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John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet at the Earshot Jazz Festival

The thought of taking in jazz on a Caribbean island, especially in mid-January when many American locales are buried in snow or just freezing their you-know-whats off, has to appeal to almost anyone, even those who aren’t into jazz. With that in mind, even hard-core jazz purists probably wouldn’t have gotten too riled up during the smooth Barbados 11th Annual Jazz Festival. The BET-sponsored event was spread over a week, with shows in different venues on the more populated side of the 166-square-mile island, and featured 11 mostly contemporary jazz and neosoul-oriented artists.

For the sake of authenticity, or possibly redemption, there was at least one bonafied jazz performer on the lineup: Herbie Hancock. He, in fact, was the highpoint of the festival and not solely because he was a mainstream act. His concert was one of the rare moments when the creative keyboardist actually satisfied all his various fan factions. Normally, if Hancock’s funky he loses traditional listeners; if he’s esoteric or avant-garde he loses the funk and mainstream crowd; and if goes mainstream he loses the funk and mind-expanding folks.

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