/* Footer ----------------------------------------------- */ #footer { width:660px; clear:both; margin:0 auto; padding-top:15px; line-height: 1.6em; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.1em; text-align: center; } -->

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Final Nite Falls short, But E-Park comes up strong

Jamaica Jazz & Blues: Nite 3
"Everybody has their own favourite song, but some favourites mean more than others."
With that paraphrase of Orwell ("All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others"), I sadly pronounce an overall negative judgement on Saturday's closing night of the Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival in Montego Bay

It started out quite the opposite. In fact, in the persons of pianist Kamla Hamilton, and the personel of the E-Park abnd which immediately followed her, the audience got arguably its most sustained sequence of authentic musical improvisation (Reunion Quartet and Alto Reed Entourage notwithstanding) for the entire weekend. Not enough, mind you, to justify retaining the title, but a delightful passage nonetheless.

Hamilton & Co went htrough some modern fusion tracks (Watermelon Man and others) with a cool confidence - solos were garnished with just the right touches, but never extravagant.

Featuring the vocal talents of Michael Sean Harris and Karen Smith, as well as a six-man horn line, bass and lead guitar, drummer Desi Jones and a dual keyboard line of Othneil Lewis and music director Peter Ashbourne, the E-Park (named for Kingston's Emancipation Park, for whom they were first commissioned) Band romped through several indigenous and external pop classics, including snippets of the Studio One catalog, Ashbourne's whimsicla yet biting Half Way Tree (from his album, Blind Man Swimming). Harris belted out Paul Simon's Latin-tinged hopper "Late in the Evening" and Smith gave voice to COle Porter's "De-Lovely" The two then combined on "Because You Knew Me" from the Broadway production, "Wicked"

Thereafter, Atlantic Starr -a new fornt vocal line in place - never quite got to the intensity of their "Secret Lovers-Masterpeice" heyday (although both those tunes were delivered. The key really was the absence of star female vocalist Barbara Weathers, the definitive voice, along withthe founding Lewis brothers, behind many of those hits. "Message In A Bottle" and "Always" prompted cheek-to-cheek dancing i nthe open night air and the group would have left feeling somewhat satisfied, but I just din't get there.

The Ojays hit the ground running, with "BackStabbers", "Love Train" and
"Let Me Make Love To You" coming in quick succession. All throughout the nattily dressed trio (white jackets and trousers emblazoned with floral applique) twirled and sidestepped and sang their way into the crowd's hearts...... and then - two critical missteps. First, a cover of NewBirth's classic "Wild FLower" was dragged on longer than it should have been, and then the big faux pas - no "Brandy" arguably the song that more Jmaaicans associate withte OJays than any other. They just lewftthe stage and ignored the calls for encore. Methinks something was amiss but I'll have to get confirmation.
Chicago came out with lots of enthusiasm, but baffling sound set up meant that the vocals were sacrificed for the horn section. Things improved gradually, and the crowd warmed to material such as "You're The Inspiration" and "Hard For Me To Say I'm Sorry" but, unfortunately, the damage tothe crowd's psyche had been done. It wasn't anywhere last year's debacle with Mizzz Ross (some might substitute an "a") but the show did not end on a high.

TOmoroow, I'll havea special wrap and some thoughts o nthe "real" festival the Talent stage (what's populalry known as the small stage).

michael Edwards


No comments: