A daring fire eater and limbo dancer “tested the flames”…
On the home island of Barbados the Naniki Caribbean Jazz Safari the first night was off to a FIRERY start indeed as things heated up early .
Initially conceiving the idea some twenty years ago Barbados businessman/promoter Tom Hinds saw his vision of more than 20 years become a reality when he debuted the first of a series of Caribbean music festivals titled The Naniki Caribbean Jazz Safari this year in Barbados. His concept was to take a simple plan that worked for many years at his Naniki Amphitheater/Resort and expand it throughout the islands, Caribbean particularly those islands that have not hosted music festivals in the past.
Endorsed by the Caribbean Tourism Organization and sponsored through the cooperative efforts of the Barbados Tourist Authority, Traveling Guitar Foundation, Bullion Entertainment, Liat Airlines, Hilton Hotel and many others, opening night kicked off the inaugural show at Charles Fort (The Hilton Barbados Resort) in swinging style with a dose of European vocal styling’s from Barbados born Patricia Lowe (now residing in Italy).
Lowe’s performance was followed by headliner T.S. Monk’s Quartet (featuring special guest R&B/Jazz vocalist Alyson Williams), who created a “Jazz Paradise” with a sprinkling of spicy solos from Helen Sung on piano, Willie Williams on sax, and Erik Privert on bass. On the grounds, where canons still lay, the fireworks provided on drums by the young Monk showed off the skills taught to him by his mentors Art Blakey and Max Roach.
After sensing the crowd’s pleasure in the abilities of pianist Helen Sung, Monk promptly turned it over to her for a solo where she performed her own original medley of well-known selections showcasing her ability to play stride mixed with swing and classics with a twist. After her blistering pace Sung slowed it down but lit another fire ending her solo, much to the crowd’s delight. Willie Williams (formerly of TSOP – The Sounds of Philadelphia) was an added feature guest tenor who astounded the standing room only audience. The bass assignment was held down by a young and aptly seasoned Erik Privert. He provided the swing keeping up with the flashing high stick work and artful brushwork of T.S. The night was completed with the jazz vocal styling’s of Alyson Williams, who is better known as the R&B singer discovered by music mogul Russell Simmons (founder, Def Jam Records).
After an opening night like this one would think nothing could top it… wrong!
The second night was “Heaven on Earth” with a birthday celebration for NEA Jazz Master Pianist Cedar Walton. At Frank Collymore Hall the island’s premier concert hall with acoustics likened to that of New York’s Allen Room (Jazz at Lincoln Center) and St. Louis’ Sheldon Memorial, MC (Mistress of Ceremonies) Caribbean Radio Network personality Carol Roberts opened up the night by honoring the jazz master who appeared as a special guest with Barbados native David “Happy” Williams’ Quartet. On sax the always amazing Antonio Hart was the perfect pearl added to the compositions performed that night. During the break Barbados legendary musician Ebe Gilkes was awarded the Naniki Caribbean Jazz Safari Legend Award. On hand to present the award was promoter Tom Hinds, former Chief Justice Sir David Simmons and Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson. As the “Father of Barbados Jazz” Mr. Gilkes displayed the graciousness of a Count giving further validity to their selection.
After a brief intermission, the audience returned to a special treat. If a stellar performance by NEA Jazz Master and special presentation was not enough, the night was capped off with Nnenna Freelon’s Trio. The six-time Grammy Award-Nominee conducted her band including Brandon McCundon on piano, Wayne Batchelor on bass and Adonis Rose on drums through precise and fluent movements with her inimitable elegant style. Ms. Freelon’s superb repertoire began with the classic “God Bless the Child” followed by “Close Your Eyes”, “Balm In Gilead”, “The Very Thought of You” and ended with a stirring rendition of “Moon River,” executed in a Caribbean-styled rhythm, which had a few fans swaying and swooning.
Day 3 brought us to a memorable and gorgeous venue at the Harrison’s Cave. The concert at this exotic site showcased top local attractions displaying delightful helpings of jazz fusion, Cuban salsa, Trinidadian Steel Pan Rhythms, as well as representatives from Martinique who satisfied the hardy appetites for great music in an equally unique setting. Those featured during this presentation of a blissfully, tasty musical gumbo were Peter Bernard, Relator, Shakura S’ Aida and Mario Canonge to name a few.
DAY 4 was unprecedented simply in the fact that for the first time ever anywhere in the Caribbean a Prime Minister opened the grounds of his home to host a music fest beyond anyone’s dream… except that of Producer Tom Hinds. In talking with him after opening night he admitted “I have always had a unique rapport with those artists I love and have worked with in the past.
This time when I told them what I needed they did not hesitate helping out with this first effort”. It shows the credibility this six foot 5 Barbados born former Cricketer from Combermere School has with the highest officer of the island. He is gracious, warm and engaging when exposing his dream to unite the islands with a special series of music festivals. This plan gives an entirely new meaning to the term “Island-hopping.”
This music lover put together the perfect day on the lawn featuring gigantic balloon slides for the youngsters, along with food and souvenir vendors. This played right in hand with a stellar musical treat starting off with Soul/blues/rock guitarist/vocalist Derek McKeith with
Derek in a pre-show interview for Caribbean Broadcast Network
McKeith, who is also Director of West Coast School Programs for the Traveling Guitar Foundation, conducted a special musical assembly /workshop for students from five secondary schools. The program included a presentation from the TGF team (Sandra Trim-DaCosta, Executive Director; Anre’ DaCosta, Director, Business Development; rapper Stereo H. and pianist Van Taylor) of brand new Schecter acoustic/electric guitars provided by TGF Founder/rock guitarist Damon Marks. This foundation is also working with the USO on projects that further promote their goal to assist in providing tools for musical programs in schools.
McKeith’s high energy performance was followed by Smooth Jazz violin master Michael Ward. Barbados native son Elan Troutman took stage late in the afternoon and kicked it up a notch with his alto and soprano sax as he played tunes from his upcoming CD and a special song about his beloved Barbados and Boston “Beantown”. He was aptly supported by his good buddy and special guest Jeff Lorber.
But hold on to your seats, as the night went into higher gear as the stage changed once more. As the night set in, the stage changed once more. Well after 7pm once the back-up singers for a Los Angeles-based native of Toronto, Canada who is co-managed by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entered with her “MF Life” program… Grammy Nominated soul stress Melanie Fiona delivered her repertoire with ease causing women to chant along and answer when she commanded. The men were glued to her as well and moved to the funky rhythms delivered by the bass and drums. This Queen Bee drew the crowd to the stage like bees to honey as she held a stand up party all night till well after 10pm.
The final day Errol Barrow Day took you to the grounds of Tom Hinds property nestled sweetly in the mountain overlooking the stunning vistas of St. Joseph with the fresh East coast breezes cooling you gently with sweet music. At the outdoor Naniki Amphitheatre just after 11am the crowd began to settle in for a full day Jazz picnic. Celebrating the birthday of the father of Barbados the lineup once again was a mind blowing happy experience not to be outdone even by the intermittent sprinkles. After a full day of performances the final two performers were the Queen of Barbados Jazz Cici and the
Dressed in a beautiful green suit he took the stage backed by the Barbados Community College Nonet and gave the crowd a treat they talked about as they left the grounds. His presentation included hits like “Summertime”, “Riots” and the popular “Emerton”. For this local historian to close the Safari was truly a sign that the next stops. Present at the event was Nnenna Freelon who gave a surprise impromptu acapella version of “Skylark “so well received by the Mighty Gabby that he chimed in for the final two bars and hugged her in total appreciation. Earlier in the afternoon he was interviewed by two local teens participating in the Film Documentary workshop conducted by Jaris Reed Group.
Danielle Jones 17 years old and Jelissa Marshall 16 years old interviewed promoter Tom Hinds as well but “Mighty Gabby” gave his life experiences along with expert advice regarding the business end of the music business and met with the families of both young ladies. After this initial workshop as co-anchors for “Jazz: Backstage” part of the “Backstage Series” produced by the 501 ©3 not for profit group (JRG) these students will now be picked up for further training in the field of communications by the local broadcast network. The group’s founder is Reed I. Hadley.
Since you missed the first don’t miss the rest… the next stops which travel to the islands of Antiqua March 1-2, featuring Harlem’s own Danny Mixon and Grenada June 1-2 and St. Vincent to follow.
Please utilize the contact information below for your trip to the next Naniki Caribbean Jazz Safari where the only thing that bites you on this hunt will be “… serenading sounds of music in the sweet nightly breezes”.
For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: 246 844 7970
Photos by Miho Arai and Reed I. Hadley
Part II Naniki Caribbean Jazz Safari –Antigua
Naniki, which gets its name from an Arawak word meaning “full of life”, travels taking the sweet sounds of music and education to eager fans and students. If you have never been on a cruise or a safari and great music is your passion then you can get both for the price of a ticket to any event at the Naniki Caribbean Jazz Safari. The inaugural event promoted by Barbados businessman Tom Hinds is a dream of a lifetime. After a successful beginning in Barbados in January he took to the sea and air to land his musical extravaganza this time on the beautiful island of Antigua in March 1 through 2. The talent pool he pulls from a lineup of variety in genres as well as hit makers. On the Friday night at Dean William Lake Cultural Centre in St. John the smooth sound from Archie Alleyne & Kollage were enjoyed to the huge crowd but the night closed with the fireworks provided by Harlem legend Danny Mixon and his quartet of Lyle Atkins on bass, George Ray on drums and James Steward on Tenor and soprano reeds.
