@ Pigeon Island, St. Lucia Jazz Festival
13 May 2006
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The scenery near this venue entrance alone is enough to take
your breath away. Your senses are bombarded by the smell of chicken,
fish and other freshly prepared delicacies on offer. You cannot
ignore ‘or not admire’ the sight of multi-coloured stalls
and multi-coloured homemade items on display by local sellers, who
proudly parade their wares. Illuminated trees and historical ruins
silhouette against the revamped hooded stage (to cater for all types
A relaxing sail on the coast, adjacent to the main road made
a perfect start to the day, with a dinghy dropping us off at the
jetty for a short trot to the main stage.
Keneth Edmonds was born April 10, 1959, in Indianapolis. He sang
in local R&B bands as a teenager and performed in Bootsy Collins’
backing unit (where he earned his nickname ‘Babyface’).
Edmonds joined the funk group Manchild, but after releasing three
albums the group members went their separate ways. Babyface formed
the urban funk group Deele with partner Antonio “L.A”
Reid in the early 1980’s. After scoring a few hits on the
R&B charts, Babyface and Reid began producing and writing for
other artists. Sizable hits would follow for the likes of Pebbles
– “Girlfriend” and the Whispers’ –
“Rock Steady”. After releasing a third album, Babyface
and Reid decided to leave Deele to enable them to concentrate on
the LaFace label, which the duo founded in 1989. Further success
would follow in Bobby Brown’s “Every Little Step, Sheena
Easton’s “The Lover in Me,” and Karyn White’s
“The Way You Love Me” and “Superwoman”.
After writing and producing many hits for others, Babyface turned
attention to his own recordings. The album “Tender Love”
was released in 1989. Four hit singles would follow, firmly cementing
the road to solo success.
Babyface continued his major song writing success with artists
such as Johnny Gill, Whitney Houston, Madonna and R&B super
group Boyz II Men. Babyface was co-nominated for an Album of the
Year Grammy for his production on The Bodyguard soundtrack and went
on to work with artists like Mariah Carey, Eric Clapton, Celine
Dion, Gladys Knight and Mary J Blige to name a few.
The LaFace combination has become a highly successful and lucrative
imprint, breaking formidable artists such as Toni Braxton, TLC,
Outkast and Usher.
Babyface is a multifaceted musician who has worked hard to gain
the respect and love from artists and fans alike. His initial visit
to the St. Lucia jazz Festival in 2004 was a disappointment to many.
Uncharacteristically for the time of year, St. Lucia experienced
the level of rain normally reserved for the Amazon Forest. The beautiful
‘usually sun filled’ Pigeon Island venue apparently
resembled a muddy day at Glastonbury. Babyface still has a firm
grip on success, but Mother Nature has even greater control over
If we had forgotten, or were in any doubt regarding the influence
Babyface has had over the R&B, and pop charts in the past decade
or so, we were about to receive a swift soulful reminder.
The crowd were on their feet and seemed anxious to get this show
started, and judging by the speed in which Babyface entered the
stage, with electric guitar in hand, so was he. Opening with “The
Cool In You”, this articulate hit machine took us on a journey
through his many R&B dance hits, and unforgettable ballads that
have formed the very fabric of many a music lovers life.
Babyface could have easily sat back and allowed the many voices
(specifically female) to take over, but this was his second time
around, and he seemed determined to put on a show. He did allow
the young vocal talent of (name to be added) to briefly share vocal
duties on “My, My, My” and “Can’t Stop”,
but Babyface soon regained full control of his repertoire, and his
exuberant eight piece band.
It was not difficult to visualise Babyface actually offering compositions
such as “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Every Little
Step” to younger ‘quick burners’ such as Bobby
Brown. It almost seemed a shame that he did, especially after Babyface
proved 'he' still had the scope and energy to perform these songs
himself. Hit after hit rained down on the St. Lucian patrons, who
reciprocated by singing every song almost word perfect.
Just when you thought the Babyface hit machine had slowed, or he
had no more surprises in offer, he would come back with either another
gem, or another instrument in hand.
I felt that the slow jam “When Can I see You Again”
(taken from the album For The Cool In You) seemed a strange choice
for an encore, but judging by the many waving hands, screams of
“Give it to me Baby…” From his many female fans,
I was the only one.
Babyface – vocals, guitar & saxophone.
Report by Robin Francis
Additional information by Carole Clemesha
© Michael Valentine Studio Ltd.