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Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Jamaicans really are great.
No, duh, you might say, but when one takes the full measure
of jamaican achievement in several fields, just over the last century
or so, it's staggering when one considers our size, and the fact that we
-like many - live in the long cultural shadow of Uncle Sam.
What's made us so great? I have a theory, and it might sound real
twisted, inside-out, kinda subversive (in a good way, trust me), but
I'm going to be sharing iot with you and here's hoping it'll make some sense,
over time.

Danish Whirl - the first mistake

So, it's weeks after the intro, and we're almost into April
Anyway, I received one day an email form a Danish musician
named Tommy Hoeg inhquiring about performing in Jamaica
and specifically about playing the Deck, an open-air lounge where
atthe time I was spinning Jazz CDs (more out of compulsion than
any commercial consideration - I had previosuly done it at Devon House)
Anyway, I said great, send me some music which he did (this arrived
sometime after our first exchange and after fialures to open the Mp3 files
he sent previously.
I replied afer hearing the EP that I'd love to have him and his gorup
but would have to seek sponsorship. This being agreed, I approached the
Danish consulate here in Jamaica -Mistake #1. They referred me to a contact
who, after several unsuccessful tries, Igave up on without renewing the
contact with the consul or apprising Tommy hOeg of the situation
- Mistake (big mistake) # 2. Neither did Ishare the developments with any
of the people I knew in the music business locally. I was so utterly convinced that
I could 'work this out' on my own (BIG BIG Mistake) that I plowed on into the
next phase of this misadventure.
Of course, you know that's for the next post.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Jones Lincoln

Jones Lincoln
Originally uploaded by mike e.bop.
Both piano icon Hank Jones and legendary singer Abbey Lincoln are recovering from health issues at St John's hospital in NYC. Jones, 88, had heart failure and Lincoln, 11 years younger, also had respiratory difficulties. Wishing them both complete recovery.


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

A good week for music

Jazz First
by Michael ‘Jazzofonik’ Edwards

The week that was
The past week proved as good for music as it did for cricket, with stars old and new coming to the fore.
Firstly, the new. On Sunday last, the former Studio A at the CPTC was re-opened (having been rebuilt after a devastating 2005 fire) and re-named in honour of broadcast legend Wycliffe Bennett.
The sprightly honouree was his usual quiet yet effusive self, but the real highlight for this writer was being able to witness the emergence of two stunning new talents. First violinist Nadje Leslie, a prodigy if ever one was worthy of the term and already a delightful entertainer at thirteen. Then, altoist Dwayne Foster who, but for the fact that he wasn’t playing tenor, gave off the air of a young Dexter Gordon: very relaxed and fluid on his instrument — in command and enjoying every moment of it.
The pair would return on Tuesday evening at the 3M-sponsored cocktail hour at the new Caribbean Business Club in New Kingston (a neat concept, and well executed), performing separately as well as together. This is one of the most heartening developments in the recent annals of our music, to see young people with this level of proficiency but moreover with a clear love for the artform and an apparent desire to make music their life focus.
Sunday was also special for the renewal of Jazz On The Green, a show which has gotten progressively better over it’s four-year run. Like myself, Basil Walters was on hand and submitted the following review:

