Saint Lucia Jazz in Collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center
A celebration of Saint Lucian, Caribbean and international jazz music, with events in all parts of the country – a mix of free and paying concerts, educational activities targeted at Saint Lucian and visiting musicians, culminating on Mothers’ Day, May 12, 2019.
Concert hosted by Christian McBride
Augustin ‘Jab’ Duplessis
Augustin Duplessis, fondly called ‘Jab’ in the musical circles, started his career as a 15 year old junior bandsman in the Royal Saint Lucia Police Band. This was a very distinguished position in the small Caribbean island of St. Lucia as one had to be of good character and have a willingness to learn to be hired for such a post in this very prestigious band of academically trained musicians.
By 1983, now on his way to becoming a serious saxophonist, he had a burning desire for more musical knowledge. ‘Jab’ thus attended master classes at Berklee College of Music in Boston in the Summer, whilst still a member of the Royal St. Lucia Police Band. His quest for knowledge did not end there, as ‘Jab’ in 1989 pursued studies in the repair of woodwind instruments at Five Towns College in Seaford, Long Island, USA. Expertise in the repair of such instruments was not available back home, and ‘Jab’ became one of the most in-demand woodwind repairmen in St. Lucia and the region.
His insatiable appetite for knowledge placed him in the front row at many master classes with such renowned legends as Bobby Watson (Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz), Bob Berg, Wynton Marsalis Band, Jamey Aebersold, Joe Lovano, and veteran saxophonist Lew Tabackin.
As part of the West Indies Jazz Band, Mr. Duplessis toured Europe and the Caribbean for three years. He then founded his ensemble ‘Third Eye’ in 1989, which produced a multi hit CD ‘Awakening’.
He retired from the Police Band in 1993 to pursue his ambitions as a professional musician. ‘Jab’ has been recognized by his country by being awarded Best Performer in the Performing Arts category of the prestigious M&C Fine Arts Awards.
In the mid-nineties, ‘Jab’ with his band ‘Third Eye’, played the Jazz Festival circuit in Saint Lucia, Martinique and England. Duplessis, recognized among the Eastern Caribbean’s foremost saxophonists, was one of the obvious choices for selection to be a member of the Saint Lucia All Star Jazz Ensemble. This band performed main-stage at the 1996 St. Lucia Jazz Festival.
The turn of the Millennium took ‘Jab’ and his band on three successive residencies at the 5 Star Carenage Bay Resort on Canouan Island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In 2003 the 12th St. Lucia Jazz Festival saw ‘Third Eye’, led by this skilled musician, arranger and composer who by this time had expanded his musical prowess by learning to play the clarinet and the flute. On this occasion he included Martinique’s famous Bernard brothers, who had performed alongside famous international groups ‘Four Play’ and ‘Earth, Wind and Fire’.
In 2004, Jab and his band Third Eye took full-time residency at the elite Raffles Resorts where their audiences consisted of rich and famous clientele such as Donald Trump, Bill Gates, The Prince of Saudi Arabia and Leonardo Di Caprio, to name a few. The band opened for legendary acts such as ‘The Stylistics’ and ‘El Divo’’ at the Prince’s Trust Charity Fund Raising Event. ‘Jab’ also performed over a six-week period at the luxurious Raffles Hotel in Dubai and then at a wedding in Chateau Frontenac in Quebec, Canada.
Towards the end of that decade, in 2009, a six-month residency ensued at the newly opened Raffles in Tianjin, China, bringing with it an appearance at Raffles Beijing at the 2010 China Wine and Food Festival and at the American Chamber of Commerce July 4th Celebrations. ‘Jabs’ performances also brought him to Monaco where he entertained the guests at the Birthday party for the owners of a Villa on Canouan Resorts.
On the passing of St. Lucia’s lady of folk ‘Dame Sesenne Descartes’ he released a single track appropriately titled ‘Polka for Sesenne’. In 2011, ‘Jab’ was invited by the St. Lucia Tourist Board to perform at The Gaiety as part of the St. Lucia Jazz Festival. He used that opportunity to perform many of his original pieces, which comprised straight ahead Jazz, flavored with the indigenous Creole rhythms from his roots.
Now that Jab was back home, he embarked on his second solo album of songs written, composed and arranged by Luther Francois, Allison Marquis and himself. That album was recorded at the studio of the young and talented St Lucian producer, Danyl Daniel.
The album ‘Pinnock’s Lane’, was named after a lane in his childhood neighbourhood of Georgeville. That lane was named after his late nephew ‘Pinnock’.
Most recently, Duplessis has performed at the Jazz Sampler in 2013 at Gaiety on Rodney Bay. He also headlined ‘An Evening of Sax’ fund raiser for the Salvation Army in 2014 at the Gaiety on Rodney Bay and Swawé Kwéyòl at Fond D’Or Heritage Park.
Saint Lucia Jazz 2015, audiences saw him perform at the Fire Grill Restaurant in Rodney Bay and at Blue Coral Jazz in downtown Castries.
In May 2016, ‘Jab’ performed at “Q” Jazz Lounge. In May 2017, he also performed at “Q” Jazz Lounge for the first “Soliel” St.Lucia Jazz Festival. In May 2018, he performed at “Q” Jazz Lounge, then proceeded to perform for the Jazz “N” Creole Festival in Dominica, where his song “Enough Is Enough” was aired between the performances of the various bands..
‘Jab’ can now be seen performing in St. Lucia every Friday at Jamb Du Bois restaurant, located at Pigeon Island National Landmark from 7.30pm and at “Q” Jazz Lounge every Saturday from 9.30pm.
