Performers and singers in this year’s EXTRA festival shine bright for all of Cayman to see.
The EXTRA Cayman Arts Festival 2011 was a resounding success, offering Cayman a small taste of what is to come in 2012 and maintaining the high artistic quality unique to this festival.
The Juilliard Jazz Ensemble opened the festival on the first weekend and three Cayman choirs – the Cayman National Choir, the Cayman Youth Choir and the University College of the Cayman Islands Choir – closed the festival on the following weekend with a performance at the First Baptist Church in George Town.
Juilliard Jazz Ensemble
On Saturday, 19 March, this year’s festival kicked off with an hour-and-a-half performance by the Juilliard Jazz Ensemble.
Led by drummer Carl Allen, who addressed the crowd in between songs and was quite amusing, the five-member band was joined at one point by local steel pan genius Jimi La Pierre.
The other members of the ensemble – Kris Bowers (piano), Rodney Jones (guitar), Joe McDonough (trombone) and Clovis Nicolas (upright bass) – each wowed the crowd with skilled and lengthy solos on each piece.
The Juilliard Jazz Ensemble is a mix of students, teachers and working professionals.
Kris Bowers from Los Angeles began studying piano privately at the age of nine. He has received numerous awards and scholarships and in 2006, he graduated from high school and moved to New York to continue his studies at The Juilliard School.
Since he’s been in New York, Bowers has shared the stage and recorded with popular artists such as Terell Stafford, Mulgrew Miller, Terence Blanchard, Ron Blake and Walter Smith, among many other notable players and musicians. Also, he has performed for Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and US President Barack Obama.
He is a master of music student in jazz studies at the Juilliard School studying with Fred Hersch.
On Saturday, he received some of the louder applause of the evening. And each time he finished a solo, there were murmurs in the crowd discussing his brilliance on the piano.
Hailed by guitar master George Benson as “a legend among musicians,” Rodney Jones still pushes the boundaries of modern jazz guitar on stage while continuing to work with pop legends.
Jones has lent his guitar talents to Madonna, Stevie Wonder, Robert Palmer, Phil Collins and Destiny’s Child, among others. He has also worked with R&B artists Lauryn Hill, James Brown and Queen Latifah, blues legends Ruth Brown and Albert Collins, and other jazz masters like Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones.
Jones has taught at The Manhattan School of Music, The New School, Mannes School of Music, Queens College, CCNY and the Jazzmobile.
In every song Saturday, Jones moved his fingers effortlessly around the frets, making some of the most complex parts look downright easy.
In terms of pure skill with his instrument, Jones ranks high on the list of jazz musicians in their prime.
Carl Allen has more than 200 recordings to his credit, and he is a drummer, sideman, bandleader, entrepreneur and educator.
He has played with Benny Golson, Jennifer Holiday, Rickie Lee Jones, Sammy Davis Jr., Herbie Hancock, Phil Woods, Billy Childs and many others.
His sideman discography includes Jackie McLean on Dynasty, Donald Harrison on Insian Blues and Noveau Swing, Donald Byrd on A City Called Heaven and Art Farmer on The Company I Keep. His latest release on the Mack Avenue label is Work To Do with co-leader, bassist Rodney Whitaker.
Allen is the artistic director of jazz studies at the Juilliard School.
On the opening weekend of the festival, he also acted as stand-up comedian, warming the crowd with his sense of humour and serving up the lighter side of Jazz.
Joe McDonough has been the recipient of many awards. He can be found on the recordings headed by Alex Brown (pianist with Paquito D’Rivera), Jim Holton (alongside internationally renowned trumpeter John Swana) and on Max Von Mosch’s tenet recording with Greg Gisbert, Xavier Davis and Gene Jackson.
He has performed at venues like Catalina’s Bar and Grill and the Knitting Factory in Los Angeles and in a show band with Carnival Cruise Lines.
McDonough is pursuing his master’s degree in jazz studies at the Juilliard School.
Allen constantly joked with the evening’s guests by requesting women in the crowd to give McDonough a kiss – Allen claims that McDonough has only been kissed by his mother and grandmother.
Clovis Nicolas studied at the Conservatoire of Avignon with Joseph Fabre, one of the most notable instructors in France and he has worked with artists like Peter King, Ted Curson and Laurent de Wilde.
He is a bachelor of music student in jazz studies at the Juilliard School in New York City where he is studying with jazz master Sir Ron Carter.
Nicolas took the bass line for a walk on every song, always moving the crowd to a roaring applause with every pluck and slide.
The three choirs
On Saturday, 26 March, the Cayman National Choir, the Cayman Youth Choir and the University College of the Cayman Islands Choir sang John Rutter’s Requiem as the main performance piece of the night.
Sue Horrocks directed the main performance, which also included a magnificent orchestra, and she also serves as conductor and director of the Cayman National Choir.
All ages and types of singers are accepted into the Cayman National Choir, but one would never know because of the quality of their sound.
The UCCI Choir continued its recent run as the premiere school choir in the region, with another performance that brought the attendees of the church to their feet.
The standout of the night was the Cayman Youth Choir – their performance was awe-inspiring singing brought tears to the eyes of many in the crowd.
Glen Inanga, the artistic director of the festival and conductor of the UCCI Choir, had this to say about the EXTRA Cayman Arts Festival 2011: “The EXTRA Festival was a great success and confirms our expectations that the audience has a healthy appetite for CAF events on an annual basis.”
On to Cayman Arts Festival 2012…