George Duke, Kirk Whalum & Sunshine Anderson
@ 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 festival.
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 die”.
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 love’.
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.