THE 2019 edition of the Tobago Jazz Experience (TJE) reaches its high point this weekend with performances by acclaimed US artistes Toni Braxton and Michael Bolton on Sunday, International Night, at Pigeon Point Heritage Park, Crown Point.
An award-winning singer who has entertained audiences all over the world, Braxton, 51, is expected to draw from her extensive repertoire, which includes Breathe Again, You’re Making Me High/Let It Flow, Un-Break My Heart and He Wasn’t Man Enough.
Braxton, who is also an accomplished songwriter, pianist, record producer, has won seven Grammy awards, nine Billboard music awards, and seven American music awards, during an illustrious career, spanning more than two decades.
Bolton, whose memorable offerings include the soul-stirring When A Man Loves A Woman, How Am I Supposed To Live Without You, Soul Provider and To Love Somebody, is also expected to make jazz lovers swoon.
The singer, who made a name for himself in the late 80s and early 90s on the adult/contemporary, easy listening charts, has enjoyed successful duets with Pattie La Belle, Ray Charles, Celine Dion, Placido Domingo, and others.
The International Night’s cast also includes Jacquees, Vaughnette Bigford, Tobago All Star Band and Laventille’s pride, Desperadoes Steel Orchestra.
Dissected into three big shows, the TJE is budgeted at $12 million, close to $5 million more than last year’s event. It began last evening with Jazz On The Waterfront, a free concert on the Scarborough Esplanade.
The event featured a slew of local artistes, including young singing sensation Leandra Head, reggae artiste Isasha, Caleb Hart, Ricardo Seales and Sharlan Bailey, son of late calypso icon Winston “Shadow” Bailey.
And leading the line-up at tomorrow night’s Jazz In The East at Speyside Recreation Ground are Jamaican reggae queen Marcia Griffiths, Busy Signal, conscious reggae artiste Duane Stephenson and Olatunji Yearwood, who is expected to navigate between soca and other genres.
Imij & Co, led by Joey Ng Wai, aka Roti Joe, is also expected to do a mix of soca, reggae, dancehall, and pop performances.
Tobago’s Leon Moore Band is not to be left out as it, too, is expected to deliver an exhilarating performance.
One of the island’s signature events, this year’s TJE comes at a time when the island is seeking to reposition itself as the tourism and romance hub of the Caribbean through its Tobago: Beyond Ordinary initiative.
Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles has assured the producers of the show, the Tobago Festivals Commission, led by George Leacock and also visitors to the island, that there will be adequate and frequent flights to accommodate jazz lovers comfortably. He also assured everything is being put in place for a smooth, successful TJE.
Yesterday, Secretary for Culture, Tourism and Transportation Nadine Stewart-Phillips echoed Charles’ sentiments, saying the THA was looking forward to an excellent celebration of music and the arts from our local, regional and international artistes.
Stewart-Phillips said after experiencing a “low year” at the event in 2017, the island rebounded nicely in last year’s Jazz Experience.
“So, this year the expectation is greater. And we know persons are going to come out and support. We have a number of visitors on the island as well because persons used the opportunity to capitalise on the two weekends. We had Easter last weekend and now we have jazz this weekend. So, we are excited and looking forward to the production,” she said.
Stewart-Phillips claimed the THA has received overwhelming feedback from some of the major hotels and guesthouses on the island with the Magdalena Hotel, Lowlands, reporting a 90 per cent occupancy rate going into the weekend. She added Tropikist Beach Hotel, Crown Point, had an occupancy rate of 100 per cent from Easter weekend, a trend that is expected to continue into the Jazz Experience.
She said her division had contacted some 13 properties, individually, to gauge feedback on occupancy.
“So the major hotels, Mt Irvine, Le Grand Courland and Grafton, Starfish Hotel that was formerly Turtle Beach, Blue Waters Inn is at 100 per cent. They indicated they wished they had more rooms…..Some are at 60 per cent. Some are at 75 per cent. Some are at 90 per cent.”
The tourism secretary said she also intends to get feedback from the smaller guesthouses.
“But I know one guest house in particular posted on Facebook that they were fully booked for Easter and for jazz. But we didn’t get much from some of the smaller properties which we intend to get today (yesterday).
Although she could not provide specific details, Stewart-Phillips assured the various venues will be ready for the weekend’s major shows.
“I know at Pigeon Point, the main stage started going up since over the (last) weekend and in Speyside as well. But we will definitely be ready for the weekend.”
Stewart-Phillips said the Tobago Jazz Experience was much more than music.
“What we want the Jazz Experience to do, as we have said in the past, is to be much more than music. We want persons to have the experience.”
She said she met a family of six from Denmark at the 94th Buccoo Goat and Crab Race Festival, on Tuesday, who indicated it was in Tobago for the Easter weekend and intended to stay for the Jazz Experience as well.
“But they were so elated to see the goats and crabs racing because they have never seen or heard of it. This is what we want the Tobago Jazz Experience to do as we evolve going forward. We want persons to come to Tobago without even the announcement of an artiste because we want them to enjoy the experience and that is why it was renamed the Tobago Jazz Experience.
“So, outside of coming to hear an artiste, we want people to come and be blown away just from hearing about Tobago because of the experience of itself,” she added.