Karen Smith shines at Hospitality Jamaica Awards
Adrian Frater, News Editor
Western Bureau: On a night when excellence shone like a beacon at the Montego Bay Conference Centre, St James, veteran star Karen Smith was a gem, lighting up The Gleaner's Hospitality Jamaica 10th Anniversary Awards with a performance rich in class, quality and charisma.
Smith shared the night's billing with Hah-r-mony Entertainment Group, master saxophonist David Cunningham, and the gifted Infujan Show Band. The evergreen songbird spent most of her performance among the patrons mixing, mingling and joking around as she delivered sweet Jamaican ballads, moving from table to table in the spacious ballroom.
With the backing band clearly in sync with her as their instruments cushioned her vocal offerings, Smith connected with the audience, wrapping her silky smooth voice around songs like I Still Love You, which had the patrons nodding their heads in approval.
Smith's dancing skills
While Smith seemed quite content to hug, smile and embrace patrons as she strolled around the spacious ballroom floor, it was a different matter when she took to the stage. There Smith's dancing skills came to the fore, especially during her classy versions of Everything I Own and the classic Natural Woman.
Before exiting centrestage to a standing ovation, Smith gave another taste of her amazing versatility, all but bringing the house down with a reggae-flavoured rendition of Aretha Franklin's mega-hit, Respect. For an even deeper personalised touch, Smith added smooth deejay style speed rapping to the song.
Saxophonist David Cunningham, a household name on the North Coast hotel circuit, was pleasing as he skilfully mixed reggae, R&B and soul in wind instrument style, his precision and supreme control showing that he was a master at work.
After initially arresting attention with the Glen Miller classic In The Mood, Cunningham and his saxophone lifted the tempo to dazzling heights as he had the patrons rocking in appreciation to Bob Marley's Is This Love. Cunningham effortlessly followed up with Kenny G's hit Forever In Love.
When Cunningham took a breather it opened the door for Hah-r-mony Entertainment Group, which had earlier opened the awards' performance segment, to make a grand return, infusing pleasing dancehall into the occasion. Its members clad in red, green and gold, Hah-r-mony was particularly sparkling when dancing to Shabba Ranks' Trailer Load.
In their earlier stint Hah-r-mony, whose members came out nattily attired in pink and red, was electrifying, dancing up a storm to series of salsa-flavoured songs. The audience was enthused with the group's energy and their gymnastic-style dance moves.
When Cunningham returned to set the stage for Karen Smith's entry with a rich rendition of Tarrus Riley's She's Royal it was clear that, like the awards which followed, excellence dominated the show.