Now that it’s December in Ohio, it’s getting harder to pretend that the weather doesn’t suck and will continue to suck more or less relentlessly for the next four or five months. This morning it was in the upper-30s (F) with 45mph winds, taking out the power (briefly) and tossing trash can lids like frisbees.
Barbados in January sounds pretty great.
Though the headliner is clearly an R&B-pop performer, this IS an impressive international line-up:
From January 10-16, 2005, the 12th Barbados Jazz Festival will feature Alicia Keys, Kenny Garrett, Ellis Marsalis, Yellowjackets, Gato Barbieri, Keiko Matsui, Pieces of a Dream, Jason Moran, The Charles Flores Quintet, Tito De Gracia, Adrian Clarke, and more in an idyllic eastern Caribbean setting.
Concerts will be held at some of Barbados’s top venues including: Sunbury Plantation House, Farley Hill National Park, the Rum Factory at Heritage Park, the Sherbourne Conference Center, The Colony Club Hotel and the Garfield Sobers Auditorium.
Monday, January 10, 8:00pm: Sunbury Plantation House
Headliners: Gato Barbieri/Adrian Clarke
Tuesday, January 11, 8:00pm: Heritage Park / The Rum Factory
Headliners: Tamara Marshall/Janelle Headley
Wednesday, January 12, 8:00pm:Sherbourne Conference Center
Headliners: Ellis Marsalis/Jason Moran
Thursday, January 13, 8:00pm: Colony Club Hotel, St. James
Friday, January 14, 8:00pm: Garfield Sobers Auditorium
Headliner: Alicia Keys
Saturday, January 15, 12:00pm: Farley Hill National Park
Headliners: Pieces of a Dream / Tito De Gracia / Charles Flores Quintet feat:
Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez & Giovanni Hidalgo
Sunday, January 16, 1:00 pm: Farley Hill National Park
Headliners: Kenny Garrett / Yellowjackets / Keiko Matsui
Barbados is popular for its natural and historic attractions, beaches, water sports, golf courses, fine dining and nightlife, and for not being cold. Check out the festival photo gallery here and picture yourself there.
Here are my thoughts on headliner Keys:
Silly mortal, resistance is futile. I have now cheerfully succumbed, but once I too reflexively leaned against the gale force winds of hype surrounding Alicia Keys, the 23 year-old singer/pianist who has been saddled with the responsibility of returning sweet soul music to its rightful place at the head of the popular music table, the fresh neo-soul beauty upon whose slender shoulders rest the artistic legacies of Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and you might as well throw in Billie Holiday, Dorothy Dandridge and Joan of Arc too.
How can the child-prodigy pianist, raised by a single mother in NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen, possibly survive under this crushing weight of expectation? By simply delivering the goods and remaining true to herself: Alicia Keys truly IS everything that bodes well for the future of the recording industry, wrapped up in one assured but respectful, classically trained but streetwise, gorgeous leggy café au lait package. Such is her hot-buttered-soul-on-the-hip-hop-tip perfection that you might guess the man who signed her — industry legend Clive Davis who discovered Whitney Houston, Santana, Billy Joel, Patti Smith and scores of others — conjured her out of thin air.
However Keys is ever so real: a bona fide diva in the artistic sense of the word, yet grounded and genuine not flakey and flighty, evocative and expressive not hysterical and histrionic. Her debut album — Songs in A-Minor, recorded when she was only 19 and released in early 2001 — stunned fans and critics alike with its musical and lyrical accomplishment, earned five Grammys including song of the year for the indelible smash “Fallin’,” and best new artist for its dazzling young maker, selling over 10 million copies in the process.
“Fallin'” exemplifies many of the artist’s strengths: a smoldering beat-ballad of soul surrender built around her own intoxicating piano arpeggio, gospel backing vocals, subtle strings, and a voice that drips with the light of youthful longing shadowed by the regret of hard-won experience (at 19!) – a voice that leaps between peeling highs and deep moans, slides across blue notes and churchy exclamations but never calls attention to its own virtuosity: limitless talent harnessed in service to the song.
Also splendid from the debut are “Girlfriend” (with rap from Jay-Z), demonstrating Keys’s ease with hip-hop rhythms and revealing her fearless admission of vulnerability to jealousy, and “How Come You Don’t Call Me,” which reacts to neglect not with petulance but with irresistible cooing seduction. No wonder thug rapper 50 Cent became smitten with Keys at a party and unsuccessfully pursued her for months with pretty words and flowers (dude just wasn’t her type).
Keys’ second effort, The Diary of Alicia Keys, entered the charts at Number One when it was released late last fall, is already multi-platinum, and demonstrates musical and conceptual growth over its predecessor. “You Don’t Know My Name” is vastly appealing retro-soul as Keys is both bold and coy, calling a man who has caught her eye to plead her romantic case. The clever video for the song casts Keys as a waitress in a coffee shop, the voice behind the phone call, and confirms her down-to-earth conception of herself despite the abundant talent, beauty and brains (she attended Columbia University on a music scholarship at the age of 16). “Diary” demonstrates her way with a sophisticated, jazzy melody, and understated musicality.
The only real concern about the burgeoning superstar is that she is burning too many candles at too many ends – her regimen of writing, recording, rehearsal, travel, performance, answering fan mail on her exceptional website, and, um, breathing and eating and stuff, leaves little time for sleep or even rest. Yet so far she seems to be thriving with a schedule and responsibilities that would shame a campaigning presidential candidate. But of course – all in a day’s work for a natural born super woman.