Jazz divas deliver in the Garden
Jazz in the Garden returned from its yearlong break on a high note. The show, subtitled Jazz Divas Chapter One, was successful on two fronts, in audience turnout and in the amazing performances by a pool of seven talented female vocalists, backed by an impressive band of musicians.
The Sunday afternoon show got off to its scheduled starting time. By then, most of the white plastic chairs complementing the lush green gardens of The Jamaica Pegasus hotel were occupied. MC Anthony Cuffe got the proceedings going with his familiar chit-chat in a bedside-manner tone of voice. Throughout the programme, he would return to the stage before each act, to provide background information.
Tenice Morrison was the first to begin the 'Feast for the Senses'. She opened her set with Never Met a Man Quite Like You and closed with The Happy Song. Yanique DaCosta was next. She got over her nervy start to close her stint with a powerful singing of the popular wedding song, At Last.
Sheer power and a bounce of energy was the hallmark of Maria Myrie's entrance and performance. She got her set off with a fine delivery of River Deep and Mountain High, and continued to tease the patrons with a medley of reggae songs, including Baby Be True and Stepping Out of Babylon.
Keisha Patterson, with a long flowing feathered jacket over white blouse and pants, paid homage to love in her music. "I am a great fan of love," she explained before delivering what she described as the greatest love song of all, My Funny Valentine. And before making her exit, she gave a contagious performance of Fever.
Veteran Pam Hall was also one of the divas on the show. Wearing a knee-length black dress, with splits on both sides and what a patron classified as "her Las Vegas style", she commenced her set with a patriotic original jazz beat song, My Own Home Land. After throwing in a Nina Simone song, My Baby Don't Care for Me, she closed with what she called her Mix Up Dancehall Swing. Bob Marley's Jammin' ended the swing episode and a somewhat flat act.
Gem Myers was the closing act for part one, but her performance was the best on a programme loaded with fantastic performances overall. Her rendition of her final song, I'm Gonna Love You, from the Dream Girl CD, brought the patrons to their feet with a steady dose of applause.
Prior to delivering the best of the evening, Myers admitted to be "the least of the apostles (jazz singers), I am just trying a thing" and so she did, with a brief jazzing of one of her hits, I Am a One Man Girl.
Segment two continued with two performers, Karen Smith and Harold Davis. Both were amazing as soloists and in their cameo duet. But before the two took the audience up to jazz music's higher heights, Nancy Mclean, one of three co-producers of Jazz in the Gardens, welcomed the lovers of Jazz "back home".
"I feel great tonight to see the attendance here. Last year, we were not able to do anything at all. But in every nook and cranny that I went, there was someone asking me, 'When are you going to come back with Jazz in the Garden?'. But one of the things that is important to mount this show is that you have to have the finances," she said before making a plea for more sponsorship and informing the gathering that Ken Nelson and Kathy Nunez are the other members of the team.
As customary, the curtains on Jazz in the Garden came down with a finale done by all the performers - the seven jazz divas. Backing band for the vocalists was Othneil Lewis and the Friers. The next Jazz in the Garden will be held in May at the same venue. It will be subtitled 'Ivories in Conversation'. And according to McLean, "You will be in for a treat".