Jazz ‘n Cabaret in the Gardens maintains quality
"This awesome country ... is so full of talent!" declared singer Maria Myrie to her audience on Sunday.
The comment, triggered by the high-quality of the acts preceding hers, elicited an outburst of affirmative comments from the audience. They clearly agreed with both Myrie's opinion of her fellow performers and her generalisation about Jamaica's talent.
Myrie was performing on the stage of the gazebo in the gardens of The Jamaica Pegasus, the venue for the past 17 years of the Jazz in the Gardens concerts, staged on the last Sunday of alternate months.
For years now, those concerts have been happily delivering jazz mixed with other forms of music. Now, formally acknowledging the de facto situation, the producers have changed the name of the series to Jazz 'n Cabaret in the Gardens, and Sunday's show was the first under the new name.
The concert went splendidly, an indication that the producers Nancy McLean, Ken Nelson and Youlanda Nunez will maintain the high quality of the musical offerings.
Perhaps for the first time, the three producers appeared together before the audience.
Shepherded by the emcee, Michael Anthony Cuffe, they gathered for the presentation of two cheques to representatives of two children's charities. The money came from the proceeds of the show.
Pon Fyah, a band led by musical director Ozou'ne (keyboards), provided the first 15 minutes of toe-tapping, head-nodding jazz; but, Ozou'ne revealed to the audience, only 10 minutes (three tunes) of it had been contracted for. Nevertheless, the ensemble launched into a fourth tune that was as enjoyable as the earlier ones had been, thus proving the band's competence.
No explanation was ever given to the audience, but evidently, there had been a logistics problem, one perhaps related to the non-appearance of a scheduled performer, DJE (pronounced 'dee-jay').
Bounced up into the show's second slot was Tanice Morrison, a singer, said Cuffe, who had performed with Kenny Rogers and the Marley brothers and who was "comfortable with any genre of music". Her sparkling set showed she deserved the praise.
Dressed in full black, save for a gold bow tie, she delivered five well-received songs along with friendly, relaxed patter. The items were varied and included a reggae gospel song, Lord, Lift Me Higher, the popular, Don't Make Me Over, a funky version of I Wanna Dance with Somebody, and the poignant Time to Say Goodbye, which she sang mostly in Italian.
Next, the singing group Nexus showed they were even more versatile than Morrison. They moved from mento (Dis Long Time Gyal and Ruckumbine), to a spiritual (Jesus Is The Rock in a Weary Land) to reggae (Try Jah Love) to a gospel song in an unidentified African language.
After the intermission, guitarist Seretse Small, backed by Pon Fyah, strengthened by three other instrumentalists, delivered the jazz component of the concert with great skill and unflagging energy.
His items included Bob Marley's Exodus and his own compositions, Kas Kas, written in memory of his father, and P21.
Introducing Myrie, Cuffe said she had 'one of the most incredible voices'. She certainly did, delighting her audience with every one of her six songs, starting with It's Only a Paper Moon and ending with I Feel Like Jumpin'.
Her back-up for many songs was Thamar Williams, whose harmonising gave a pleasing dimension to Myrie's songs.
Cuffe told the audience that next concert in April would be Jazz 'n Gospel.