The Riviera Maya Jazz Festival 2018

A performance to remember, the Riveria Maya Jazz Festival 2018 brought 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 were fortunate enough to have attended all three nights, then you were in for a musical delight. For those of us (myself included) who couldn’t make all three nights, this is what we missed.

BEBEL GILBERTO
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 which positioned her as one of the top Brazilian artist in years, was followed by 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 called “Out of the Box” 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.

It is said that 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
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 has been described as 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 keyboard and Felix Betauncourt on the Saxophone. Their music embraces a mixture of Blues, Fok and Progressive Rock.

CHRISTINA MORRISON
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 support ‘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 has been described as an instrument that blends together soul, funk, jazz and hip-hip. 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 has been described as “the tuba player that can beatbox to any hip song” and has played in venues as a 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 have included 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.

BOBBY MCFERRIN
This ten-time Grammy winner icon has been entertaining for years. His style is between pop music and fine art and he has been known to play 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 .

Quote my Bobby McFerrin after latest album

LALA HATHAWAY
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 has been described as ‘irrepressible and boundary-defying.’ Lala’s latest album is called Honestly and is available now.

PEPE HERNANDEZ
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 touted as 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 was Mamitas Beach Club in Playa del Carmen. In addition to this festival they have also held musical, fashion and sports events including the Beach Soccer Worldwide Riviera Maya Cup, Winter Beach, DJ Fest, Corono Sunsets Music Festival as well as notable figures such as Paul Van Dyke, David Guetta, Tiesto, and Avicii.

We missed the first two nights but decided to go on the 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 the awesome music.

The Stage

The stage was awesome; no other way to describe it – huge, and the lighting was out of this world. It was 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!

Have you ever been to the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival? If so, what did you think of it?

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I love to travel and my biggest regret is that I waited so long to do it, thinking I just couldn’t afford it. I have had some crazy fun, some scary moments, such as getting locked in a shower at a campsite, and met some amazing people. For our trip to Mexico we were able to save money by house sitting, which was something completely new to us. If this is something that interests you, then check out TrustedHousesitters. We hope you visit often.

8 Comments

  1. Desa

    OMG I love Norah Jones, I can only imagine how sad you are that you were right there but missed out on seeing her perform. Haven’t been to this festival before and didn’t even know about it! Thank you so so much for this awesome recap as now I will be sure to add that to my list of things to plan my trip around next year. 

    Per chance, have you attended any jazz festivals in Texas (where I live) that you might recommend?

    Reply
    1. Mary Ann (Post author)

      Hi Desa. I know, I just want to kick myself that I didn’t know early enough to go. It is always held in late November so keep an eye out for the dates.

      As far as Texas goes, sorry, I don’t know. Do you belong to any Facebook groups in Texas. I find if you put out a question, people will be glad to jump in with an answer. Good luck and I hope you make it to Mexico next year.

      Reply
  2. Mike

    Hey there,  This was a really thorough and enjoyable read and the music festival sounds absolutely amazing.  I do have a question though,  sorry if i just missed it the the article, but where exactly in mexico is Playa del Carmen.  Again sorry if i missed it in the article, but I was just wondering since this concert sounds great and would like to plan something near it next year.  Thanks for Great article.

    Reply
    1. Mary Ann (Post author)

      Hi. Mike. Playa del Carmen is an hour south of Cancun. I am staying in Puerto Morelos which is halfway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

      The concert is always held in late November so if you keep an out eye, they will announce the 2019 dates (they may already have them).  Hope you get to visit next year.

      Reply
  3. Rob S.

    This sounds like a dream come true. I would have loved to go there too.

    My wife and I talk about traveling all the time but it’s so expensive although we prefer not to wait now that we’re retired.A jazz festival in Mexico!This is a once in a lifetime happening.

    We were only to Mexico once on a cruise, so this would be awesome!It’s great to travel to different places but you really want to enjoy yourself wherever you go and we should just make it happen somehow.Moving to Florida to retire was a dream come true. I’m sure we can make this happen too!

    Reply
    1. Mary Ann (Post author)

      Hi Rob,

      So many people wait to travel. We did. We started in about 2013. We are retired as well but you know it isn’t all about the money. We have been to Jamaica, Dominican twice, Florida (just for a hockey tournament), Costa Rica 3 times, Nova Scotia 6 times and now Mexico (our first). If you are willing to live like the locals, and remember you are in another country and not expect what you have back home, you would be amazed at how much cheaper it is to live. It is cheaper to live here for us than it is to live in Canada. However, we do go back because of our health care but we are also looking into alternatives to that. Nice that you are retired in Florida. Hope you can make it to Mexico.

      Reply
  4. Jeff Marshall

    A big hello to you, Mary.

    I couldn’t get to the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival for 2018 myself but I’m super glad I found your website.

    You made me feel as I was there and loved all the videos of the numerous stars that appeared over the 3 nights.

    I love travelling to the USA at least once every 2 years and a trip down to mexico looks like it will be on the cards.

    Do they hold the Maya Jazz Festival every year as I would hate to miss this gala event?

    Many thanks, Jeff.

    Reply
    1. Mary Ann (Post author)

      Hi Jeff. Thanks for stopping by. I am glad you enjoyed the recap. Yes, the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival is held every year – it started in 2003 and is always held in late November. Hopefully, you will be able to make it next year. It is quite an experience.

      Reply

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