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Monday, February 18, 2008

On the Green '08

Jazz on the Green '08 lived up to its billing musically if not exactly on the technical side. My review (don't worry, haven't forgotten baout Bammie ROse at Christopher's & Shang Hai)

A feature of the annual Jazz on the Green concert staged by the Rotary Club of Spanish Town is that parking radiates outward (usually upward) from the event's Cherry Gardens location, on a first-come basis. Thus, those who arrive too far outside the scheduled start time find themselves struggling for space closer to the foothills and awaiting the very pleasant shuttle bus down to the venue.
Such was the fate of this writer on Sunday (February 17) and consequently we arrived with keyboardist Dr Kathy Brown's set close to its 'dismount'. Still, we were fortunate to hear her usual robust and joyful treatments of Mongo's Afro-Blue (popularised by the late John Coltrane long before current titan Joshua Redman took it up), and her own Latin Groove, which left space for an extended percussion romp by Denver Smith.
The Jamaica Big Band, under the leadership of the venerable Sonny Bradshaw (foregoing his own trumpet, but surrendering nothing in the way of passion or timing) preceded their signature Take The A-Train with a stirring rendition of the National Anthem that may well have left the ears of some of the establishment ringing back in 1962, as it probably did even on this occasion. A Night In Tunisia signalled dancer-percussionist Ouida Lewis to get her tap shoes on, and despite the fact that the sound was never equal to her, tapped out an engaging variation on the song's theme.
But the hour belonged, as it so often does, to Myrna Hague. Whether on well-travelled standards like My Funny Valentine or more obscure tunes, she exemplified the 'fine wine' adage, sounding better than this writer has heard in quite a while, and that's saying much.
After a stirring all-percussion set by a corp that included former Edna Manley College faculty Kayode Siyanbola, drummer-poet-improviser Mbala and beat master Maroghini among others, Jamaican-born, US-resident Orville Hammond took the stage and gave the audience a rare and welcome exposition of the keyboard-bass-drums trio (Dale Haslam and Desi Jones filled out the rhythm section), reeling off some sparkling runs.
By this time, some of the early birds in the audience had decided that they'd had their fill of musical (and culinary) treats and numbers began to thin. This was a pity, as the husband and wife team of bassist Rohan Reid and singer Sisaundra gave a short yet scintillating set that began with an appropriately smoldering reading of Anita Baker's Been So Long and ended with a sassy, bouncy take on Chaka Khan's Ain't Nobody. In addition to her spouse's Stanley Clark-like pyrotechnics on bass guitar, the songstress was more than ably supported by the fiery alto sax player Phillip Martin, hitherto an unknown quantity to the Jazz on the Green Faithful, but assuredly his name was made on this occasion and we confidently anticipate a return engagement for the young reed player.
Alas, this writer was unable to witness the night's final act, a band out of Canada, as we joined the ever-growing line of patrons streaming out of the venue and into the waiting shuttle.
The Spanish town Rotary may have to find ways of bringing the show to an earlier end, including speeding up band changes. Lorraine Fung's catering was of the usual excellent standard, and there was scarcely a morsel left long before the close of the evening. As alluded to before, the sound was unworthy of the performances, an uncharacteristic situation which needs to be remedied for 2009.
All in all, there was high entertainment value for early bird and late bloomer alike, and Jazz on the Green retains its cachet as the preferred uptown instrumental lyme.

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