foliage lining narrow paved roadways that crisscross the island through fields of sugarcane. Surrounded by almost endless beaches, it isn't difficult to find your own little private sanctuary.
AIR TRAVEL: The Grantley Adams International Airport is about 5 hours south of New York and is served from various USA gateways by American/American Eagle and Air Jamaica, British Airways from England and Air Canada direct daily from Toronto (weekly from Montreal and Ottawa). US and Canadian citizens require either a valid passport OR an original birth certificate with government-authorized photo ID. British citizens require a passport.
MORE INFORMATION: Barbados Tourist Authority in USA at 800-221-9831, in Canada at 800-268-9122 or on the web at www.barbados.org.
Dave Stephens and Susan Randles are a married couple and travel writers living in Halifax, Canada. They write a regular column, "Romantic Getaways," for The Sunday Daily News and have three travel guides published by Nimbus Publications.