Wed | Jul 18, 2018

Bright Sunday start to Jazz in the Gardens

Published:Thursday | June 30, 2016 | 12:00 AMMichael Reckord
Mari Isaacs
Benji Myaz
Orville Hammond on keyboard and Desi Jones on drums.
Drummer Desi Jones (at back) and Friends was the backing band for the event.
Asante Amen
Al Third
Michael Anthony Cuffe was a suave and witty emcee.
Bass player Dwayne Livingston was outstanding.

Because at this time of the year, the lingering sun keeps pushing dusk further and further away from the official six o'clock start of evening, Sunday's Jazz in the Gardens concert at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel could begin and continue for nearly an hour in daylight.

The brightness was reflected in many of the performances, including that of Desi Jones and Friends. That band not only opened the nearly three-hour-long show with a well-received set of jazzy tunes, but went on to back the singers and instrumentalists who followed.

Reggae was added to the menu by the first singer, the dreadlocked Asante Amen who, looking 'natty' in another way in his cream suit, treated the audience to half a dozen songs. Some were his own compositions, like Are you Getting Enough and Miss Chocolate Brown Skin; others were covers, like I'm Still in Love With You and Ribbons in the Sky.

Though competent, his set lacked the magic that was brought to the stage by the next singer, Al Third, a member of the singing group One Third - the 2006 winners of Digicel's popular Rising Stars competition. Interestingly, he used another Rising Star winner, Sherona Jonas, who triumphed in 2012, as a temporary backup singer.

She sang with Third his own composition For Tonight, while he accompanied himself on his guitar as he delivered the popular Gimme the Beat, Let me Free My Soul. With his melodious, textured tones, Al Third also charmed the audience singing, How Can You Mend This Broken Heart and I Still Love You Anyway. He called the latter his "all-time favourite".


Internationally renowned Jamaican jazz pianist Orville Hammond, a lecturer at the Edna Manley College's School of Music, evoked cheers, applause and exclamations like "Awesome!" and "Wonderful!", as he worked his magic on the keyboard. Accompanied by a stripped-down band, comprising Jones on drums and Dwayne Livingston on bass, Hammond played Blues for Tea, Wave, Marley's Redemption Song, People Make the World Go Round and the third movement of his own uptempo jazz composition, Caribbean Suite.

His dynamic offering was just about matched by the next act, Mari Isaacs, who closed the first half of the concert. The suave, witty emcee, Michael Anthony Cuffe, told the audience that Isaacs studied jazz in New York and has sung with many internationally acclaimed performers, including the Caribbean's own soca giants, The Mighty Sparrow and Arrow.

Dressed in a lime green outfit, Isaacs showed off her melodious voice and excellent styling with the popular standards, Let's Stay Together, What a Difference a Day Makes, You Don't Know What It's Like and the Gladys Knight hit, The First to Say Goodbye. She even tossed in an aria, Summertime, from the 1935 Broadway opera, Porgy and Bess.

Opening the second half was the penultimate performer, Keisha Patterson, who brought three of her own musicians with her, one being her musical director, Dalton Browne. A scintillating singer with a powerhouse of a voice and a vibrant personality, Patterson danced around the stage in her floor-length, floral dress as she performed.

She chose six well-known love songs and delivered all equally well. They were, It's Almost Like Being in Love, This Can't Be Love, So Nice, Diamonds Are Forever (the love here being of the precious stone, not a person), Our Day Will Come and At Last.

Jazz in the Gardens organisers Nancy McLean, Cathy Nunes and Ken Nelson should have closed the show with the sparkling Patterson, than with the less bright Benji Myaz. He showed he is an excellent bass player, but everyone knows that the bass guitar is not a lead instrument, and though he tried, he did not make it so on Sunday.

His songs, sung in his fairly good, but not outstanding voice, included I've Got a Thing For You, Leave it to Time, My Father, My Friend and I Love You Higher.

The next concert in the Jazz in the Gardens series will be on August 7.