Jazz Fest continues

The much-anticipated 2009 Cayman Jazz Fest is underway and it continues this weekend with performances at the event’s new venue, Camana Bay.

Peabo Bryson headlines Friday night’s concert, which also features performances from visiting music veterans Keith Sweat and Mike Phillips and lucky local musicians Big Eye Squirrel and Jonathan Ebanks.

On Saturday night, headliner Alicia Keys takes the stage after local performances from artists Absolute Joy and Andrea Rivera and Los Tropicanos.

Both nights will be emceed by local singer KK Alese and Caymanian actor Brian Braggs.

Peabo Bryson

Peabo Bryson’s album Reaching for the Sky is often the one people point to as the record that propelled him to the top of the male R’n’B vocalist class.

His follow-up, 1978’s Crosswinds, solidified that position and gave him his biggest hit to date, I’m So Into You.

1979 brought a very good duet album with Natalie Cole, the first of several duet partners with whom he would work, and a moderate crossover hit, Gimme Some Time. He would later produce duet albums with such artists as Roberta Flack.

In 1991 Peabo released the single Can You Stop the Rain, arguably the best song of his career and his first number one R’n’B hit in several years. It anchored a solid album of the same name. He then hit the top of the pop charts twice as the lead singer on themes for two consecutive Disney animated smashes, Beauty and the Beast (with Celine Dion) and A Whole New World (from Aladdin, with Regina Belle.

Several guest vocalist appearances on pop and smooth jazz albums followed, as did work in theatre and Peabo approached age 50 with a solid place in the popular, smooth jazz and urban adult contemporary worlds.

In late 2005, Peabo released Live In Concert: Ladies Request, a concert collection that covers many of Peabo’s biggest hits and shows that his voice is still as strong and smooth as ever.

In late 2007 Bryson released his 20th album, Missing You, on Peak Records. His first entirely new studio album of the decade, Missing You featured work with producers Barry Eastmond and Norman Connors as well as a fantastic title cut co-written by Ledisi. It was a welcome return that, despite some uneven spots musically, found Bryson in good voice.

Keith Sweat

Earlier this year Keith Sweat released Just Me, his first new studio album since his 2002 Rebirth set.

Sweat celebrated 20 years as a chart artist at the end of 2007, produced and co-wrote most of the material on his latest project which features guest artists Keyshia Cole, and Athena Cage (Keith’s duet partner on the million-selling 1996 hit Nobody).

Harlem-born singer, songwriter and producer Sweat, who first broke through as a leader in the
‘new jack’ of the late ’80s with the number one single I Want Her, reunited, on his latest CD, with producer Teddy Riley, with whom he worked on his multiplatinum debut album, for the track The Floor; former Kut Klose vocalist Athena Cage joins Sweat for a new duet, Butterscotch. Producers for the album also include The Ambassadorz, Roy Battle, and Alfonso ‘Dodoc’ Walker; Sweat executive-produced the CD, his first Atco release.

Since 1988, the multi-faceted artist has sold more than 15 million albums worldwide, racking up six number one R’n’B hit singles, with close to 30 chart entries, three multiplatinum, three platinum and two gold albums, including Rhino’s 2004 The Best Of Keith Sweat: Make You Sweat.

Currently the host of The Sweat Hotel, a live call-in radio programme heard in more than 20 major markets nationwide, a number that continues to grow under the auspices of Premiere Radio Networks. The show plays R’n’B and slow jamz in a format similar to the Quiet Storm.

Mike Phillips

New York native Mike Phillips became interested in music at a young age, moving through several different instruments before settling on the saxophone.

By the age of 16, he had decided to play professionally. He made an impromptu New York debut at Wilson’s nightclub in New York in 1993, and that led to a series of session and sideman jobs in jazz, R’n’B, and even rap.

Eventually, he attracted the attention of Hidden Beach Recordings, which signed him and put him on the road in the summer of 2001 opening for Jill Scott.

Phillips’ debut album, You Have Reached Mike Phillips, was released by Hidden Beach in May 2002.

Alicia Keys

Her first studio album since the critically-acclaimed 2003’s The Diary of Alicia Keys, Alicia Keys showcases her song-writing and producing talents on all 13 songs on As I Am, but also joins forces on several tracks with her long-time collaborator Kerry ‘Krucial’ Brothers, award-winning songwriters Linda Perry, John Mayer, Harold Lilly, Sean Garrett and producers Mark Batson, Dirty Harry, Swizz Beatz and Jack Splash.

One of the few artists who can capture an old-school vibe and make if feel refreshingly new, Alicia tackles this feat once again with an album she describes as ‘Janis Joplin meets Aretha Franklin.’

Punctuated with rich powerful vocals, Alicia’s vocal muses can be felt on songs ranging from the anthemic Superwoman and power-charged Go Ahead to the misty-eyed ballad Like You Never See Me Again and the soulful Sure Looks Good To Me.

Since the 2001 debut of Songs In A Minor, the New York native has built an unparalleled repertoire of hits and accomplishments with more than 20 million albums sold worldwide.

Songs In A Minor, which spawned her signature hit Fallin’, sold more than 10 million copies worldwide and garnered five Grammy Awards including Best New Artist and Best R’n’B Album.

Alicia’s follow-up disc, 2004’s The Diary of Alicia Keys, which is currently seven times platinum, captured four Grammy Awards and featured the hits If I Ain’t Got You, You Don’t Know My Name, and Karma.

With the 2005 release of Unplugged, which has sold two million copies, Keys became the first female R’n’B artist to have three consecutive number one debuts on the Billboard 200 album chart in as many releases.