On a rather humid afternoon attended at one stage by a brief light drizzle, there was nothing green about the musical performances in this venue, with its care-free ambience in which patrons could lyme and enjoy the music and tasty delights (courtesy of Lorraine Fung).
The sound quality and general management ensured that the event was one filled with sweet music of international standards. The Desi Jones-led Green House Effect opened the gig, setting the tone for a for the wider variety of entertainment that was to come.
Among the outstanding performers was Tanice Morris, the first solo act. Morris gave an emotionally charged performance, beginning her stint with ‘Jazzin’ (a take on Marley’s Jammin’). Having received a welcome response, she consolidated her stay with a pleasing rendition of Alfie and followed with the oft-performed Etta James classic, At Last.
It was then time for the Jamaica Big Band under the direction of Sonny Bradshaw. The expansive aggregation enlivened things with Take The A Train, Confucius and Satin Doll, before the welcome intervention of Myrna Hague who journeyed through Streets Of Kingston, adding That’s Life before taking off on Fly Me To The Moon. After she departed the stage the Big Band continued where it left off with Rukumbine, Everyday Blues, and Perez Prado’s Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White with competing single-note runs from the horn section.
An ensemble from the School of Music under the direction of Michael ‘Ibo’ Cooper, demonstrated a general desire towards refinement with a great deal of improvisation. Sarena Constantine stood out with an impressive interpretation of Ben E King’s old standby, I Who Have Nothing.
Dr Kathy Brown promised a musical journey encompassing Mexico (Bull Fight), South Africa and her own composition, a romp entitled Godfather.
Benjy Myaz and Friends featuring gospel saxophonist, Courtney Fadlin, played a short, set of trademark smooth jazz and was especially pleasing on People Make The World Go Round. Although time did not allow for him to have extended himself, Fadlin lived up to his reputation with ease and dexterity with a few bluesy numbers.
Karen Smith was in her usual impeccable form, gliding effortlessly through They Can’t Take That Away From Me and A Wonderful Day Like Today. Jazz On The Green ended with a delightful uptempo jam session featuring master saxophonist Dean Fraser, Christopher McDonald on keyboards, Desi Jones on drums and Dwight Richards whose take, on vocal of Marvin Gaye’s hit, What’s Going On was sweet music to the ears. Proceeds from the event go towards the construction of a multi-skill training centre in Spanish Town.

Christopher’s Jazz Cafe was this past Tuesday the scene of yet another series-topping outing in its ongoing Tuesday Live sessions. Host Seretse Small on guitar joined bassist Carl Gibson and drummer Wendell Lawrence (his regular rhythm section) as well as keyboardist Courick Clarke to lay down what must rank among the top five sessions in the series (at least among those witnessed by this writer). Lawrence, in particular distilled his every solo to it’s purest musical essence. If this is the stuff of which Seretse and the True Democrats are made (they’re presently recording), then my vote is assured.
On Thursday, the focus shifted to the singers with the leggy Althea ‘Di Chic’ Hewitt putting her compelling presence and throaty trill to good use on covers of Anita Baker and other chanteuses.

Two jazz legends meet in hospital
It was an unlikely reunion in the most unlikely of places for Hank Jones and Abbey Lincoln Moseka, two jazz legends whose paths crossed again last Tuesday at St Luke’s Hospital.
Jones, 88, has been playing the piano for over 60 years. He recorded with Charlie Parker and Ella Fitzgerald, among others, and played for TV’s The Ed Sullivan Show for many years.
The 77-year-old Lincoln Moseka grew up in Chicago as Anna Marie Wooldridge (a former manager gave her the stage name Abbey Lincoln). She came to New York in her 20s and sang at the Village Vanguard, later marrying jazz and bebop drummer-composer Max Roach (they divorced in the 1960s) and starring in several films.
Jones suffered a massive heart attack, while Lincoln had several complications: heart failure, pulmonary edema (where the lungs fill with fluid) and difficulty breathing.
Both are recovering and they have our prayers for complete healing.

A quick Riff
What with cricket and other commitments, haven’t been able to keep up with Riffin’ on FM93 the way I’d like to (Is there any way the programmes can be packaged for compilation, Dermot? — what a gift of music that would be). I did manage, however to catch a bit of the always haunting, always compelling African master Salif Keita. Talk about the perfect end to a musical week.
Till next time, keep swingin’.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Friends of Jazz 4

The monthly 'meeting' of Friends of Jazz returrns to The Verndah
(the outdoor venue in front of Pulse headquarters)
this April Fools Day, April 1, beginning at 4:00 pm
Maestro Sonny Bradshaw convenes the usual cast as
they prepare for June's Jazz Month and the Ocho Rios
International Jazzz fest

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Cricket wins - for now

Haven't dropped off the face of the earth, but
caught up in the sights and sounds
of the historic Cricket World Cup
I'll be back soon with lots of new stuff and to resume
the outstanding matters


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Jazofonik Feb 25

When bad sound happens to good players
Jazz First
Blues on the Green review
by Michael 'Jazzofonik' Edwards
Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ordinarily, our reviews of live music would not make much of the sound, or would reserve comment on that aspect of the production until the performances had been addressed.

But the acoustics at the 12th annual Blues on the Green concert, staged by the Public Affairs office of the US embassy at Devon house east on Friday evening, were so unqualifiedly awful that, but for the heroic efforts of AJ Brown in particular, there would have been little to enjoy of the first half.

