Jazz Trip Worth It For Freddy Loco
Trumpeter Freddy Loco, a former boxer, took his Gordo's Ska Band over 4,900 miles from Belgium to Jamaica to play at the Jamaica International Ocho Rios Jazz Festival 2016.
Based on the festival's schedule, with at least six performances, the band did the most presentations of all the acts by the time they closed out the festival on Sunday at Hope Gardens.
Four of those performances were in Ocho Rios, St Ann. It was at the last, on the main stage at Moon Palace Jamaica Grande, last Friday night, that The Gleaner caught up with the band after another exhilarating performance, despite the disappointing turnout.
The 45-minute gig was the shortest of six performances, but was never short on quality.
It was the first time in Jamaica for the band, which for the last 12 years has toured more than 30 countries, playing over 500 concerts.
"It is wonderful to be here," Loco told The Gleaner, as he paid tribute to Jamaica's ability to deliver musical genres to the world.
"You create the beat, the ska and rocksteady and reggae. You spread it all around the world and now it comes back to you with love.
We play it in our own way, but we play it with lots of respect and love," he said.
Playing in an almost empty room failed to detract from the band's quality performance. The audience was treated to an opening segment that featured several of the band's original tracks including Born to Win and My Head is Big Enough, songs Loco later described as being designed to keep people dancing.
Loco paid tribute to Johnny 'Dizzy' Moore, before launching into Rockfort Rock, a Moore arrangement, he pointed out. Though not a ska song, it highlighted the band's tendency to incorporate genres in their performance.
Loco knew of reggae acts like Marley and Burning Spear before he went to Brixton, England. There, he found out that ska and rocksteady preceded reggae.
"I tell you, the first time I heard the Skatalites' album I fell in love with the music and that's it. I like ska music because I like the instrumental form.
This music is for everybody. It doesn't matter who you are, it doesn't matter if you're black or white or where you come from."
His trip to Jamaica could be described as unforgettable, jamming with Tyrone Downie of Wailers' fame a highlight for the Belgian band.
"It's been an incredible experience and we really hope to be back here next year," Loco said.