PHOTO: Esperanza Spalding, composer, bassist and vocalist, will headline the 20th annual Dominican Republic Jazz Festival. (Photo by Holly Andres)
Better known for its tropical climate and 1,000 miles of palm-dotted beaches, the Dominican Republic loves music, and it's never as evident as in November when an all-star lineup of international talent performs at the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival.
The 2016 edition, Nov. 8-12, marks the 20th anniversary of the free event, which has become one of the largest jazz festivals in the Caribbean, attracting audiences of 10,000-plus patrons, locals and tourists alike.
Leading this year's international headliners is four-time Grammy Award winner Esperanza Spalding, a composer, bassist and vocalist originally from Oregon who at age 32 has already recorded seven collaborative and five solo albums.
The lineup also features saxophonist Lihi Haruvi (Israel), the Tia Fuller Quartet (Boston), the Patricia Zarate Quintet (Chile), Pat Pereyra and her band (Dominican Republic), the widely acclaimed Berklee Global Jazz Institute from Boston with special guests JoAnne Brackeen (piano) and Grammy-winning drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, among many other talents.
PHOTO: The Berklee Global Jazz Institute conducts a music workshop for children at the 2014 Dominican Republic Jazz Festival. (Photo by Matt Bokor)
Since its debut in 1997, the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival has presented internationally renowned Latin Grammy and Grammy Award-winning musicians such as Ignacio Berroa, Joe Lovano, Chuck Mangione, Ray Baretto, Néstor Torres, Chucho Valdés, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez and Arturo Sandoval.
For the first time in its two-decade history, the festival, usually a fixture on the north coast, moves south to the thriving capital of Santo Domingo, where it will open Tuesday, Nov. 8, in the heart of the historic Colonial Zone, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
From there, the festival returns to Santiago, the country's second-largest city, on Wednesday, Nov. 9; Puerto Plata on Thursday, Nov. 10; and wraps up with two nights on the beach at nearby Cabarete on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 11-12.
In addition to their performances at night, many festival artists conduct daytime workshops for Dominican children, teaching them a few basic concepts and introducing them to the magic of creating music themselves.
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Several hundred children eagerly attend the workshops, which are presented through the festival's affiliation with Fedujazz, a nonprofit foundation that provides music education for Dominican youth. Enrollment in the Fedujazz music program in Cabarete recently expanded to more than 200 students.
Host hotels for musicians include some of the country's most luxurious residential properties, such as:
• Sea Horse Ranch, an oceanfront resort just outside Cabarete with 110 villas, equestrian and tennis centers, restaurant and pools amid 250 acres of tropical landscaping.
• Ultravioleta, a boutique residence in Cabarete featuring 21 suites, each with ocean views, private balconies and full kitchens equipped with high-end appliances.
• Millennium Resort & Spa, a beachfront resort in Cabarete with 53 condos, a restaurant and bar overlooking the ocean and pool, plus a lobby bar, spa, fitness center and surf school.
• Casa Linda, an oasis of 210 secluded villas in Sosúa offering all the comforts of home and more, such as a private pool, barbeque and the personalized service of a high-end resort.
Presented by the Dominican Ministry of Tourism, the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival is free, but VIP tickets are available and include priority seating, complimentary beverages and other festival perks, with proceeds benefiting Fedujazz. For more information, visit drjazzfestival.com.