CDF ICON SERIES MAKES SAINT LUCIA JAZZ & ARTS FESTIVAL HISTORY
Luther Francois SLC formally inducted into Saint Lucia’s Cultural Hall of Fame.
In the Cultural Development Foundation’s (CDF) sixth edition of the annual Icon Series showcase, Hon. Luther Francois took to the stage at the Pure Jazz Night with a 42-piece symphonic jazz suite. The “big band” delivering a 75-minute set composed by the Icon was a veritable united nation of Jazz. It featured jazz players from Ghana, Nigeria, Venezuela, Barbados, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Israel, the USA, France, Martinique and Guadeloupe, under the baton of distinguished Jamaican composer Peter Ashbourne. It was the largest symphony to grace a Saint Lucia Jazz stage in the festival’s 31-year history.
Big band projects are typical of Luther Francois, who is as known for his complex arrangements as he is for his ambitious experiments. Two such endeavors -The Caribbean Jazz Project and the West Indies Jazz Band of the early 90s – are major historical collaborations that cemented a distinctive space for the Antilles in the genre of jazz music. In 1991, Luther Francois pioneered Saint Lucia’s first-ever Jazz festival. October Jazz would inspire the birth of Saint Lucia Jazz in 1992. Saint Lucia Jazz would later be rebranded in 2016 as the Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival.
Widely regarded as the godfather of Caribbean Jazz, Mr. Francois’ jazz symphony project was hailed as a “historic milestone” for the Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival and a “proud moment for all Saint Lucians”. In a short recognition ceremony following the 75-minute set, the widely revered composer and musician was honoured by Hon. Dr. Ernest Hilaire, Minister for Tourism, Investment, Creative Industries, Culture, and Information.
Dr. Hilaire saluted Mr. Francois “as a Cultural Icon of Saint Lucia and one of the most eminent influencers in Caribbean Jazz”. The Minister spoke from the stage in a short, but poignant recognition ceremony following Francois’ set. “Our country and our region are the beneficiaries of your genius as a composer and your tremendous capacity to share, to teach, and nurture both your peers and younger musicians who get the opportunity to work with you,” Dr. Hilaire said, adding “heartfelt thanks for your contribution and your legacy, on behalf of the Government and people of Saint Lucia.”
Noting that the Icon Series was introduced as a CDF feature within the Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival to celebrate the contribution of arts and culture to the Saint Lucian experience, Chairman Darwin Guard said as a country within the Antilles, the Foundation appreciates the icon’s genius as a value not narrowly for Saint Lucia but “for this time in our collective history, is to create and solidify a distinct space within the genre of jazz for the Antillean Archipelago”. Mr. Guard said other than the Icon’s body of work, his legacy is evident in the growing “network of disciples across the region who can bravely take the work forward”.
In that respect, he described the 2023 icon as a historical figure, whose works are priceless artifacts of Caribbean culture. “Politics has its revolutionaries, religion has its apostles, Culture has its heroes. For Saint Lucians and Caribbean people, Luther Francois is that trinity. Mr. Guard concluded.
In 2022, in recognition of the scale of Mr. Francois’ impact in the arena of music and cultural cooperation, the Cultural Development Foundation recommended Mr. Francois for conferment of the highest designation of the Order of Saint Lucia – the Saint Lucia Cross, for distinguished and outstanding service of national importance to Saint Lucia. – by the Cultural Development Foundation (CDF)