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Monday, September 05, 2005

Everything "Clicked" at Jazz in the Gardens

The evening began with a tribute to an ailing giant of
modern jazz, Michael Brecker, diagnosed with a rare blood
cell disorder. His fusion classic, Nothing Personal was
the first of two rousing offerings from a power trio
consisting of keyboard whiz Ozooni and the supertight
rhythm duo of Dale Haslam on bass and Desi Jones on drums
(the latter two having just returned from a nine-week
multi-city tour with Jimmy Cliff). This they followed
with Mary’s Lamb, the keyboardist’s delightfully idiosyncratic
re-working of the time-worn nursery rhyme, proving as Sonny
Rollins was oncel led to state, "jaz is the only music that
absorb almost anything else and still be jazz."

The audience sufficiently warmed up it was time for guitazrist-vocalist-songwirter Benjy Myaz to make his
Jazz in the Gardens debut, a somewhat glaring oversight
given his prodigious abilities and proven hitmaker status.
Even though hius guitar carried a special pick-up that gave
it an expanded range (bass included), Myaz kept the drum
and bass player in the line-up. He added however two keyboardists,
the reliably excellent Othniel Lewis and the relatively untested
Andrew Young. Both were in good form as were backing vocalists
Mickiesha Mc Taggart and Nicolee Sharpe.

But it was mostly Myaz, as he took the audience on a smooth,
R&B jazz journey that took in Lionel Richie’s "Love Will Find
A Way" and the standard "Autumn Leaves" with equal ease. Myaz
dedicated the former selection to the victims of Katrina and
to all the suffering people of the world.

There was also a new song, "Long Story Short" a delightful
ballad from his upcoming CD, and a reading of "People Make
the World Go Round" (a la Ramsey Lewis) where the vocals would
not be out of place on a Whispers album. He capped an oustanding inaugural stint with the obligatory "Love You Higher" and –when
called, as expected, for encore – garnished with a sutiably
sultry reading of Bobby Caldwell’s "You Do For Love" with
addiitonal oomph from the alto sax stylings of Errol Hird.

After the intermission, the original trio returned and Ozooni’s
Fats Waller-style bit of blues humour "The Best Thing For You
Is Me" They remained intact for the night’s feature act.

Whisking herself on stage in a simple yet dramatic black-and-white ensemble, S. African –born Lorraine Klassen (she now spends much
of her time in Canada) exuding enough energy to power all seventeeen floors of the hotel and much to spare.In a consummate display
of showmanship, she danced, shook, shimmied, ad-libbed, vamped,
teased and sang her way into the hearts of the Pegasus audience,
who lapped up every minute whether they were witnessing her for
the first time or not.

Among the highlights of her stint was the popular "Click Song"
made famous by "Auntie" Miriam Makeba. Klaasen explained the
meaning of the song pointing out that in the click-dominated Xhosa language, one of the references was to a small beetle that
habitually crawled up under the long skirts worn by the women
as they went (babes on their backs) into the fields to gather
wheat. The punch line came when she demostarted how the women
–too havily laden to stop and investigate, "dislodged" the
pesky bugs.

Klaasen’s superior range and irrepressible sense of humour shone
through every aspect of herset, whether delivering "Georgia On
My Mind" "A Foggy Day in London Town"or the other Makeba smash
"Pata Pata" (with a demonstration, of course).

With the calls for her return to the stage overwhelming, she
re-entered claling on Myaz for a free-wheeling adaptation of
the blues anthem "Everyday I Have the Blues" with both leads
liberally substituting their own lines for the original.

The sound was still not as consistently clear and on target as
it can be, but in every other respect, the most recent Jazz in
the Gardens confirmed the series as among the very best live
tickets going. The next instalment takes place on October 30
and who knows what sonorous gifts may float up onto the Louisiana
bayous between now and then. Our neighbours to the north surely
could use them.

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