Class act from Vanessa Williams

The first edition of the rebranded Soleil St Lucia Jazz Festival climaxed in grand style on Sunday at the historic Pigeon Island National Landmark, longstanding venue of the much acclaimed music event.

The organizers definitely got it right and “saved the best for last” by choosing Grammy award winning American artiste and actress Vanessa Williams, well known for a hit single with this title, to bring the curtain down on the event. The former Miss America brought the house down during her 45-minute performance and captivated adoring fans with her singing and expert dance moves.

Vanessa Williams was superb.

Wearing a stunning blue gown, Williams bared her soul to the audience through her music and spoke candidly about how she bounced back after being stripped of the Miss America title by turning to music and acting to show the world what she’s made of. She was stripped of this beauty title in the early 1980s following the unauthorized publication of nude photos of her.

Williams’ set included some of her best known hits like Dreaming, Sweetest Days, and Love Breaks Your Heart – the soundtrack of the Beverly Hills 90210 television show, and Colours of the Wind from the Disney film Pocahontas which won a Golden Globe, an Oscar, and a Grammy for Best Original Song.

She also performed a couple classics including Raining All the Time by Lena Horne and  and Everlasting Love by Chaka Khan, whom she said she idolized as an aspiring singer/performer. Not surprisingly, she sang . Save the Best for Last as her final song but delighted fans wanted more and she obliged with I Got Work To DoI Bet You Never

Williams ended her performance with a Latin dance, thanking patrons for all the love and energy.

In her turn on stage, Rachel Ferrell gave a rather soul-baring performance which centred around the worth and dignity of women. As Sunday was Mother’s Day, her message resonated with the women in the audience. She did a neo-soul number entitled Sister and sang Happy Mother’s Day to all the women present, telling them: “I’m giving you props, respect and dignity.”

Ferrell, who has a six-octave voice,  showed off her vocal dexterity and range in song, as well as in scatting, shrieking and bebop.  The Berkeley-trained performer definitely brought the jazz flavour to Sunday’s show.

Victor Provost, a pannist from the Virgin Islands, kept patrons entertained on what was a hot and humid Sunday afternoon at Pigeon Island. Provost, who has a jazzy soca style, got patrons grooving while the drinks flowed. His set featured original songs from his new CD Bright Eyes, dedicated to his three-year-old daughter Victoria-Rae. The CD features acclaimed musicians like Paquito de Riviera, Etienne Charles, Ron Black, and Joe Locke.

St Lucia was well represented on main stage by the  Rupert Lay Quartet with vocalist Tricia George who charmed the audience with her renditions of the Roy Ayers’ composition Everybody Loves the Sunshine and Erykah Badu’s On n On, giving it her own twist. Fittingly, Rupert Lay ended his set with the instrumental intro of Sweet Mother, wishing all mothers in the crowd Happy Mother’s Day.

A brass section comprising musicians of the Royal St Lucia Police Band serenaded the Pigeon Island crowd as they made their way on stage, giving patrons a taste of what’s to come in the Roots and Soul Festival in June.

Martinique-based group, Malavoi, closed-off the 2017 Soleil St Lucia Jazz Festival with a mix of jazz, compa, zouk and salsa. Their performance was well received, especially by the French visitors in the crowd.

One of the members of the group Malavoi feeling his song.

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