Bavaro & Punta Cana May 13, 2023 | 7:00 am

First Jazz Fest held at Punta Cana Village

L-R: Luinis Quezada, Luis Migoya, Frank Rainieri, Marianne Jimenez, Renn Loren, Manuel Sajour, and Kiki Melendez

I attended Punta Cana’s first Jazz Fest this past Saturday night at Punta Cana’s Punta Cana Village.

My host was the Puerto Plata-born comedienne, actress, and CEO of Latin Hollywood Films, Kiki Melendez.

Gallery Manager Marianne Jimenez (L) and my host Kiki Melendez (R)

As this was the first-ever Jazz Fest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I certainly wasn’t expecting the vast turnout that greeted us upon arrival!

Grupo Puntacana chairman and founder Don Frank Raineri, Executive Director of Marketing Manuel Sajour, and Punta Cana Village Gallery Manager Marianne Jimenez welcomed us to the courtyard to celebrate the highly esteemed careers and contributions of the consecrated Dominican jazz players Gustavo Rodriguez and Sandy Gabriel.
The Punta Cana Group all remained on hand through the evening to enjoy the event.

Kiki and I hanging with some friends pre-event at Johanna and Richard’s (center) house in Punta Cana.

Marianne explained that they are planning a series of frequent diverse events throughout the year for the community. They hope to use the various possibilities to educate, entertain, and introduce more culture and art to the community. 

Future events will feature more music, gastronomic, and comedy nights. She further explained that the community of Punta Cana was very supportive and appreciative of such events, which was evident by the large, enthusiastic crowd in attendance.

The place was packed with families, couples, and large groups of friends.

Though this inaugural Jazz Fest featured only local Dominican artists, they were absolute virtuosos of the highest caliber.

For many, jazz might conjure images of a boring stodgy scene with inaccessible music. But that would be wrong. Instead, the jazz music of the evening was lively, jamming, engaging, and thoroughly in and of the present.

Smiles were evident on the many faces of all ages all around the gallery. The sound, compliments of Coolekos, SRL, and producer Luinis Quezada, was excellent: every note of every instrument was discernible in the mix, which was well-balanced and warm.

Even the kids were enjoying the scene.

The Village’s many splendid restaurants, cafes, and other businesses benefitted greatly from the flurry of guests eager to eat, drink, and be merry.

The evening began with a rousing speech about the history and culture of jazz by composer, pianist, arranger, and lecturer Josean Jacobo.

Four different groups filled the hours of 7 – 10 PM. 

The Emilio Pineda Academy of Music and Arts group took the stage first. This group featured vocalist, Ivanna Peña Loyola. It was a nice touch as the only vocal representation of the evening.

The Emilio Pineda Academy of Music and Arts group featuring vocalist Ivanna Peña Loyola.

Then the Alvaro Carrea trio rollicked through an inspired set that had people bopping and nodding along.

With over forty years in music, Gustavo Rodriguez Trio came next, delivering a captivating sweltering set of wailing, out-there jams, solos, and improvs. It was clear that the audibly appreciative crowd loved it.

Gustavo Rodriguez and his trio jamming into the night

And with over 30 years in the biz, consecrated saxophonist Sandy Gabriel closed the event with lilting enigmatic soaring tones.

Smoky golden tones float from Sandy Gabriel’s sax under the full moon’s light.

Various other artists played around the gallery until well after 11 PM. As the music wafted through the tropical air under the light of a glorious full moon long afterward, it was clear that the first annual Jazz Fest of Punta Cana was a smashing success.

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