The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Kayra Wil­liams

Mu­sic is life, and jazz is tran­scen­dent. That much was clear dur­ing my in­ter­view with Saint Lu­cian mu­si­cian Ru­pert Lay, front­man for the Ru­pert Lay Quar­tet. Min­utes ear­lier they had brought the cur­tains down on the first event on the Soleil cal­en­dar.

Is this your first per­for­mance on Jazz main stage? Ru­pert:

On main stage, yes. This was my first per­for­mance as Ru­pert Lay. But I’ve per­formed on main stage be­fore as a side man.

How do you rate the ex­pe­ri­ence? Ru­pert:

It was great. Of course I’d have been hap­pier to have a full house; you al­ways want the en­ergy from the crowd. Quite apart from that, the crowd was quite re­cep­tive and very up­beat. That made up for the num­bers.

What are your thoughts on im­prov­ing the fes­ti­val? Ru­pert:

Ac­tu­ally I was quite happy to be play­ing jazz. I am a jazz mu­si­cian, es­sen­tially. I’m sure you no­ticed the jazz edi­tion of the Soleil event was re­ally jazz, with the ex­cep­tion of Vanessa Wil­liams. That’s one of the things I liked, that they have ad­dressed that is­sue that had been a per­sonal beef of mine. It used to be that jazz was a lit­tle bit on the side. I al­ways had an is­sue with that.

How many times have you vis­ited the fes­ti­val?

I come ev­ery year. This time around the de­mo­graphic seemed to be the same. The num­bers may have been a lit­tle down but it’s a new event; I ex­pect attendance will im­prove. Peo­ple prob­a­bly wanted to get a feel for what it is, and then de­cide. It’s not all that dif­fer­ent, just more fo­cused. This is the jazz edi­tion; the other edi­tions will be more fo­cused on the other as­pects, so I think it’ll be good.

What does jazz mu­sic mean to you? Ru­pert:

Jazz ac­tu­ally is a way of life. For many peo­ple it’s just mu­sic but re­ally, to jazz musicians, it’s a way of life. We ex­press our­selves through sound and through mu­sic. When you get into jazz it’s with you for life. One of the first things you re­al­ize is that your life­time is too short to reach the lim­its of that en­ergy. It’s an en­ergy source that is im­mense, and so you be­come im­me­di­ately hum­bled by it, and also happy be­cause you re­al­ize that you’ll al­ways progress. You’re con­tin­u­ously a stu­dent; you learn ev­ery sin­gle day and it truly is a way of life. You live it.

For us here, we have the jazz event, now Soleil, and many peo­ple see it as a May event. For a mu­si­cian like me, a jazz mu­si­cian, it’s an ev­ery­day thing. I live jazz to­mor­row as well, and the next day, so it is truly a way of life. How were you in­tro­duced to jazz? Ru­pert: I must’ve been six or seven. I didn’t know what it was. I re­mem­ber hear­ing a Bob Marley song when I was about five and I said to my­self, “If there is no mu­sic on this planet, I’d rather die.” I re­mem­ber say­ing that, and that’s a pro­found state­ment for a fiveyear-old to make. Then I heard jazz around seven, but I didn’t quite know what it was.

I left Saint Lu­cia and went back to Eng­land, where I was born. I got in­volved with some musicians and we went to a gig. After­ward one of the musicians put in a CD. I was in the back of the ve­hi­cle. I lis­tened to what was play­ing and I thought, “What on earth is this? I don’t know what it is, but it’s re­ally, re­ally good!” I re­al­ized then that it was what I’d heard for the first time when I was seven.

I re­mem­ber some ra­dio pre­sen­ters here in Saint Lu­cia who played jazz . . . I was ex­posed quite early, but I didn’t know what was hap­pen­ing un­til later. That’s the beauty about the mu­sic.

What do you love about it? Ru­pert:

I would say ev­ery­thing. But that would be too broad. What I love about jazz is that it sets you free. It forces you to be you. It forces you to dis­cover who you are. It makes you ex­plore that per­son that is you. Some­how, if you truly get into it, that’s what hap­pens. That in and of it­self sets you free.

Are you cur­rently work­ing on any spe­cial projects? Ru­pert:

I started an al­bum in Novem­ber. It’s part of a threeto-four al­bum deal that I have. The timeline was to re­lease it about now, but there were a few things I wanted to redo. My quar­tet will be in Eng­land for a per­for­mance next month, and I will also be go­ing back into the stu­dio to put down some more tunes. I made a de­ci­sion to take my time.

What I pre­sented to­day is some­thing I want to cap­ture on the first al­bum, some of the lo­cal tunes. One of the things Saint Lu­cia is blessed with, be­cause we ex­changed hands be­tween the Bri­tish and the French, is our depth of cul­ture. It’s very good. We prob­a­bly take it for granted, but it brings di­ver­sity, the French per­spec­tive and the English per­spec­tive. Our folk tunes are very var­ied, and very in­ter­est­ing. I’d like to ex­plore that.

For Ru­pert Lay, Jazz is a way of life.

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