Danny being the true showman that he is played to the crowd with Bobbie Shorter type serenades occasionally looking over his right shoulder to flash that boyish smile. He had already won the crowd over with his apt selection of tunes opening with “Sugar” followed by “Chelsea Bridge” and Freddie Hubbard’s “Up Jumped Spring”. When he stood to explain the next piece he captured the audience with the heart rendering story of performing on the date of his mother (deceased) birthday. Explaining her favorite song “Misty” was a hit the way he performed it and whenever company visited he was commanded to perform it.
Well after he sat to perform it not only did he do so in a transindental like manner but referenced several musical phrases within to make this version truly his own, certainly one never heard by this writer before. After the completion of this performance he rose to a standing ovation. He finished the evening with “All Blues” from Miles Davis songbook and a bossa nova tempoed “Recorder Me”.
He then introduced St. Louis vocalist Denise Thimes to the stage for a set which included ‘World on A String”, “Sentemental Mood”, “My Romance” and closing out here set was “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and finally “Route 66”.
Danny closed the evening with a Caribbean party tune playing his piano imitating a Tin Pan rendition of “Fungi Mama”. Later after the show he signed autographs, did an interview with a local television station and took photos with those new fans that remained after the show.
The Traveling Guitar Foundation along with Van Taylor Productions and the Jaris Reed Group conducted music and film workshops for secondary school students in Antigua. The programs were sponsored by Bullion Entertainment in conjunction with the Naniki Caribbean Jazz Safari Festival series.
Soul/blues rocker Derek McKeith and his Trio opened the second show of the festival at Antigua’s Shirley Heights outdoor venue. McKeith (Director, West Coast School Programs, Traveling Guitar Foundation) danced to his rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You” literally kicking off his shoes, also ventured into the crowd. He spotlighted a group of students who were present from the musicians’ workshop he co-hosted with Tim Webb, Van Taylor, and Anre’ DaCosta (Director of Business Development, TGF) earlier in the day.
That program included a presentation of brand new acoustic and electric guitars to four schools. The instruments were donated by TGF Founder Damon Marks, Schecter Guitars and Bullion Entertainment. Judging from the smiles on the student’s faces when playing the electric and acoustic masterpieces the workshop was a smashing success. Promoter Tom Hinds was on hand for the presentation. Later that evening he was interviewed in a workshop hosted by Jaris Reed Group promoting Film Documentary Production for Teens by student Lizelle Roberts. “You should not be surprised if before the year ends you hear the safari has touched down in Antigua again,” said Tom Hinds, festival executive producer.
The other Not-for-Profit foundation along on the tour is Jaris Reed Group headed by Reed I. Hadley founder. The primary focus of JRG “Film Documentary Workshop for Teens” is finding students in the schools interested in media. After introducing them to anchor/interview sessions with artists and historical island figures they are later paired with media partners for further development while tracking their progress in the program. .
“The kind of support that we have been getting is really overwhelming.” He is considering the proposal by Minister of Tourism John Maginley that the festival be hosted during the September/October lull in the tourism season. After interviewing Tom Hinds she promptly sat down with Winston Anthony Bailey recipient of the Naniki Caribbean Jazz Safari “Legends Award” to get his view on the future of the music business in the islands, his ideas on the youth of the day and their interests in his type of musical heritage and overall feeling of having a festival of its type in Antigua. Stating “I have never done anything like this before” the young 15 year old now displaying no shyness at all says she has a new outlook on being visible.
After a brief intermission the crowd settled back to prepare for more smooth sounds and tasty harbor breezes. The next act to take the stage happened to be a son of Antiguan soil and a fine Flugelhorn master. Happy Lewis and his quartet wowed the raining crowd into the wee hours.
Next up on the musical radar are the islands of Grenada in June 1-2 and St. Vincent to follow. The Naniki message of great food, fun for the family sultry soulful sounds of music in unbelievably gorgeous and education for youth will fill the island and stay on ones lips long after it moves on. I will says this to you “if you get bitten while on this safari it can only leave you with a feeling you will never forget”.
For more information: email@example.com
Tel: 246 844 7970