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Tranquility Jazz Festival

Christian Scott

If you’ve ever wanted to stage your own personal jazz fest, visiting the annual Tranquility Jazz Festival might stave off the impulse. The BET-sponsored event, which recently presented its sixth edition, takes place on Anguilla, an island in the British West Indies where isolation is the most valuable commodity. It’s the sort of niche vacation locale where well-heeled visitors can rent a personal paradise, and the jazz festival, with intimate outdoor venues and attendance numbers of a few (or even couple) hundred per show, follows suit. The four-day-long event carries a tag of “Straight, No Chaser” to differentiate it from other Caribbean events that are, by and large, dedicated to jazz in name only. The 2008 edition included headliners Patti Austin, Arturo Sandoval, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Christian Scott, Michel Camilo and Dean Fraser.

Performing from her For Ella recording in a scaled-down quintet format (that album featured Germany’s mighty WDR Big Band), Austin nodded to the First Lady of Song in varied ways-in repertory, technique (her range and scats were clearly modeled in Ella’s image) and charisma. Far away from the polite chuckles that typically meet stage banter, Austin, who appeared thin and radiant, elicited bona fide guffaws from her audience. Riling the crowd’s state of post-election jubilance, she cracked, “[Obama] could be in office for four years and we’ll still be saying, ‘He’s the president!'” She jokingly blamed “that bitch” Diana Krall for For Ella’s Grammy loss in 2002, and quipped that the Canadian singer-pianist was “probably a Republican.” In an act of soul-baring disguised as self-deprecation, she lamented how showbiz can consume a woman’s personal life, before comforting herself with a pithy conclusion: “We [women] don’t care about marriage; we only care about the wedding.”

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