George Duke, Kirk Whalum &
@ Pigeon Island, St. Lucia Jazz Festival
13 May 2007
Click an image to enlarge.
The beauty and charm of
Pigeon Island during the day, or night, never fails to excite the
senses. With the Atlantic Ocean on one side, the Caribbean Sea on
the other, delicately lit palm trees gently kissing the sky, combined
with the anticipation of a tremendous musical experience is surely
enough to warm the coolest hearts.
If I had to choose one instrument
that epitomises St. Lucia Jazz, it would be the saxophone. The heady
mix of sun, sea and sax is a sure fire winner at any venue throughout
The aptly named ‘Sunshine’ Anderson
bounded on stage, arms and hips swaying, as though she were on a
Paris, Milan, London catwalk… Unfortunately Anderson’s
vocals were not as forthcoming as her stage presence. In fact her
vocals were almost non-existent during her first two songs. Admittedly
there did appear to be technical problems, but I was no more than
a stone throw from the stage, so I should have been able to hear
something. Still, Anderson persevered with her don’t mess
with me; independent woman attitude, coupled with grand support
from George Duke on keys (and a lone loud Pigeon Island patron).
An overall subdued Pigeon Island crowd eventually welcomed Anderson’s
2001 R&B hit “Heard it all before”.
Whalum’s confident saunter onto the Pigeon
Island stage was one of a man who definitely had nothing to prove.
His Julius Keilwerth tenor proudly strapped in front of body oozed
distinctive sax appeal. By now the afternoon sun was at its peek
as Whalum let loose his sweet soul / gospel powered sax session.
Patrons simply rode the many magnificently crafted waves created
by Whalum. He simply looked at home here, whether standing, sitting
or leaping down from stage to be as one with his captivated audience.
Whalum generously shared the stage with George Duke and Sunshine
Anderson at various points throughout this session, but at no point
did his audience ever forget he was there.
Kirk Whalum interview with Carole Clemesha
This smiling Memphis-born saxophonist came bounding
over and was only too happy to talk about his musical beginning.
He drew his inspiration from the rich musical traditions of that
city, including gospel and R&B.
Whalum confesses that at first “he was
just messing about with the saxophone”… until he
heard legendary saxman Arnett Cobb. Whalum explained, “He
was a profound influence on me. He played as if he was about to
Whalum has performed in St Lucia once before, just
to play at a birthday party. He has also accompanied Whitney Houston
for her London gigs. His new album, “Round Trip”, is
all about taking time… whilst clasping your reporter’s
hand… looking into my eyes (swoon!), ‘like maturing
Californian born George Duke began playing the
piano at age seven, after seeing Duke Ellington in concert. He absorbed
the roots of Black music in his local Baptist church where he first
began to create his now renowned funky fusion fireworks. Music lovers
of many diverse genres have absorbed Duke’s legacy of 70’s
– 80’s soul funk fusion. Duke’s drive and energy
still has a profound influence on many newcomers as well as his
predecessors still in the business of making music today. Duke has
performed with the likes of Nancy Wilson, Joe Williams, Dizzy Gillespie
and Stanley Clarke during the 70’s; a time that was filled
with musical experimentation. Duke was musical director for the
Soul Train Awards in the 90's and has written songs for the likes
of Natalie Cole, Al Jarreau and Regina Belle, and produced albums
for Rachelle Ferrell and Diane Reeves to name but a few. Duke received
the coveted Edison Life Time Achievement Award in Rotterdam in 2005.
Duke’s comical antics had his mesmerised
audience in stitches of laughter as he played his keyboard with
right hand only, first with his head in the other hand, then down
on his knees. He then simulated the first stages of lovemaking to
his ‘instrument’ before being nudged out of his reverie
by Whalum…and back to the “funk, funk and more funk”.
His exuberant homage to James Brown “Gonna Have A Funky Good
Time” went down a storm (not literally thankfully). By now
the superheated Pigeon Island patrons were screaming for more…
Even the likes of Sunshine Anderson appeared to find her voice amongst
Duke’s hardworking backing singers.
Geroge Duke – keyboards / vocals
Kirk Whalum – saxophone
Sunshine Anderson – vocals
Robin Francis & Carole Clemesha
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd.