Tue | Feb 25, 2020

Verlando Small playing up a storm - Describes work with Jermaine Edwards as pure magic

Published:Wednesday | March 29, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Verlando Small performing at the inaugural installation ceremony of the Youth Advisory Council of Jamaica, held at the Office of the Prime Minister in November last year.
Jermaine Edwards

It's been four years since saxophonist Verlando Small won the Digicel Rising Stars contest. Since then, he has maintained a hectic schedule, playing at corporate functions and backing high-profile artistes.

Being a musician, recording is important and for 27-year-old Small, there is no exception. He worked on gospel singer Jermaine Edwards' new album, Dominion, which was released in January. The artiste also played on six of its songs, including God's Way. For him, logging studio time is critical.

"It's very important to record as a musician, as that's really how one leaves a legacy for generations to come, and to know that you contributed to shaping the music that they would have been listening to," he said.

Edwards and Small met while Small was a contestant on the Gospel Night segment of Rising Stars. The former was a judge and was so impressed, he invited Small to be part of his motivational Island Worship camp. Later, the two collaborated on Edwards' album, Don't Count Me Out. They followed up with Dominion, which contains songs by other Island Worship camp artistes.

Small describes working with Edwards as pure magic.

"Jermaine is a brilliant musician and producer, and a great friend and role model, who has managed to surround himself with the most gifted young musicians in Jamaica; Christopher Wright (musical director), Carlton Jarrett, Christopher Campbell, Collin Phillips and myself. It is something the entire Jamaica and the world at large should experience. Rehearsals are just as magical as stage performances, as that's really where most of the ideas are born," he said.




Small noted that his skills are not limited to conventional or traditional music. He has also done a number of sessions for Barbwyah and Notice Productions, two of the biggest names in reggae and dancehall music.

The sound of the saxophonist has played a major role in developing reggae. Roland Alphonso, Tommy McCook, Cedric Brooks, Richard 'Dirty Harry' Hall and Dean Fraser have appeared on countless hit songs since the early 1960s.

The Linstead-born Small counts smooth jazz 'sax men' like Kirk Whalum and Gerald Albright, as well as Fraser, among his biggest influences. Becoming the first musician to win Rising Stars was a great boost for Small. It exposed his talent to promoters and booking agents looking for a fresh, different sound.

In 2015, he toured the United Kingdom with Marcia Griffiths, Bob Andy, Richie Spice, Judy Mowatt and Tanya Stephens. He did the Abi Reggae Festival in Cote D'Ivoire that year with the same cast.

Small has also backed Edwards in Suriname, the Cayman Islands, New York and Trinidad and Tobago; Carlene Davis in St Vincent; and Romain Virgo in Canada and the United States. Last year, he performed overseas as a solo act for the first time in Cayman, Antigua and Florida.

Small is working on two albums: a Christmas set, to be launched in October, and a more diverse solo project expected out in 2018.