For lovers of smooth jazz, there’s one event that was firmly penned in many people’s calendars from the moment it was announced, and that’s the Camellia City Smooth Jazz Festival. Scheduled for 6th-8th October 2017, tickets were rapidly sold and crowds prepared to head to the festival ground. Nature had other plans in mind though, with Hurricane Nate making an unscheduled appearance in the American state, affecting buildings and individuals throughout. The festival was hindered, but not deterred, and human power – plus the exceptional hard work of the organisers – ensured it still went ahead. The festival was moved indoors, meaning the iconic Kreol festival continued, the music was playing and the drinks flowing.
Festival under a roof
The Northshore Harbor Center was the new home, and under the leadership of Kathy Lowery, it was the perfect venue. Once inside, the atmosphere was buzzing. Over 1,000 people showed up on Saturday with 14 food vendors and various craft stalls all showing their products. On the Sunday, the close-out jazz brunch was re-scheduled to November 12th. However, there were still over 900 people in attendance, ready to be entertained by Gerald Albright, Stephanie Jordan and The Speakerbox Experiment.
Visitors to the Camellia City Smooth Jazz Festival were also treated to music by the likes of Chieli Minucci, Steve Oliver, 3rd Force, Generation NeXt, Alex Bugnon, Gerald Veasley, Marcus Anderson, Joey “Papa J” Sommerville, and Bill Summers. For the moments where people wanted a change of scenery, there were other events planned such as a celebrity golf tournament at Beau Chene Country Club – however, this 36-hole sporting event was postponed due to the bad weather. There was also the opportunity for guests to join the Camellia City Smooth Jazz Crawl.
With the inaugural opening ceremony kicking off at 11am on the Saturday, it was a packed schedule from start to finish with musicians playing throughout the day in a continuous stream of jazz, dancing and energetic music.
Such was the success of the event that we feel strongly that Jin Jeans Productions and Camellia City Smooth Jazz Festival have found their eternal home. It was a friendly, informal and lively space in which everyone visiting shared the same passion for culture, music and companionship. The drinks were in full flow, rich creole food smells penetrated every corner of the room, and music was coursing through everyone’s veins. You could feel the energy of the room on your skin, leaving hairs stood up on end at the sound of a familiar tune or aroma. It was a sensory experience in which you found yourself walking back through time to memories of years gone by, but also drawn into the future with ideas of how the creole culture may continue long beyond now.
A template for future festivals
Many patrons had such a great time at the Camellia City Jazz Matinee that we have decided at Kreol Magazine to continue this event next year. We want to develop the brilliant offering, calling it ‘Jin Jeans Productions Presents… Jazz Matinee’ and host it in the lead up to the October Camellia City Jazz Festival. Hopefully next year there won’t be hurricanes to contend with! To keep the planned event in line with our other work, we want to bring in a national contemporary jazz artist to pair them with some of the best of the best local artists and musicians to create a fusion of jazz that has never before been heard in Louisiana. This combination of cultures, styles and communities is exactly what our creole heritage asks of us and what we have been raised to explore. It helps to open our eyes to a new world, open our hearts to new people, and explore new opportunities that may have otherwise been closed to us.
The conjoined twins of Creole culture: food and music
The Creole culture is all about embracing the colonial roots that held together ancestors of all kinds of races, whether they were European settlers, enslaved Africans, or had a mixed heritage from Spanish to French, American Indian to African, and so on. It does not fit one single group of people and as such, is a mix of cultural influences from sounds to smells to tastes to textures and colours.
An eclectic and energetic mix, it won’t be forgotten in a hurry by those who embrace and engage with it at festivals such as the Camellia City Jazz Matinee.
We are excited to bring such productions to Slidell, Louisiana, and are looking forward to many more people joining us as we enjoy contemporary jazz at its best. We’re also thrilled that thousands of people had the chance to experience this year’s event and the many brilliant musicians who were playing and vendors who were selling. Hurricanes and natural disasters aren’t enough to stop the energy or spirit of the creole community, and we were thrilled to be a part of the experience… Smooth!