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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

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Esteban Novillo said...
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