“Pinnocks Lane” – is a memorial to things dear, some lost in time, but always alive in memory.
Somi: Songs of Protest and Memory
Born in Illinois to immigrants from Rwanda and Uganda, acclaimed vocalist & songwriter Somi has built a career of transatlantic sonicism and storytelling. Petite Afrique Somi’s sophomore effort for Sony Music, is a daring, relevant, refashioning of what “jazz” and “African music” mean – both singularly and to each other. The album which tells the story of African immigrants in the midst of a gentrified Harlem, New York, which won a 2018 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album and features special guest Aloe Blacc, is a timely Petite Afrique and the highly anticipated follow-up to Somi’s last chart-topping album and major label debut The Lagos Music Salon which was inspired by an 18-month creative sabbatical in Lagos, Nigeria and features special guests Angelique Kidjo and Common landed at #1 on US Jazz charts. Both albums straddle the worlds of African jazz, soul, and pop with a newfound ease and a voice that Vogue Magazine simply calls “Superb!”
Often referred to as a modern-day Miriam Makeba, JazzTimes magazine describes her live performance as “the earthy gutsiness of Nina Simone blended with the vocal beauty of Dianne Reeves,” while Billboard exclaims that she’s “all elegance and awe…utterly captivating.”
The Lagos Music Salon is a highly anticipated follow up to the young singer’s last studio album, If the Rains Come First (ObliqSound) – a stunning collection of self-penned story-based songs which debuted at #2 on the Billboard World Chart, and featured her long-time mentor & legendary trumpet player Hugh Masekela. The Boston Globe proclaims the album “is a sustained triumph displaying rich musicality, a sharp pop sense, and rare sophistication” while The Huffington Post dubbed the young singer “the New Nina Simone.” Singing in English and a wide range of African languages, her artistic evolution is indisputable. As her career has taken off, Somi’s talents have been called upon for collaborations and live performances alongside a diverse cast of artists including Mos Def, Baaba Maal, John Legend, Billy Childs, Paul Simon, Danilo Perez, Idan Raichel, Jennifer Hudson and many more.
In 2011, Somi released her first live album of performances at the venerable Jazz Standard in New York City. The result of which JazzTimes hailed as “stunning…natural fervor and naked magnificence.” A two-time recipient of The Doris Duke Foundation’s French-American Jazz Exchange Composers’ Grant, Somi began an exploration of African & Arab jazz traditions alongside acclaimed French-Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf while investigating the role of the female voice during the Arab Spring protests. That body of work premiered at The Kennedy Center’s 2014 Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival. She is also developing an original jazz opera about the life and legacy of South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba.
Gregory Porter With Special Guest, Ledisi
For Gregory Porter, the influence of Nat King Cole on his life and music runs deep, a through-line that reaches back into some of his earliest childhood memories, and culminates in the release of the two-time GRAMMY-winning vocalist’s stunning fifth studio album Nat King Cole & Me, a heartfelt tribute to the legendary singer, pianist, and Capitol recording artist. “He was one of a kind. He left such great music – such beautiful things to listen to that you can’t help but be influenced by that extraordinary timbre, style, and ultimate cool,” Porter enthuses.
“My mother said I wrote this little song when I was 5 and put it on a tape and played it for her when she came home from work,” recalls Porter. Upon hearing it his mother, Ruth Porter, exclaimed “Boy, you sound like Nat King Cole,” a compliment that sent the curious young Gregory delving into her record collection.
Porter’s love for Cole’s music blossomed so much that he adopted Cole as his surrogate father. After his role in the Tony-nominated musical It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues – but before rising to international acclaim in his solo career thanks to his mellifluous baritone, poignant originals, and invigorating concerts – Porter dramatized his deep appreciation for Cole in a semi-autobiographical musical, Nat King Cole & Me, which premiered in 2004.
That musical underpins Porter’s third Blue Note Records release, Nat King Cole & Me, the follow-up to his GRAMMY-winning albums Liquid Spirit (2013) and Take Me to the Alley (2016), which established Porter as his generation’s most soulful jazz singer-songwriter. “It’s only natural that I go to the root of my inspiration and where I come from. And that root would be my mother and gospel music and Nat King Cole,” Porter says.
With the help of six-time GRAMMY-winning arranger Vince Mendoza and a core band featuring pianist Christian Sands, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Ulysses Owens, Porter revisits some of Cole’s most cherished classics such as “Smile,” “L-O-V-E,” “Nature Boy,” and “The Christmas Song.” Mendoza’s lush arrangements, animated by the London Studio Orchestra, cushion Porter’s brawny crooning to astonishing widescreen effect.
The singer demonstrates his acumen with singing in Spanish with his sensual take on “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas,” a popular tune written by Cuban songwriter Osvaldo Farrés that Cole featured on his 1958 LP, Cole Español. The album reaches its most theatrical flair with the extravagant treatment of Cole Porter’s “Miss Otis Regrets.” Porter’s voice bounces atop Mendoza’s ebullient arrangement of “Pick Yourself Up,” which Cole recorded with pianist George Shearing in 1961.
“When Love Was King” is the album’s sole Porter composition, originally recorded on Liquid Spirit, and here underscored by Mendoza’s suspenseful orchestral strings. “Of all the songs that I’ve written, ‘When Love Was King’ is probably one that’s the most influenced by Nat,” Porter explains. “Nat always chose these message songs – songs that left you with a thought that you’d want to carry throughout the entirety of your life.”