A performance to remember, the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival 2018 brings together a collection of the finest voices, musicians and performers here in Playa del Carmen, Mexico for three jazz fun-filled nights – November 30, December 1st and 2nd, playing to huge crowds from all ages. This festival has been going on since 2003 and is FREE.
The lineup this year included:
November 30th – Bebel Gilberto, Lori Williams & Bob Baldwin, Kike Pat, un Maya en el Jazz
December 1st – Norah Jones, Paca Rosas & PK BAND, Christina Morrison, Drew Tucker & The New Standard
December 2nd – Bobby McFerrin, Lalah Hathaway, Pepe Hernandez
If you are fortunate enough to be able to attend all three nights, then you are in for a musical delight.
For those of us (myself included), we couldn’t make all three nights, and this is what we missed.
With her solo debut release in 1986, Bebel Gilberto continues to wow her audiences worldwide. The Brazilian American singer/songwriter has won many Grammy awards. Her breakout album Tanto positions her as one of the top Brazilian artists in years leading the way for her other albums such as Abel Gilberto in 2004, Momento (Six Degrees 2007), All in One (Verve) which brought her a Grammy nomination, and Tudo, released in 2015. She also performed a live concert on the beaches of Rio in 2014.
LORI WILLIAMS & BOB BALDWIN
Williams hails from Washington DC and is a vocalist with show appearances in Western Europe, Austria, Russia, and Germany. Her latest disc is “Out of the Box” and is produced by Bob Baldwin.
Bob Baldwin is a New York Pianist/Arranger, has recorded on 5 continents, and is celebrating 30 years. ‘Abbey Road and the Beatles’ is Bob’s brand new disc featuring Lori on vocals.
Together they create ‘magic.’
KIKE PAT – UN MAYAN EN EL JAZZ (A Mayan in the Jazz)
In this performance Kike Pat, pianist and composer, will be playing with his Mexican band of 3 great musicians (born in the heart of the Mayan Riviera) and sharing the stage with a string section headed by Ukraine Sofia Lych; Jorge Brauet (Cuba) will be heading the section of metals.
Norah Jones, an American singer, songwriter, and pianist, has sold over 50 million records worldwide and is a 9-time Grammy winner. She made her debut in 2002 with “Come Away With Me.” Included amongst her solo albums are 2004 – Feels Like Home; 2007 – Not Too Late; 2009 – The Fall; and 2012 – Little Broken Hearts. Her album in 2016 – Day Breaks features her back at the piano. Her music is a blend of country, folk, rock, soul and jazz.
PACOS ROSAS AND PK BAND
This band is comprised of Paco Rosas who plays guitar, Ivan Barrera on Bass, Ricardo Erdos on drums, Tomas Krumm on the keyboard and Felix Betauncourt on the Saxophone. Their music embraces a mixture of Blues, Fok and Progressive Rock.
Hailing from Miami and currently residing in New York, Christina is an actress, singer/songwriter, and producer. Her accomplishments include graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts; Founder and Executive-Director of El Socavon de Guapulo Thetre Foundation in Quito Ecuador; a double nominee for Best Vocal Jazz Album and Best Vocal Jazz Song for her second album ‘Baronesa.’
Part of the proceeds of her albums supports ‘Arteducarte’ which is an educational program through the arts in public schools in Isabela Island, Galapagos.
DREW TUCKER AND THE NEW STANDARD
This Florida-based group features the uncommon vibraphone (a percussion instrument with a double row of tuned metal bars, each above a tubular resonator which contains a motor-driven rotating vane, causing a vibrato effect), and the tuba as the instruments to capture their audiences. The vibraphone is an instrument that blends together soul, funk, jazz, and hip-hop. Drew is the incentive behind the development of the Arts Garage in Delray Beach, the Bailey and Ali Cultural Arts Center, and Old School Square.
Bill Muter is “the tuba player that can beatbox to any hip song” and plays in venues such as Tubavisionary. His book, “A Practical Approach: Brass Pedagogy Book” is a best seller.
