United States-based singer Shenita Hunt. - photos by Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer
Michael Reckord, Gleaner Writer
American jazz and gospel singer Shenita Hunt has been to Jamaica 18 times, but though she did backup singing on some of those occasions, at Sunsplash Reggae Festival, for example, she sang solo for the first time here on Sunday at 'Jazz in the Gardens' at the Jamaica Pegasus.
Introduced by Michael Anthony Cuffe, the emcee for the occasion, as a singer with a stupendous voice, Hunt proved Cuffe right. In fact, her 55-minute set delivered even more than the properly enthusiastic emcee had promised.
Her between-songs chat with the audience showed her amiable personality and skill as a raconteur. During it, we learnt about her love for her home state, Georgia, and her childhood on the family farm. The anecdotes as well as her songs also told us that she is a deeply spiritual person. Of Colour My World, the original song that she sang, she stated, "I didn't write this song. God wrote it through me".
An enthusiastic worker
She also showed she was a hard and enthusiastic worker. During her stint, she danced a lot and spent quite some time walking through the audience, getting as close as possible. The visible portions of her body were glistening with sweat by the time she left the stage at 9:55 p.m.
The concert which, according to the advertisements, should have ended at 8:30 p.m., began just after six o'clock. A trio of disc jockeys were the first entertainers. Mikey, Muta and Monty (respectively Michael Edwards, Mutabaruka and Monty Blake) played jazz and pop selections in a session entitled 'Tune for Tune'. Their focus was on good music - jazz standards - and near-great songs.
The offerings went down well, so well that one delighted patron got Cuffe to dance with her during one tune. The three Ms played again during the intermission, while the hotel's high-quality beverages and hors d'oeuvres were being sampled.
Harold Davis & Friends, a group comprising Michael Kennedy (bass), Junior 'Bird' Baily (drums), Alex Martin-Blanken (keyboard) and Davis (keyboard and band leader), appeared as the first live performers. Their first item, a classy arrangement of the popular Yellow Bird, suggested the band's approach for the concert. They stuck with well-known pieces and presented them in a fresh way. Among the well-received songs presented, and sung by Davis even as he played, were Fly Me to the Moon, Lost in a Masquerade, and On and On.
Tony 'Saxman' Greene played to the delight of the audience at 'Jazz in the Gardens', held at the Pegasus hotel, New Kingston, on Sunday.
Cuffe introduced the next performer as a 'sensuous saxman' who has just finished a Brazilian tour and who was last at 'Jazz in the Gardens' three years ago. He was referring to Tony 'Saxman' Greene, who delighted his listeners by playing (on two saxophones-alto and tenor) tunes including Jammin, Mercy, Mercy, Papa Loves Mambo, and The Square From Cuba, the last named being the title of Greene's latest album.
Cuffe was responsible for two pleasant surprises. One was the news that Usain Bolt had just broken Don Quarrie's 200-metre record. The second was his introduction of 'Andrea from Guatemala,' an audience member whom he called on to sing. The young woman, who said she was in Jamaica on business but sang professionally back home, sang a cappella, in Spanish. She received well-deserved applause.
After the intermission, the first scheduled artiste was Don Gibbs, a newcomer to singing in public. His inexperience showed in his movements and delivery, but he also showed incipient talent with his versions of Only a Paper Moon and Wonderful World.
Then came Hunt, the star of the evening. From her first note, we in the audience knew we were in for something special. All her songs sung in her sincere, powerful voice, with its lovely tone and excellent control pleased. They included Talk to Me, Summer Time, Take It Slow, Let's Stay Together, Stormy Monday, Inseparable and, finally, unsurprisingly, Georgia. As she moved toward the end of her set, a few people started toward the table from which Hunt's CDs were being sold. By the end of the segment, the numbers had increased significantly. No doubt the purchase of the discs pleased her as much as the enthusiastic applause she received.