Riviera Maya Jazz Festival Showcases Five Female Greats

By on November 1, 2018
Riviera Maya Jazz

The Riviera Maya Jazz Festival 2018 in Quintana Roo, now in it’s 17th year, brought together a huge presence of media outlets from Mexico, the United States and Canada who were all focused on giving international attention to jazz musicians, especially five women artists performing. The festival showcased the talent of five great female jazz musicians performing jazz, soul, funk and Caribbean and Latin American rhythms. The festival took place in the traditional Mamitas Beach Club, in Playa del Carmen and lasted three days. The organizers’ mission was to boost the positioning of the Riviera Maya, and the state of Quintana Roo, as a cultural and artistic destination.
Riviera Maya Jazz Festival, considered by major music publications and jazz aficionados to be among the 10 best Jazz festivals in the world, is presented by the Promotion Council on Tourism of Quintilian Roo and highlights world-class quality performances by renowned jazz artists in an exquisite beach setting where guests attend free of charge.
2018 performers included headliners Bebel Gilberto, Norah Jones, and Bobby McFerrin as well as Lalah Hathaway, Christina Morrison, Lori Williams & Bob Baldwin, Pepe Hernandez, Drew Tucker & The New Standard, Paco Rosas PK Band, and Kike Pat – A Mayan in Jazz. Five renowned female artists were featured in this years festival, and every performer gave an amazing performance to a very enthusiastic audience of thousands on the beach of Mamita’s Beach Club. 
The opportunity to interview and cover the performances of Bebel Gilberto and Norah Jones had particular significance to this lady journalist due to the fact that I had seen her father Joao Gilberto at Navy Pier in Chicago in the 60s when Brazilian Jazz was first being introduced in the United States, and I loved it at first note. I had purchased CD’s of Norah Jones before discovering she was the daughter of musician Ravi Shankar, who I had interviewed in Beverly Hills in the 90s when a day was proclaimed in his name by Mayor Mera Lee Goldman. Unfortunately, Norah Jones was a no-show for the press conference at the Platinum Princess Yucatan Hotel, which was a disappointment to all the media. Although everyone thoroughly enjoyed her mellow notes during her performance at the festival.
Bebel Gilberto gave a delightful interview, sipping espresso and answering questions from the press with ease and grace. She was very excited to be performing in Quintana Roo at the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival with Bobby McFerrin. When she was asked a question by a press member who referred to her Joao Gilberto’s Basa Nova as a movement she replied “Basa Nova is an attitude.” She also expressed her pleasure to be performing with such an outstanding lineup of jazz performers and stated she is happy to be a woman of influence in Basa and Jazz. That night Bebel was a vision in coral on the Festival stage, with ocean breezes blowing her hair, as she sang many of her favorites including “Baby” to a crowd reported to be in the thousands.
Lalah Hathaway, who nearly blew the waves back at Mamitas Beach Club during her performance, is celebrating her 30th year in the business and says she devoted herself to creating voice sounds and is still learning. As a producer, she imagined making records with greats like Quincy Jones as being so huge and says she finds taking care of details and knowing what she wants to do and doing it really what matters now. “When people ask me which is my favorite song it’s like having someone ask me which is my favorite finger. I cannot choose one,” she said.
Christina Morrison has her roots in theatre as a singer, actress, and dancer on Broadway. She loves music because she says it is such a powerful and direct response situation with an audience. Dario Flota heard Christina in New York and invited her to perform at the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival. She shared that she devotes time to the Guggenheim Program on Galapagos, which provides art programs that are island related. Christina said she loves working with kids.
Director of the Tourism Promotion Council of Quintana Roo, Darío Flota Ocampo, was a welcoming host and interviewer for the press conferences and the casual setup provided easy communication between the artists and the press. Pepe Hernandez and Paco Rosas were wonderful and shared much information on past festivals and their commitment to keeping jazz aficionados coming back to Quintana Roo. Their performances (they played together at this festival) had everyone on their feet, including me. Mexican fusion jazz is amazing and loved by everyone, especially young Mexican jazz lovers.
Riviera Maya Jazz FestivalGroups like Kike Pat, whose band included a bevy of outstanding acoustic musicians, one female violinist from Ukraine, has been paying homage to Maya with his original Mayan Jazz arrangements for fifteen years. Their performance at the festival was so colorful, imaginative and inspiring. Kike Pat is a charming guy, with a huge love and dedication to his heritage and was very exciting to watch on stage. 
Lori Williams & Bob Baldwin were offering fans some old and some incredible new songs at this year’s performance. Baldwin, a thirty year veteran in the Jazz world, and Williams, a woman with a voice that leaves listeners totally in awe. Rarely have I heard such versatility in a singers voice and Bob Baldwin said it right when he said “Lori does things with her voice that are unbelievable.” Williams discussed the fact that musicians like Miles Davis changed the direction of jazz but it is still a spiritual music form. Bobby McFerrin pleased everyone when he performed his signature song “Don’t Worry be Happy.”
Dario Flota Ocampo stated that the Jazz Festival of the Riviera Maya is a major consideration of the tourist promotion of their part of the State. “It means for the Riviera Maya presence in the specialized media for more than 8 months of the year, since the festival cast is announced, during the actual event and for a month or two following the event when they continue to appear in mixed media promoting the festival,” he said. 
It is easy to see why this fabulous jazz event is in its 17th year and has attracted the finest in jazz musicians every year. The location is heavenly, nearby some fantastic five star Cancun hotel properties and fine restaurants where travelers can enjoy the best in jazz and vacation amenities. My four day stay at The Grand Moon Palace Resort was a delightful and restful respite, and traveling on United Airlines from my home city to Cancun was easy and comfortable. Will do this delightful musical escape again for sure if at all possible.
By Bonnie Carroll
For information, visit RivieraMayaJazzFestival.com or VisitMexico.com.

About Bonnie Carroll

Bonnie Carroll has been a food/travel/lifestyle writer since 1983. She is the founder & publisher of Bonnie Carroll’s Life Bites News, does travel and food reporting on KZSB1290 radio, and contributes to a variety of national and international travel/lifestyle publications. Her first children's book C.C. Charles was published in 2002 and she is currently working on a second book. Her first great grandchild is expected this summer. Contact her at [email protected]

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Riviera Maya Jazz Festival Showcases Five Female Greats