St. Lucia prepares for bumper Jazz Festival

CASTRIES, St. Lucia – The Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia is preparing for an assault of visitors over the next two weeks when St. Lucia Jazz, the region’s most longstanding jazz festival, opens in the capital city of Castries this weekend.

St. Lucia Minister of Tourism, Philip J. Pierre said hotel bookings are strong, the venues are being prepared, and the people of St. Lucia are ready for the 15th anniversary of the festival. “I noticed that preparations were ongoing for the launching at the Mindoo Phillip Park (this Friday). I am very excited (and) I think this year we are going to have a very good season and festival,” said Pierre, who noted the destination is ready to welcome guests from around the world.

Trinidad and Tobago’s soca star Machel Montano, who dominated the 2006 Trinidad and Tobago carnival season, and Jamaica reggae group T.O.K. are slated for the opening this Friday, while Britain’s Seal and other artistes like Babyface, Nancy Wilson, Poncho Sanchez, the Reverend Al Green, Freddy Cole, Kenny Garrett, Ciara, Rihanna, the Jazz Guitar Trio, featuring St. Lucia’s Boo Hinkson, Michael Boothman and Stanley Jordan; St. Lucian group Sisterhood; and the Jazz Project featuring Everette Harp, Omar Hakim, Nelson Rangel and Morris Pleasure will perform on the main stage on Pigeon Island next week.

BET Event Productions will once again produce the event which will air on BET and the new BET J channels. “Quite a lot of the promotion for St. Lucia Jazz has come from BET. We are very pleased with the partnership which has developed with BET, particularly with Paxton Baker (Executive Vice President and General Manager for BET Digital Networks) who has been with us from the inception of St. Lucia Jazz,” said Minister Pierre.

He added that in spite of a cost containment exercise this year, the integrity of the festival will be maintained and the event will be strengthened now that the crystal anniversary has been observed. “St. Lucia Jazz will remain and continue to be one of the premier world festivals with the support of the St. Lucian government and the people of St. Lucia,” Minister Pierre assured.

Both BET and BET J have been airing a St. Lucia Jazz preview show, hosted by actress Kim Fields and showcasing the wonders of St. Lucia over the past several weeks. Highlights of 2005 St. Lucia Jazz will air on BET J on Saturday, May 6 at 1 p.m., 8 p.m. and 1 a.m. (the following morning).

Since its establishment in 1992, St. Lucia Jazz has grown in magnitude and stature to become one of the preeminent Jazz festivals in the world, featuring multiple shows daily, ranging from acoustic, to new age and straight-ahead jazz, soul, fusion and R & B. Unique to the festival are its “fringe” events, which are held in a variety of locations and venues around the island. For more information and updates about St. Lucia Jazz, visit www.stluciajazz.org.

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