Review: Jazz A Juan 2014

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Jazz a Juan 2014 Imelda May

From hearing the sound check from the beach of the Garden Beach Hotel in Juan les Pins, excitement spread along the beach for what was to be experienced over the coming evenings during the Jazz à Juan 2014.

Booker T performing at Jazz a Juan 2014
Booker T playing live at Jazz a Juan in Juan les Pins 2014

With the oppressive heat that filled the Juan les Pins air of the Cote d’Azur, France, the most dramatic sunset acted as the perfect backdrop to the Jazz à Juan stage with bubbling stormy clouds pierced with pinches of bright fiery yellow adding to the electric atmosphere.

First up were the Soulful Jazz stylings of the legendary Booker T, who worked his way through all the classics , flanked by his band of talented instrumentalists. The performance was an aural extravaganza as the full force of the multi instrumental performance totally immersed you in their sound – and true to form when you’re having a great time, it was over before you knew it, as Booker T departed the stage in an overly humble manner – unworthy of his talents.

Imelda May performing live at Jazz a Juan 2014
Imelda May performing live at Jazz a Juan 2014.

Next up was Rockerbilly/Jazz songstress – Imelda May, and there’s not much else you can say other than, if you have the chance, you need to watch her perform. The control May possesses over her vocals is second to none, and allowed her to deliver a plethora of songs, from creeping upbeat Jazz number ‘Big Bad Handsom Man’ to the Rock infused ‘Wild Woman’ which had the whole crowd moving.

As Imelda May’s set drew to a close, darkness had now set in, and the lights of the Jazz à Juan sign illuminated the stage. Suddenly a very strange elongated pyramid microphone stand was rolled out on stage, followed by a pink tie dye maxi dress-clad Joss Stone who said in a very cheerful manner “Hello Antibes” – pronouncing the ’s’ of course, in a typically English lack of linguistic skills way.

Joss Stone live at Jazz a Juan 2014

Jumping down in to the crowd and getting everyone moving, it was plain to see that Stone is already a veteran performer, despite her young years – but this of course came hand in hand with a lack of new material – bar two new Reggae songs – which were solid. It was enjoyable to hear the sheer power of her voice, and all together a very pleasant evening – but the wow factor certainly rested with the lesser known Imelda May.

Joss Stone singing live at Jazz a Juan 2014.

The next day on our visit to Juan Les Pins was the Off Schedule day, allowing other Jazz acts to get in on the action, playing in venues around the town as well as on the stage just outside the main festival site. This was the perfect chance to dance in the street and let loose to a plethora of up and coming bands, and was a wonderful alternative to the more formal setting of the on schedule shows.

The main event for the BBM team came on our final night at the Jazz à Juans festival, as we anticipated the purely legendary performance that laid ahead of us, Gregory Porter and Stevie Wonder. Music know it alls – just pause for a minute to think about that. After bumping into Gregory Porter in the lift at the hotel, and hearing the bassy tones of him merely asking us if he was on the right floor, his speaking voice is enough to excite you about the impending show.

Kicking off the evening proceedings Porter took to the stage with an incredible band, featuring, truly, one of the best Saxophonists we have ever, heard/seen and witnessed. Everyone was dancing in the sold out ampitheatre as Porter took us to Harlem and back, honestly demonstrating the roots of Jazz music. His personality translated perfectly on stage as his warmth and comfortable nature filled the atmosphere – and certainly getting everyone in the mood for Stevie Wonder.

Jazz a Juan 2014 Juan les Pins
Jazz a Juan 2014, Juan Les Pins

In true innovative style, one by one, musicians appeared on stage, increasing the sound one by one, from percussion, to bass, keys and back up singers, the Jazz à Juans stage was filling up – and with three drum kits on stage – it nearly seemed as though there wouldn’t be any more room, but then the moment arrived. A kaftan clad, bald headed – full dreads in the back, sun glass wearing Stevie Wonder wandered out on stage to a colossal applause – the legend had come true.

Seeing Stevie Wonder is one of those experiences that you know you will never forget, simply because he has done so much during his lifetime, and when you hit after hit for three whole hours, there is no way to not feel completely awe struck. Working through all the hits from ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ and ‘Superstition’, to even getting the audience involved a fun-filled delivery of ‘Day Tripper’.

Stevie Wonder finished off the three-hour set with the classic ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’, giving the whole of Juan Les Pins a night they will never forget.

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