Members of the band Little Feat in Negril.
Ever audience-friendly, Brown not only managed to inject a bona fide blues number into the programme, the BB King standard, The Thrill Is Gone, but skilfully traversed a diverse pop/r&b landscape, beginning with Al Jarreau's bouncy Roof Garden (punctuated near the end with leaps and splits) and culminating in a kind of 'Hitsville' cabaret, with numbers like My Girl and On Broadway (erroneously if understandably credited by Brown to George Benson) being tossed out to the audience like souvenirs.

Prior to that saxophonist Dean Fraser again confirmed that he is a musician in need of a programme. Bringing on percussionist Denver Smith to augment the 'house band' of Maurice Gordon, Othneil Lewis, Gibby and Tony 'Ruption' Williams, Fraser managed a tolerable sequence that included his own composition African Nation, followed by a Bob Marley suite: Small Axe, segueing into Africa Unite and Redemption Song, changing horns in between songs (note to organisers/artistes: a horn rack would have speeded up such transition). Fraser showed plenty of chops, but his solos lacked a core, some unifying element. Musically, it was a case of 'no fixed abode' but the crowd ate it up.

The Maurice Gordon Group, with Dwayne Livingston in on bass for Gibby, ran casually through a number of Gordon chestnuts, played a tribute to the late great Jackie Mittoo, and, as he has in the past several shows, Gordon dedicated The Magic In You to his mother and to women in general.

By this time, the sound quality had picked up discernibly on the instruments, but remained inconsistent in the vocal mike, just in time for the main act, blues diva Zora Young, to take the stage.
Not quite as ebullient as some of the previous Blues on the Green guests (Sista Monica and Francine Reed come to mind) Young was nevertheless in good form and managed to connect with the audience (majority female) on Girlfriend, a saucy warning to a busybody neighbour and would-be home-wrecker.

But at this point, having romped through Rock Me All Night Long and another blues standard, the audience had reached its critical mass for blues absorption and the movement toward the exit began.
The Blues on the Green had built a sterling reputation for providing quality entertainment (whether it included blues or jazz artistes). The organisers, who have done a most commendable job in promoting the artform, may want to consider taking the line-up to another level, possibly with a full blues band. As for the sound, we'll chalk it up to a bad night on the part of the engineers and look forward to what 2008 brings.

Festival time - in Jamaica...

It may not have the visibility of its January counterpart but the International Jamaica Ocho Rios Jazz Festival June 9-17, 2007, will celebrate 17 years of largely straight-ahead jazz.
The launch takes place May 10 at the Acropolis, and this year's programme includes Jazz Coffee in the Mountains (June 9), the South Coast Jazz fest (June 16) as well as satellite events and free concerts at various venues. Watch this space for updates.

....And around the world

On festivals further afield, the island of Tobago should be bursting at the seams, and just after the end of Cricket World Cup, as the third Plymouth Tobago Jazz festival gets underway the weekend of April 27 through 29. In what has become typical of these events, the line-up is eclectic, but skewed toward pop and r&b. Headliners include Sir Elton John, Al Green, Earth Wind & Fire, Gladys Knight and LL Cool J, with Jamaica represented through Beres Hammond and Sean Paul.

In May, the action shifts to St Lucia, site of arguably the best known of the Caribbean jazz festivals, now in its 16th year. Saxophone titan David Murray, Brazilian vocal 'best-kept secret' Tania Maria, r&b hipster John Legend, and smooth jazz legends Will Downing, Gerald Albright, Norman Brown, Isaac Hayes, Natalie Cole and Al Jarreau in tandem with George Benson, will join local hero Boo Hinkson and friends on the main stage from May 10 through 13. There will also be a Jazz in the South package as well as Jazz In Fond D' Or.

For those seeking to make an early motherland connection (S Africa is set to host the football World Cup in 2010), the Cape Town International Jazz Festival is one of the most notable on the continent and draws a record 40 artistes, playing on five stages for two days in what is touted as Africa's grandest gathering.

Now in its eighth year, it will take place yet again at the South African city's International Conference Centre from March 30-31. Notable artistes this year include legendary US jazz pianist Joe Sample and US soul-jazz diva Randy Crawford. World-famous, Grammy-winning South African vocal group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo are also on the bill. The other attraction this year will be the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band where each member is a highly competent musician.Links