Christmas-flavoured jazz in the gardens > Jamaica

Posted On December 29, 2006

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Not surprisingly, the Christmas Eve edition of Jazz in the Gardens at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel had many Christmas ‘flavours,’ figuratively and literally.

The vitality of the season was reflected in the lively music which started off the four-hour-long show.

It was played by Harold Davis and Friends, featuring Davis on keyboard, Michael Kennedy on bass, Dillion Whyte on drums, Richie Cunningham on percussions and Seretse Small on guitar.

The red of Christmas was present in the outfits of many of the patrons, who occupied about three-quarters of the 200 or so chairs placed on the lawn for them. And the knee-length dress worn by the first singer, Keisha Wright, was bright, glittering red. Though her personality was pleasant enough, her voice lacked the lustre of her dress as she sang her set of five songs.

Three of them – Ave Maria, Give Love on Christmas Day and O Holy Night – were strongly related to the season and unusual in a jazz concert.

The second singer, Maurice Charles, had a richer voice and lots more energy. Master of ceremonies Michael Anthony Cuffe introduced him with a nickname, lady love, and one soon saw why: Charles has a Lou Rawls-type voice and apparently specialises in Lou Rawls songs, one being Lady Love, which he does very well. He needs more variety in his movements, however, and more control.

Tanice Morrison – model-slim in her gold jacket and tight, ankle-length brown skirt – was introduced as the singer who opened for the 2004 Kenny Rogers concert.

Cuffe also mentioned that she had “a good set of pipes,” and she did prove him right.

Her voice delighted the audience with all her numbers, including At Last My Love Has Come Along, which she humorously dedicated to the Governor-General, who was present, along with the First Lady and her sister. Morison’s final piece was a lively reggae song, Old Hurt, her own composition.

Described by the emcee as “energetic and engaging,” Nicky OJ, who was a hit on his first appearance at Jazz in the Gardens some months ago, showed he’d lost none of his audience appeal. In a scarlet suit and with his James Brown-style of dancing, he bounced his way through On Broadway, a Marley medley and I Feel Good.

But he did more than bounce. He also sang Every Time I Think of You I Wish, an unusual song, in that it’s part dancehall, part jazz; he teamed up with Keisha Wright to deliver a very pleasant version of My Endless Love; he caused much laughter with I Love my Wife; and he climaxed his set with We Are the World, impersonating many of the singers of the original version of that song.

Just before the intermission, Executive Producer of the Jazz in the Gardens series, Nancy McLean, announced that the hotel would be partnering with the organisers of the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival to present the opening show of the festival at the Jamaica Pegasus next month.

After the patrons of the concert had enjoyed the refreshments provided, which included Christmas pudding, they were entertained by singer Christine Virgo. She put lots of feeling into the delivery of her first few songs, all Nancy Wilson hits, but she really got the audience applauding enthusiastically with her a cappella renditions of Memories, and Evergreen, done in a Barbra Streisand style.

While red outfits were worn by two of the early performers, the final one, Cuban saxophonist Jesus Fuentes, chose the other major colour associated with Christmas, white. In his full white suit, he alternated between tenor and soprano saxes as he played strong, lively, textured jazz for his 20-minute-long set.

Fuentes is one of several Caribbean musicians who performed in the series of jazz concerts, which were coordinated by Ken Nelson. The success of the series showed the truth of Executive Producer Mclean’s statement, “Jazz is here to stay.”

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