Marcia Rowe, Gleaner Writer
There is something about jazz that makes it comparable to a large glass of chilled 'brackish' (just enough sugar) Jamaican lemonade on a warm summer day.
Perhaps it is the way it soothes the soul, whether the songs are gospel, folk, fusion or secular, or just on the edge Ã like the ideal glass of lemonade that is not too sweet or too sour Ã it can be very enjoyable.
This jazz and lemonade analogy was more noticeable on Friday, at the Embassy of the United States (US)-organised annual concert, 'Blues on the Green', held at Emancipation Park, in St Andrew.
It should be noted that Friday, was also designated Jamaica Day for schools, by the Ministry of Education through the office of the Director of Culture. The theme was 'Celebrating Jamaica: feasting on our Heritage'.
And at the Blues on the Green concert, the very large turnout was reminded of the day in speeches, attire and music, but not to distract them from the intent of the evening.
On paper, the programme for the concert looked superficial, five items in section one: national anthems (Jamaica and the US); opening remarks by master of ceremonies Fae Ellington, and performances by Maria Myrie and the Maurice Gordon Group. Part two seemed shallower: a closing remark to end the concert, after the performance of the featured entertainer, saxophonist Brent Birckhead. The starting time was 6:30 p.m. Ã but that was on paper.
Around 9:30 p.m. Ã three hours after the playing of the two countries' anthems Ã a large percentage of the audience remained in their seats. This prompted the quick-witted Fae Ellington, who had the audience tickled all evening, to ask if they were not leaving.
Among them was Paulette Ellis, a teacher. "It was great, very relaxing; very enjoyable. I like the artistes, the ambience. It was really relaxing," she said.
"Brilliant" was how Barbara Felice, who was attending her first Blues on the Green concert, described Birckhead's performance.
In fact, her interest in the concert was peaked by the fact that Birckhead was a saxophonist.
He was brilliant.
When the 2008 Howard graduate took the stage, accompanied by the Maurice Gordon Group, he began his memorable musical journey with a splendid delivery of Watermelon Man.
Duck Town, "a jazz with a little Jamaican spin on it" he explained, was no less well-delivered.
It was obvious that there was great chemistry between the award-winning American saxophonist, Gordon and his three young group members. And when they slowed the tempo to perform Ray Charles' "staple tune" Georgia on My Mind, their antics onstage were pleasing.
Undoubtedly, what the ice is to lemonade is what the saxophone is to jazz; they both give their respected product that special oomph.
During a brief period of rest by Gordon and his group, Birckhead gave the audience that oomph with a remarkable solo performance of the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness.
And perhaps as an acknowledgement of Jamaica Day, Birckhead explained that the band, like music, was a blend of ingredients. And then, each band member gave a taste of his musical instrument.
While the act may not be unique to a concert, it was the ingredients (ackee bass, calaloo stalk drum, Scotch bonnet pepper guitar, jerk spice season keyboard and browning sauce saxophone) of his titled Jamaica Soul Stew that had Ellington, attired in the colours of the Jamaican flag, asking him if he wanted to poison someone.
"Browning inna ackee!" she lamented.
Before playing the popular Mercy, Mercy, the full-time music instructor said, "you never know what will happen in blues, so you can only say Mercy, Mercy". But that was before he invited jazz vocalist Maria Myrie to join him with Stormy Monday.
In her stint, Myrie was also wonderful. She performed songs such as Good Morning Baby and My Love Has No Beginning, between small talk.
Gordon and his group were splendid in a set which included Mek the Love Flow, a mento-fused medley in tribute to Jamaica Day. Bob Marley's One Love was the final selection, and brought, as it always does, a fitting end to an excellent evening of celebrations.