When I was on Grand Cayman last month, it wasn’t just to sunbathe on Seven Mile Beach and swim, or rather wade, with the stingrays. (And it certainly wasn’t to run the Cayman marathon!) I was there for the 6th annual Cayman Jazz Fest, which took place on the evenings of Thurs., Dec. 3rd—Sat., Dec 5th. Every night was great, but it was Alicia Keys (pictured above) who stole the show with the final performance of the festival.
The first night of the Cayman Jazz Fest took place on the grounds of Pedro St. James, a former Great House of a plantation that is sometimes referred to as the Castle because of its architecture. The house remained open in case any of the 500 people who attended the performance wanted to walk through (and many did).
There was a lot of great music on the first night, but two songs in particular stood out to me. Oleta Adams sang a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “Get Here,” her hit single from the ’90s. Kirk Whalum performed an awesome “Do You Feel Me” — he even walked out into the audience playing his sax.
On Friday, the Cayman Jazz Fest took place on the grounds of Camana Bay, a new live/work/play complex that is still being developed. (It’s a remarkable project for the Caribbean, as I wrote about here.) Camana Bay seems to own a lot of land, and in a sprawling lot they held the second and third nights of Jazz Fest, which were attended by nearly 2,000 and over 6,500 music lovers respectively. In addition to the main stage, there was a smaller stage and little tents selling food and local art.
The two biggest names on Friday were R&B legends Peabo Bryson and Keith Sweat. Peabo sang “A Whole New World” and “Ain’t Nobody,” and also made the crack that the only thing better than having one Grammy is having two. Keith crooned “Nobody” and “Twisted.” But my favorite performer of the night turned out to be Mike Phillips, who sang “Giant Steps” by Coltrane as well as his own songs. He even rapped and left the stage to walk among the seated fans with his sax a la Whalum. He was an outstanding performer who really connected with the audience.
On Saturday night, headliner Alicia Keys finally performed as she closed out a fantastic Jazz Fest. She really was amazing and gave it her all, as you can see in the photo above. She played classics like “Fallin'”, “Woman’s Worth” and “You Don’t Know My Name”. But my favorite part of the evening Ᾱ and the whole Cayman Jazz Fest Ᾱ was when she did a version of “Empire State of Mind,” similar to what she did on last week’s Saturday Night Live. I’m totally in love with Jay-Z’s song about New York, in which Alicia does the vocals. But for Jazz Fest (and SNL), she adapted the song to piano-friendly cadences and it was just as good as — if not better than — the original.
Comped but never compromised: I was given complimentary tickets to the Cayman Jazz Fest, but as always I am free to write whatever I want.