When you think of Jazz and Blues, you probably imagine smokey back alleys and underground New Orleans jazz clubs. Certainly not tropical beaches and boat rides, though you’d be wrong to count those out.
Last year Ken Martinez-Burgmaier of Jazz Alley TV saw the possibilities for bringing the music traditions of the south on a trans-Pacific journey to Hawaii. It certainly worked, because now he’s preparing for the second annual Maui Jazz and Blues Festival at the Grand Wailea. This weekend John Keawe will perform his new Jazz/slack key fusion called “Slazz” on the stage with Zydeco accordion master Corey Ledet, Benny Uyetake, Kalama School Intermediate’s Ukulele Jazz Cats, Louisiana Hall of Famer Camile Baudoin and Na Hoku Hano Hano winner Brother Noland. It’s a Jazz and Blues gala like no other.
“We had a tremendous attendance from the inaugural event last year so we are thrilled to be able to bring back the Jazz & Blues Festival for the second year,” says Christina Yumul, director of Public Relations at the Grand Wailea. “The main event on Saturday night is going to be spectacular with a brilliant line-up of award-winning and jazz and blues legend taking the stage at the Molokini Gardens by Wailea beach.”
The event starts Thursday with a Jazz celebration at Capische? at 6pm (reservations recommended). On Friday, a Jazz sunset cruise on the Kai Kananai will have champagne and pupus. There will also be a sneak peek of the festivities at the Botero Bar, which will light up the Grand Wailea up with music for the whole weekend.
Saturday night’s Festival is the event we are all waiting for. Then Sunday, the Kai Kanani sets sail again with Jazz, Blues and snorkeling on the agenda. If you’re not seaworthy, head for the Grand Wailea for their jazz brunch. (see page 22 for the complete rundown of events and contact information for tickets.) Artists include Joe Louis Walker, Corey Ledet, Skip Martin, Eric Marienthal, Javon Jackson, Louis Hayas and Camile Baudoin, along with other Hawaiian and Maui artists.
Napua Art Gallery at the Grand will also have a special showing of art by Ruby Mazur. He’s known for his talented contributions to album art like the mouth and tongue on the “Tumblin Dice” record sleeve for the Rolling Stones.
Skip Martin, who performed at last year’s festival, says he plays the trumpet because he “thought it would be easy to play because it only had three buttons and a small mouth piece.” It may not have turned out easy, but his career makes it look fun. He’s worked with many artists and currently resides in Las Vegas, where he originally dropped in to play at the Jerry Lewis telethon with Kool & the Gang and decided to stay.
Last year, Javon Jackson and Delfeayo Marsalis did a few workshops at Kalama School in Makawao, a practice Martinez-Burgmaeir says “is important to share these artists with our keiki of Maui to inspire the future generations of artists.”
Martinez-Burgmaier adds that “the New Orleans styles of blues and rock of Camile Baudoin is going to stimulate a wonderful energy of music at the fest, along with the Zydecko sounds of Cory Ledet.”
Baudoin was born in New Orleans and has performed for more than 33 years with the Radiators. “I notice a very interesting similarity between the Hawaiian and Zydeco ways of playing,” he says. “The finger-style and various tunings of the instruments have certain flavors in common as to the vocal nuances. I hope to bring a Bluesy-Country-Zydeco tablet of music to the island to further expose what I consider to be a fun niche of music that I grew up with and played all my life.”
Zydeco, characterized by fast tempos, washboard sounds and a strong accordion, is closely connected to Louisiana and Creole culture. Corey Ledet is immersed in this style and strives to bring Creole music to the forefront. He says Zydeco is changing, but not necessarily for the better.
“Oh buddy, yes, for the worst,” he says. “It’s no longer about tradition, it’s now about flash. We are losing the culture. My music is called Zydeco which is the music of the black French-speaking Creoles of Southwest Louisiana. I am a Creole. I have always been around Zydeco since I was a child.”
Which is why a festival like this is so important. “There is nothing like a great Jazz and Blues tune to change your attitude,” says Martinez-Burgmaier. “With just a few notes, you will get your head moving.”
Yumul of the Grand Wailea agrees. “What makes jazz and blues so wonderful are the different types within the genre depending on the musicians origin and style,” she says. “The improvisation the musicians master is hypnotic and entertaining at the same time. You can’t help but feel cool.”
See the most updated festival info at mauijazzandbluesfestival.com. Tickets are available at Whole Foods, the Grand Wailea or online.
The Grand Wailea is also offering special rates for accommodations for Hawaii residents for the festival starting at $220 per night. Call 808-875-1234 for more information.