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Blu Grass bloomed on talent stage

Published:Sunday | January 31, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Adrian Frater, News Editor

Western Bureau: Had it had similar lighting, sound and attention, the talent (small) stage at Friday's second night of the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival at the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium might well have upstaged the more glamorous main stage.

While acts like the sensuous Erykah Badu, The Queen Project - Tamia, Deborah Cox and Kelly Price - and the dazzling Billy Ocean were clearly on cue on the main stage with excellent performances, so were the likes of Jamaican bands, Blu Grass in the Sky and Mo'Jahrock, and the Chicago-based show band Zzaje, which had the small stage sizzling.

After the Kingston-based Blu Grass in the Sky had performed, with its vocally-potent lead singer Simon Samuels commanding special attention and its instrumental support equally stunning, patrons had no choice but to give the talented musicians their full respect as they exploded inside the scenic food court, delighting all and sundry.

After initially drawing attention with their self-titled song, Blu Grass, which was instrumentally dominated but was supported by sound vocals at patches, the talented musicians went into overdrive, evoking memories of the brilliant British-based group Aswad, which was once the main standard-bearer in roots rock reggae. With Samuels' soul voice making each song sound special, Blu Grass simply dazzled its way through songs such as, Set me Free, By the River, Johnny Was, I Remember and High Grade Love. When the action resumed on the main stage, ending their set, there were many persons lingering around, wanting more.

"These guys are fabulous, they belong on the main stage," said Donna Smith, a visitor from England. "I will definitely be tracking their career from now on."

special dimension

The Chicago-based Zzaje, whose fusion of jazz, R&B and reggae added a special dimension to the small stage offering, clearly left no doubt that they are destined to go places as their music, which at times had a big band flavour, was quite appealing. Zzaje's instrumental jam sessions, which included a reggae-flavoured rendition of Bam Bam, and the blazing vocal offerings, which included, Take You Down and Celebration, left little doubt that their next stop could be the main stage.

The Mo'Jahrock band, led by renowned jazz guitarist Maurice Gordon and featuring standout students of the Jamaica School of Music, showed the amazing depth of Jamaica's music. Their tight instrumental offering was quite superb and so was the singing of the energetic Jermaine Blake and female songbird BB-Ann Henry.

Straton, another Jamaican outfit with a rich R&B sound, also delighted with their classy rendition of You Are My Girl and When I Am With You. They were later supported by former Digicel Rising Star winner Cameal Davis, whose booming voice did justice to Just Believe and Spotlight .

Singer Onaje Bell, who was first up on the small stage, proved that he was not only a master at doing Michael Jackson impersonations but also quite a gifted singer. His talent was quite obvious in his classy rendition of songs such as Smooth Criminal, Gonna Be the Same and White Rum.