Red carpet for Randy Crawford

The headline act at this year’s Tobago Jazz is one of many treats in store. Nazma Muller sampled the musical menu

  • Randy Crawford. Photograph by Lionel Flusin

Tobago will once again roll out the red carpet for a legend, as Randy Crawford has been confirmed as the headline act for its third annual Tobago Jazz Experience.

Though the island is half the size of New York City, Tobago has seen some of the most glittering stars in the musical firmament over the years. Previous performers have included Chaka Khan, Erykah Badu, and George Benson.

Now Crawford will make her debut. The voice like Raw Silk (the title of her third album, in 1979) has become only silkier with time. Performing with her will be Joe Sample, her pianist and producer on her classics “One Day I’ll Fly Away”, “Street Life”, and “Rainy Night in Georgia”.

Since the first edition, the Tobago Jazz Experience has evolved and expanded, sampling salsa, adding a dash of dancehall, and showcasing soca from Trinidad & Tobago. The event was born out of the privately staged Plymouth Jazz Festival, but is now produced by the Tobago House of Assembly. This year’s festival will run for a record nine days and will also highlight the island’s food and folk traditions.

Musically, though, what sets Trinidad & Tobago apart in the island line-up of jazz festivals is its homegrown, world-class steelpan musicians, like Boogsie Sharpe and Earl Brooks, and entire pan orchestras such as Witco Desperadoes and Phase II Pan Groove, who make the steelpan play blues and jazz like you’ll never hear anywhere else in the world. Other local performers include soca stars Shurwayne Winchester and Machel Montano, calypsonian Lord Nelson, rapso pioneers 3Canal, singer Mavis John, and leading local  jazz musicians the Sean Thomas Quartet and Clive Zanda.

And then there’s the spice of chutney soca, East Indian music unique to Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana. Regional and international visitors will be blown away by the band Karma, whose lead man Ravi B has performed alongside Bollywood playback singer Nitin Mukesh and actor Shah Rukh Khan.

As for the set and props, well, it is Tobago, so factor in breathtaking beaches, cool breezes and a blanket of stars as the backdrop to Miss Randy singing “Diamante”, and the Tobago Jazz Experience should be fairly spectacular.

This event, after all, has been dubbed one of the World’s Coolest Music Festivals (Forbes Traveller). Even Shakira was impressed. “Thank you for having us here. This place is beautiful,” she said, during her stay in 2008. James Ingram said, “The whole thing has been absolutely wonderful.”


Calendar of events

Saturday, April, 23: Jazz in the East, featuring Trinidad & Tobago’s finest performers, Speyside

Sunday, April 24
: Sunday School street party, Buccoo

Monday, April 25:
Mt Pleasant Goat Racing

Tuesday, April 26:
Buccoo Goat and Crab Racing

Wednesday, April 27:
Jazz on the Waterfront, featuring local artistes unplugged. Milford Esplanade, Scarborough

Thursday, April 28:
World Music Night. Local acts include chutney sensation Karma and Kes the Band, international acts still to be confirmed. Pigeon Point Heritage Park

Friday, April 29:
Pan Jazz, Pigeon Point Heritage Park. Local maestros show their steel

Saturday, April 30:
During the day, Plymouth Street Beat, theatre featuring dances and music indigenous to Tobago. At night, Jazz on the Hill, Signal Hill, featuring promising Tobago performers

April 30 and May 1:
Jazz on the Beach, Mt Irvine Bay Hotel Beach Facilities from “brunch-time”.  Free to the public

Sunday, May 1:
Beach Jazz Fiesta all day, Pigeon Point Heritage Park. Headliners Randy Crawford and Joe Sample, and local acts 12 the band and ensemble Moyenne