Artists at Boquete Jazz & Blues Festival Play Well Together
At the Boquete Jazz & Blues Festival, February 25 through 28, 2016, you’ll get an insider’s view of the magic that happens when artists who play well together, well, play together for four days and nights.
Celebrating its tenth year in the Chiriquí highlands near Costa Rica, Boquete has earned a reputation among world-class entertainers as a “musician’s festival.” As a nonprofit organization, one hundred percent of the Festival’s net proceeds go to music education for Panamanian children, a program all Boquete artists fully support.
“We are in a privileged yet challenging position these days,” says festival producer John Wolff. “We get queries about playing here from musicians who are household names. If only we had a stage and time slot for all of them. For 2016 alone, we have enough headliners to put on two years’ worth of festivals.”
And what jazz and blues headliners they are: Scott Ambush, Deanna Bogart, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Alexander Brown, John Carney, Tommy Castro, Rigoberto Coba, Marshall Keys, Lee Oskar, Curtis Salgado, Shakura S'Aida and Matt Schofield. Videos of them in action are on the festival website.
Wearing two hats is Shakura S’Aida, who, along with Deanna Bogart, is an associate producer of the Fest. “Boquete is attractive to those of us who enjoy communal playing. We’re entertainers at our core and we all like to play outside of the box.
Boquete offers us an ideal way to connect with our fellow musicians on stage and with our audience, both during our sets and at the wonderful after-hour shows.”
The nightly jams at Boquete bring audiences an intimate way to join the festivities, where top musicians can explore wherever the music, jazz or blues, takes them. “We’re not the type of artists who are stuck in one type of genre,” S’Aida explains. “We select musicians who love to ad lib and improvise. Our jams are not rehearsed, ever.
It’s very organic. Our musicians are willing to flow with the energy. We’re all open to the experience of it. Whatever the ‘it’ is.” No two jams are alike of course, considering they’re one-off events where musicians gather to play for their own enjoyment. One jam in particular sticks with S’Aida. “An amazing thing happened outside late one night. There on the sidewalk, a guitarist was playing along with us. We could hear him, but we couldn’t see him. The music moved him to join us, even though there was no room on stage. So we may have been a bit removed from one another, but it was all inclusive. The vibe at Boquete is ‘Let’s all play together.’ It’s a really exciting thing.”
Another distinguishing element of Boquete is that the headliners are coming without their usual bands, which is very different than the norm of their own touring schedules and of festivals, in general. Instead, they’ll be playing with the sidemen from S’Aida’s band and Bogart’s, which for Boquete includes such stars as Scott Ambush, Spyro Gyra’s bassist, and Matt Schofield, British Blues Hall of Famer on guitar. “It’s a big deal for the headliners to go free-handed without the people who usually back them. They release artistic control by not having their usual support team. As entertainers, they are very open to the organic flow and they trust us to give them what they need,” says S’Aida, in admiration of the artists.
Many of the musicians will be meeting one another for the first time at Boquete. This is not the case though for Deanna Bogart, Tommy Castro and Ronnie Baker Brooks. Together, they comprise three-quarters of the headliners of the first installation of the extraordinary blues supergroup, The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue. But as S’Aida says about all the artists, “Even if you’ve heard them before, you will never have heard them like this.”
Only 800 seats are available for the festival, so tickets are going fast. For details on Boquete Jazz & Blues Festival 2016, visit www.boquetejazzandbluesestival.com.