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Sunday, January 21, 2007

looking back, looking ahead

Now Is The Time: Looking back,
Jazz First.
BY Michael 'Jazzofonik' Edwards
Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Roman deity Janus whose name was co-opted for the first month in our calendar year, was visually represented as a two-headed man, the heads glancing in opposite directions - one back, one forward.

Mythology aside, the analogy seems entirely appropriate, with one music festival (Barbados Jazz) behind, and another (Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues) immediately upon us.

In keeping with the theme, the recap of the Barbados Jazz Festival will be done in reverse. Beginning with the climatic Sunday evening at Farley Hill national park, which unreservedly joins St Lucia's Pigeon Point as one of the region's most attractive jazz venues (we've seen pictures of the new Air Jamaica Jazz venue in preparation, and indications are certainly very favourable, but we'll reserve final judgement until next week).

In a few hours time, the Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival gets underway. This year's version features both an expanded main festival venue, the Rose Hall Aqueduct ground, and an expansion in the number of venues, with shows also slated for Mobay's Half Moon hotel (trumpeter Chuck Mangione and vibist Roy Ayers) as well as the Gardens of the Pegasus in Kingston, which takes the spotlight tonight.

The venue, already known to live music lovers as the home of the Jazz In The Gardens series, will this time host Cuban pop-salsa-funksters Yerba Buena, musical 'oracle' (my term) Marjorie Whylie and her Whylie Whrythms combo and guitarist Maurice Gordon, who can do just about anything he wishes on the instrument.

Over at Rose Hall, the festival gets underway in earnest on its now customary Thursday, with acts drawn from a smorgsbord representing pop, soul and reggae. Yes, the assertion holds true that there's hardly any jazz or blues represented in the Thursday-Sunday run of the event (with the obvious apologies to piano legend, Monty Alexander).

Sure, the hordes of persons heading to Montego Bay will enjoy Earth, Wind & Fire, Michael Bolton, Christopher Cross and the return of Kenny Rogers, but perhaps now with some financial success, festival director Walter Elmore may next year look more sincerely into the vast ocean of both emerging and established jazz/blues acts and scoop out more worthy acts to give the Jazz and Blues name the credibility it deserves.

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