Big acts for Tobago Jazz

Gladys Knight, Earth, Wind and Fire, Elton John, Diana Ross, Mary J Blige, LL Cool J, Sean Paul, Heather Headley perform at the Jazz Festival

Songstress Patti La Belle at the 2006 Plymouth Jazz Festival. Photograph by Andrea De SilvaStevie Wonder, Machel Montano and Doug E. Fresh. Photograph by Andrea De SilvaSting at last years Jazz Festival. Photograph by Andrea De Silva

The Plymouth Jazz Festival in Tobago is still a toddler compared with some of the region’s other music festivals. But, approaching its third anniversary, it is proving to be a worthy rival, largely by focusing heavily on big-name talent.

In its first year in 2005, the festival presented Stevie Wonder, Natalie Cole, India.Arie, Babyface, Angie Stone, Doug E Fresh, Najee and the O’Jays. In the second year, it was Patti Labelle, Vanessa L. Williams, Sean “P Diddy” Combs, Johnny Gill, and headliner Sting, who earned his spot with an unforgettable performance. Wonder, Cole and Fresh headlined the show for a second year running.

This year, the roster includes Elton John, Earth, Wind and Fire, Gladys Knight, LL Cool J, Al Green, and Jamaican legend Beres Hammond. Trinidad-born singer Heather Headley is set to perform in her home country for the first time since becoming a Grammy-nominated and Tony-winning singing sensation.

While international talent has been a major draw, local talent has never failed to impress foreign acts and festival-goers alike. Machel Montano, Destra Garcia, Maximus Dan, David Rudder, Calypso Rose and the Mighty Sparrow have all made their mark on the event.

For the 2007 edition, organisers CL Communications have confirmed that Machel and Destra will return, much to the excitement of festival-goers. Last year, these two soca superstars garnered high praise from some of the international legends with whom they shared the stage. Destra won kudos from Patti Labelle, and Montano got the foreign celebrities to link hands on stage while singing his 2006 Road March Band of the Year. This year, the steel pan — Trinidad and Tobago’s national instrument — appears for the first time, with the Woodbrook Playboyz and pannists from Tobago scheduled to appear.

Held at the spacious Fort James/Plymouth Recreational Field overlooking Courland Bay, the festival takes place over three days, with the first night allocated to local performers. The field, split into General and VIP areas, is fringed with tents offering Tobago delicacies and craft items, and sponsors’ booths where gifts are distributed.

The 2007 festival runs from April 27 to 29, just after the busy Easter weekend. Visitors are encouraged to make a holiday of their trip by arriving early to take in the Easter activities, including the unique tradition of goat and crab races in Buccoo Village. And, of course, the endless beach and after-show partying.