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A Haitian Jazz Concert? 
NY Jazz Fest Review, from
25 Avril 2007

By ALPI - On Saturday night, April 21, 2007, the 2nd Annual Haitian Jazz Festival of Miami was housed at the prestigious Night Concert Hall at the Carnival Center. Jazz lovers, members of the business community from everywhere gathered to celebrate the so called "Haitian Jazz" and contribute to the success of this major event.

Hosted by Papa Jube and Stew Grant, the festival opened with the super group Mozayik playing their tune "Sa Te Bèl ". Mozayik is the group that has laid the clearest and the most consistent pattern of Haitian Jazz since their appearance on the scene in the late 90's. Their music is a quest of Haitian identity through a mix of various modern jazz structures with voodoo based rhythms. The result is an original and new sound that is moving forward this "New Thing" that seem to drive more and more folks from the Haitian community. Markus Schwartz invited his peer Tiga (Blues in Red Band), son of the well respected drummer Bonga, for the second and last tune. And …magic came into the room....

Following Mozayik was saxophonist Jowee Omicil who brought a special vibe in the room. The audience showed enthusiasm when he played "Twa bebe" and a couple of very well known tunes from our rich repertoire. This young virtuoso of the Coltrane instrument is also an entertainer and he created a special bond with the audience. He moves a lot on the stage while he is playing.

And then came the queen of the night who sang a couple of songs with Macarios Césaire on acoustic guitar. She demonstrated and reconfirmed again how powerful and beautiful is her voice which has been soothing our dreams for these last twenty years. Macarios also showed a rare mastery of his instrument using these stunning chords progressions that make us think it is really time for him to go solo.

Unfortunately the committee decided to squeeze the time allotted to each band to include a section on community interest in the program. This made the audience loose about 20 precious minutes of music of the festival and shortened the performance timeframe of the other bands. Commissioner Dorin Rolle remitted a proclamation to Jowee Omicil for his commitment to the youth. The minister of Cultural Affairs from Haiti intervened and made a too long speech on the development of Jazz Music in Haiti. The audience, impatient had to clap to have him stop.

The night continued to unfold with beautiful music from Reginald Policard latest CD and a special take of "Twa Fèy, twa rasin" with special guest trumpeter Jean Caze. The band then stepped down to leave Reginald joined by Mushi Widmaier to play a stunning duet. This was an occasion for Mushi to demonstrate his very advanced skills on acoustic piano. This was one of the strongest moments of the night. By listening to him playing acoustic piano I wondered why he does not have any acoustic project in his discography. This is a question to ask …

Around 10:30 PM, Boulo Valcourt stepped up with his guitar and sang two songs from his repertoire. His strong voice resounded in the room and he granted the assistance with fifteen minutes of delight.

Blues in Red of Buyu Ambroise followed and delivered two pieces excerpted from their latest album "Marasa". The original approach on Wayne Shorter's "footprints" energized the room and the audience fell in love with Buyu's music.

Around 11:00 one got the impression that the organization had no control of the event. One could feel the lack of organization. The sudden appearance of Wycleff Jean seemed to come out of nowhere. Were he scheduled to play? The right guitar that was not there… Wycleff put an end to this confusion by requesting that Beethova Oba played instead of him. Therefore Beetho put a closure to the 2nd Annual Haitian Jazz Festival of Miami. Many Jazz lovers commented about the shortness of the event and expressed their disappointment.

Such an initiative to put together an Annual Haitian Jazz Festival is great and we have to praise Papa Jube and Gashford Guillaume for such a great endeavor. However, poor planning and bad management has impeded the success of the festival this year. This "crowdy" line-up for one night is absurd. One suggestion would be to reduce the number of performers and allow more time to each band. Musicians need to warm up in order to be at their best; and it can take up to three tunes to bring them to their optimum. They also need to communicate, to "feel" their audience. Another option should be to downgrade to a less prestigious facility and spread the festival over two or three days and bring back the focus and the respect to the musicians who are playing this great music. Budget constraint may be a handicap to this option, but the key word is plan, plan…. Plan the funding too! The basic condition of success of any endeavor of that sort is effective planning, mutual respect among actors/partners and a great deal of business ethics. The latter component is the one that is the most deficient in the Haitian Business Community. Will the protagonists able to comply with these simple criteria? Only the future bears an answer to this question.

There are possibilities to turn this event in a great annual music fest for jazz lovers. But from what we observed Saturday night, there is a long way to go in order to promote this great music and to turn this Jazz fest into a successful event. At KariJazz we want to believe that Saturday night flaws are to be imputed to inexperience in apprehending such a complex event. Last but not least, one cannot promote Jazz Music without having a passion for this music.

NY Jazz Fest Review
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