The 57th Jazz à Juan Jazz Festival was held from 15 to 23 July 2017 at the wonderful venue at Pinède Gould by the seaside in Juan les Pins; it is a fantastic annual Festival for discovering classic and contemporary jazz, soul and blues singers and musicians.
This year, the Festival programme featured a broad range of artists including Eli Degibri Quartet, Buddy Guy, Luke Elliot, TajMo, Tom Jones, Macy Gray, Gregory Porter, Sting, Robert Glasper Experiment, Kandance Springs and Jamie Cullum.
Jazz à Juan 2017 : Juan Les Pins Jazz Festival
The official start date of the Festival was delayed one day due to solidarity for the 2016 Nice attack, however it did not dampen an eclectic and interesting programme. More than 23,000 spectators enjoyed the Festival this year plus at least 5000 attendees of the ‘Off’ Festival.
The opening days featured excellent performances from Eli Degibri Quartet, French Quarter, Johnny Gallagher & The Boxtie Band and Festival stalwart Buddy Guy.
On Monday 17 July, Luke Elliot brought his charm and musical talent to the stage and I quite thought he looked so much like American musician John Mayer! TajMo (Taj Mahal and Keb ‘Mo) kept the adrenaline high with groovy blues and some comical banter.
Lastly, Sir Tom Jones took to the stage to deliver a set filled with classic and new hits. His energy captivated the audience with hits such as ‘Delilah’, ‘What’s New, Pussycat?’, ‘Sex Bomb’ and the crowd pleasing hit, ‘It’s Not Unusual’. His magnificent baritone voice was outstanding on ‘Mama Told Me Not To Come’ and gave much credential to his showmanship and talent where he has sold more than 100 million albums throughout his career for six decades.
As the sun set, Macy Gray rose to the occasion at Pinède Gould on Wednesday 19 July with an exceptional backing band. She has an individualistic stage persona and her on-stage banter convinced the crowd to stand and dance toward the end of her set as she smoothly performed songs such as ‘When I See You’ and ‘I Try.’ One of the best renditions of the evening was her cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’. Grammy-winning soul/jazz sensation Gregory Porter was a fine second act with enlivening vocals and great stage presence.
The following night, the sold-out evening of Hiromi Duo and Sting was much anticipated by Festival goers. After acclaimed solo and trio projects, Hiromi returns with a new tour and soon-to-be recorded album with the Colombian harpist Edmar Castaneda and their onstage musicality and chemistry was evident. Sting was a veritable crowd pleaser, and at his very best belting out Police hits.
On Saturday 22 July, the first act Kandace Springs was a warming introduction to a great night. Kandace has a honeyed voice and without taking anything away from her soulful performance on the piano, she reminded me of a laidback mix of Alicia Keys and Erykah Badu. Afterwards, the beautiful Anoushka Shankar was an atmospheric interlude to the evening with the mesmorising sound of the sitar. Personally, I’ve never listened to much sitar music but I found it enlightening, entertaining and more musically diverse than I expected.
Up next was Jamie Cullum – energetic, cheeky and a very talented pianist. Jamie has a knack for making music that seems equally at home on a Sunday morning chilling out such as ‘These Are The Days’ or an enlivening dance to one of his tracks such as ‘Don’t Stop The Music ‘. I particularly loved his ‘All at Sea’ one of my favourite songs of his and his cover version of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ which he made his own.
The closing night of the Festival featured a free performance by the legendary Blind Boys of Alabama with uplifting vocals that have made them world famous.
The top 3 concerts by sales in 2017 were Sting, Macy Gray/Gregory Porter and Tom Jones.
Best of Du Off | Jazz en Scene | Kiosque à Musique
During the Festival, various nightly concerts were held at Petite Pinède in Juan les Pins, in Antibes at the newly inaugurated rotunda at Place Nationale and in the streets of Antibes and Juan les Pins.
Best of Du Off was hosted on Saturday 15 July with free jazz bands from 7pm in the streets – I saw around 6 bands of different styles in Juan les Pins over the course of a few hours. The atmosphere was friendly with busy restaurants and bars. That night was also a public fireworks display in the bay of Juan les Pins so it was an excellent family-friendly evening.
The nightly concerts included acts such as Buckshot Gala, Les Haricots Noirs Brasil Band Social Club, Good Times Foundation, JZ Music All Stars (in partnership with the Festival de Jazz de Shanghai) and Alexandra Miller & Metromantic.
The entire Festival site is wheelchair accessible and the staff at the Festival this year were helpful and informative. There were plenty of ushers, first aid staff and security staff. I noticed staff assisting Festival goers with special needs and for first aid, so the site support was excellent. Festival facilities include:
- Food and drink outlets on either side of the stage selling draught beer, soft drinks, water, Champagne and snacks
- First aid staff
- Les Jardins du Jazz is a VIP experience at Plage Ambassadeur with a personalized welcome from 7pm, dinner at the beach (from 7pm to 10.30pm) and private box seats enabling you to see the concert of your choice as a privileged guest
- Onsite Press Village with Wifi, seating and tables. Note: The Press Village is not located in close proximity to the stage but you can see the stage from there. The Festival press team were readily available daily during the Festival.
- Boutique for souvenirs such as Panama hats, mugs, beach bags, t-shirts, caps and postcards
- Accessible toilets are situated at the rear of the Tribunes and Gallery seating closest to Boulevard Baudoin (next to the Pinède playground)
- Special car parking offer at the underground parking at the Palais des Congrès – you simply showed your ticket and received a special parking rate €10,50 from 6pm to 2am
Tickets for Jazz à Juan 2018
This year, 64% of sales were made online across 5 continents and 30 countries confirming the Festival’s international reputation (stat: Jazz à Juan Press Office). The Juan les Pins Jazz Festival offer a range of tickets for varied seating options including Category 4, Category 3, Category 2, Category 1 and Carré d’Or.
If you want to sit directly in front of the stage and main acts less than 20 metres away, the optimal tickets to buy are Carré d’Or; next best seats are Category 1.
It’s important to note that ‘Standing Only’ (Zone Debout) tickets are not sold until Category 4 tickets are exhausted.
There are reduced ticket prices for Categories 3 and 4 for people under 18 years of age, students and job seekers, and also combined ticket deals where you receive 25% discount for buying tickets for 2 concerts.
The dates for Jazz à Juan 2018 are 14 to 22 July 2018. To buy tickets for the 2018 Festival, refer to the official website www.jazzajuan.com
Disclosure: Rebecca Whitlocke was honoured to be an Accredited Press Guest at Jazz à Juan 2017 , however all opinions given in this review are honest and unedited.