Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Greats of Jamaica Jazz & Blues

Published:Friday | January 18, 2013 | 1:00 AM
Celine Dion
Air Supply
Mary J. Blige

Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer


The biggest name to grace the stage of the 17-year-old Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival remains Celine Dion.

Dion, who locked down the country in 2012, had traffic at gridlock before and after her performance. Her success is followed by the controversial Diana Ross, who in 2008, was trounced by Billy Ocean, who literally stole her show.

Dion and Ross drew bumper crowd support for the organisers, Art of Music Production (AMP), when they each headlined the annual event. In fact, Dion packed the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium to levels not even Walter Elmore, the festival's executive director, could dream of.

Ross, on the other hand, had some 10,000 persons flock the Aqueduct at Cinnamon Hill, where the event moved from four years ago to take up permanent residence in Trelawny.

Over the years, the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival has combined an impressive list of A-listers, including, queen of soul Gladys Knight, the sultry Anita Baker, the lip-smacking Lionel Richie, the quiet storm Alicia Keys and the magnificent Kenny G, who took the festival by storm in 1999 at James Bond Beach, St Mary.

Air Supply, one of the most etched groups in our minds, has performed at the event twice and BabyFace Edmonds once.

Crooner Kenny Rogers, who had the women swooning, had to be brought back to Jamaica one year after his performed on the jazz stage. It would seem Elmore brought him back in those days to satisfy the appetites of a hungrier than normal audience. Lest we forget, Michael Bolton had the women weak in the knees. Bolton headlines the 2013 line-up that includes Dionne Warwick, Mary J. Blige, Arturo Tappin, John Legend and Monica.

One of the most hilarious performances during the festival's 17-year reign, was that of Hispanic heartthrob Julio Iglesias, who not only arrived here in a private plane with four young girls, but got so intoxicated before going on stage, he did the entire set in Spanish.

The romantic Iglesias seem to have forgotten he was singing to an English-speaking audience. Incidentally, that was the year (2005) that the speakers stand tilted at Cinnamon Hill, delaying the show for over one hour.

One this is certain, we have never had a bad jazz festival. You may find a bad performer, but never a bad jazz festival.

"We will deliver first-class performances again this year, because the 2013 line-up includes a number of highly acclaimed international artistes," says Junior Taylor, associate executive producer of the festival.

Reminiscing on John Legend's performance the last time he was here, Taylor said, "He had just released his album, he was current and popular, he gave a stellar peformance, highlighted by his collaboration with Shaggy on stage, singing Dennis Brown's Love and Hate".

For Taylor, Warwick was flawless the last time she was here.

He said Mary J. Blige is a hit with audiences wherever she performs. "She keeps herself current, she is always putting out platinum albums."