Amazing Performances At Jazz in the Gardens
It was a series finale that many event organisers would dream of: a line-up of only six performers chosen by audience members, in a previous show. Each showed their gratitude by delivering an 'A plus' performance. Also on hand was a large turnout that reciprocated the energy and passion of their talented and professional choices. And when the curtain came down, it was not surprising that the reverberating lines from the audience, as they filed into the hallway, were "I enjoyed myself" and "wonderful show".
That was what transpired at The Pegasus hotel on Tuesday, the last in the 2016 series of Jazz in the Gardens, A Feast for the Senses, that saw the best six from the 2016 concerts performing. They were Dwight Richards, Harold Davis, Gem Myers, Alex Welcome, Mari Isaacs and Asante Amen. Each was more than justified to be on the programme.
Having moved into the hotel's spacious ballroom, to avoid a clash of musical sounds with a pre-scheduled event on the property, the Best of Jazz in the Gardens began with the playing of Jamaica's National Anthem. The band Desi Jones and Friends (Adrian Henry, Kenroy Mullings and Christopher McDonald) led the charge.
The four musicians followed up with their customary musical precursor, setting the tone for the show. Their delightful and brief stint segued to MC Heather (Brown Sugar) Grant's introduction of Asante Amen. And the locks-bearing vocalist made his way to the stage via centre aisle of the audience singing Stand By Me. He continued to deliver a fine set that included his original song first, and a tribute to Bob Marley with Is This Love that I'm Feeling interpreted for the concert.
Isaacs' entrance from stage right was just as impacting, with her opening song, I Will Survive. She had the "sentimental bunch" singing along with At Last, and dubbing them as the Pipps with Neither One of Us Wants to Say Goodbye.
After her sterling performance, a confident Welcome took charge of the stage. Fittingly, he closed his set with a powerful delivery of Frank Sinatra's I Did It My Way. But not before engaging the audience with personal anecdotes, such as some of the taunts he endured from his former classmates because of his last name. His attire also became the source of his humour-filled performance.
"It takes a real man to wear sequin," he said before going back to the Motown days, followed by another amazing delivery of the song I Mean What I Say, which he dedicated to "people in love".
Segment one ended with Gem Myers, who began her musical feast with Randy Crawford's Why. Then she took the tempo up a notch with Knock, Knock on Heaven's Door. And the Jamaican songbird showed her vocal range with You're Gonna Love Me More. But it was prior to her rendition of a reggae medley, when she addressed women's love for shoes, that she became one with the females in the audience. "We love shoes, but they can be uncomfortable," she shared, before removing hers to 'bubble' briefly to the introduction of a song, played by the band, that was not fit for airplay then.
Segment two belonged to Richards and Davis. Both gave the audience a two-for-one, as musicians and vocalists - Richards with his trumpet and Davis on keyboard.
After brief remarks from Nancy McLean, one of the organisers of the show, Davis was ushered to the stage with an impressive biography. Supported by an orchestra conducted by Seretes Small, the towering artiste engaged the senses with mainly his vocal and a cameo keyboard stint. His delectable set included some 'feel good music' and a journey into the 1960s. The latter began with Toots and the Maytals' 1966 song, Bam Bam. And the versatile performer ended with Amen, Amen, Amen.
A fitting segue for the trumpeter/vocalist, Richards started his unforgettable set with songs such as Forever Young and Let It Be Me. Between his trumpet and the microphone, the much energised entertainer was a show unto himself. In perpetual motion, he bounced from audience to stage, delivering Oh Holy Night and a medley of gospel songs fit for all denominations and ages. He opted, however, to end the concert that overflowed its scheduled three hours with Hallelujah. But no one seemed to have noticed the extended service.
The concert series will resume on February 26, 2017 under a new banner, Jazz and Cabaret in the Gardens.