By Matt Bokor
Music lovers from around the country and around the world enjoyed four nights of free concerts by internationally acclaimed musicians at the 18th annual Dominican Republic Jazz Festival, which brought performances to Puerto Plata, Sosúa and Cabarete Beach Nov. 6-9.
Known for its legendary performers and seaside venue, the festival came off better than scripted this year.
For starters several days of rain ended just in time, allowing the full moon to bathe the North Shore in its glow. And after the Jazz Festival presented an award to beloved Dominican composer-pianist Rafael Solano, 83, he unexpectedly took a seat at the grand piano and performed his famous love song, “Por Amor,” to the delight of the Saturday night audience at Cabarete Beach.
Throughout the weekend audiences soaked up the sounds of Colin Hunter & Joe Sealy’s Quartet (Canada); Ignacio Berroa Group (USA) with Giovanni Hidalgo (Puerto Rico); Berklee Global Jazz Institute (USA); Ramón Vázquez TríoS (Puerto Rico); Big Band Conservatory of Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic); Patricia Pereyra and Band with special guest Alex Jacquemin (France); Edgar Molina (Dominican Republic); the Joe Lovano Quartet (USA); and more.
Accordionist Krency Garcia, “El Prodigio,” made a special appearance, adding his merengue típico music to the mix. La Familia Andre, the popular Dominican fusion band, closed out the festival Sunday night.
Lorenzo Sancassi, tourism minister for the Puerto Plata province and a driving force behind the event, said the festival’s 18-year history makes it “the oldest of its kind in the country. The festival has endured, and provided immense joy and culture to both Dominicans and tourists who gather in our country to enjoy this magnificent event and the appeal of our island.”
Coinciding with the Dominican Republic’s Constitution Day holiday, the Jazz Festival goes beyond entertainment and into education through its affiliation with FEDUJAZZ, a non-profit organization that conducts musical workshops for youth. Motivating and developing young artistic talent, FEDUJAZZ has partnered with local organizations such as Sosúa City Council to further assist in the education of Dominican children, using jazz as the teaching platform.
As part of the 2014 festival, hundreds of North Shore schoolchildren attended entertaining, educational sessions where the artists shared their love of music and explained how easy it is for the kids to find music in their lives.
“It was special, being on the beach, in front of 200 to 300 kids,” said Joe Lovano, a Grammy Award-winning saxophonist who led a workshop Saturday morning. “I felt like I was connecting with them. I could see I was reaching them in a certain way.”
Sponsors for the 18th Dominican Republic Jazz Festival included Ron Macorix, JetBlue, the United States Embassy, Berklee Global Jazz Institute, Sea Horse Ranch Luxury Resort, Ultravioleta, Millennium Resort & Spa, Casa Linda, the Municipality of Sosúa and Cibao Recycling.
Mark your calendar for the festival’s 19th edition: Nov. 5-8, 2015. For more visit drjazzfestival.com.
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