Claude Louis is the Saxophonist in the group and will be releasing his first album in 2018. Some of his performances include FIU, Jacksonville Jazz, and Ground UP. Using music as a means of education, he is the coordinator of the Miami Music Project, empowering children in the Little Haiti area of Miami.
Rounding out the group is drummer Marcus Grant, who hails from West Chester Pennsylvania and now living in Miami. He has shared the stage with Nicole Henry, Nestor Torres, and Shelly Berg.
This ten-time Grammy winner icon has been entertaining for years. His style is between pop music and fine art and he plays barefoot in some of the best concert halls around the world. You probably know Bobby from his Cappella hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” What you may not know is that he grew up with music – his dad was a Metropolitan Opera Baritone (Robert McFerrin) and was the singing voice for Sydney Poitier in Porgy and Bess; mom was a soprano soloist and voice teacher.
As a child, he learned the clarinet and the piano at age 14 which was the start of his pianist career. Doing his own ‘thing,’ Bobby has improvised on national television, sang songs without words, and impulsively invented parts for 60,000 choral singers in a stadium in Germany.
His latest album “spirityouall” is bluesy and embraces his rock, folk and blues influences.
She is a songwriter, artist, producer, and DJ and has won 5 Grammy awards since 2014. In 2017, she won the Artist and Producer award for Best R & B Album, Lalah Hathaway Live. She has been invited to the stage by Stevie Wonder, Prince, Mary J. Blige, Herbie Hancock, and Anita Baker to name a few. Her voice is ‘irrepressible and boundary-defying.’ Lala’s latest album is called Honestly and is available now.
Hailing from Acapulco, Pepe Hernandez has recorded over 500 albums, six of them as a soloist artist, and has shared the spotlight with top popular artists spanning 35 years. He is one of the most recorded bass players in Mexico. His music is a mixture of funk and Latin jazz beats that will have you swaying along to the beat.
The Venue – Mamitas Beach Club
The venue and sponsor for the performances is Mamitas Beach Club in Playa del Carmen. In addition to this festival, they hold musical, fashion, and sports events including the Beach Soccer Worldwide Riviera Maya Cup, Winter Beach, DJ Fest, Corona Sunsets Music Festival and notable figures such as Paul Van Dyke, David Guetta, Tiesto, and Avicii.
We missed the first two nights but decided to go on Sunday.
We took the Collectivo bus and a taxi, arriving at 6:30. Making our way to the area, I was amazed at the number of people already seated – the show didn’t start until 7:30. Since we are renting here, we didn’t have any lawn chairs but brought a blanket with us. We were greeted at the gate and in respect of the environment, we were handed a small plastic garbage bag each.
Finding our ‘spot’ of sand, we settled in. By the time 7:30 rolled around, there must have been 2000 people or more sitting on the sand, like us, in our immediate area. It is estimated that somewhere between 9,000 and 15,000 people attend the event nightly (which includes all the people standing up at the back and the VIP section).
Beer vendors would come by continuously selling beer (but you could ask for Tequila or rum or whatever and they would provide it). Off to the left of us were food vendors selling pizzas, tacos and other delectable dishes. Thank goodness my husband went and got us something to eat while I ‘guarded’ our patch of sand. By the time the performers came on, you literally were stuck. I don’t know how people got to the bathroom. My husband got up at one point and was back within a minute, saying “not happening.”
We met a few nice people, three ladies to our right who were in from Florida and a young fella in front of us who bought a bottle of tequila and showed us the ‘worm’ inside. Yuck!
It was very orderly; people were there just to have fun and listen to awesome music.
The stage is awesome; no other way to describe it – huge, and the lighting is out of this world. It is specifically designed for this festival. While we were waiting for the show to start, we were entertained by beautiful images and music playing on a gigantic screen.
During the performance, there was even a drone filming the show and the surrounding people on the sand.
What We Missed
We didn’t see the advertising for this festival until the last day. Even though we saw the opening act with Pepe Hernandez, we missed Bobby McFarrin who was on later that night and Nora Jones who I would love to have seen (on Saturday night). If we come back next year, I will definitely make it a plan to see all three shows. If you love jazz, hype, excitement, and great food and drinks, this is the place!
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Have you ever been to the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival? If so, what did you think of it?