Sheena Gayle, Gleaner Writer
In an effort to enhance Montego Bay's entertainment scene through jazz, Alvin McBean and Ruedal Johnson pulled off a successful staging of Sax Appeal at the Montego Bay Community College on Sunday. This was done despite the event not having major sponsors.
Although it is the tourism capital of Jamaica, home of Reggae Sumfest and former Jamaica Jazz and Blues location, the Second City is seriously lacking in a diversity of entertainment activities. However, McBean is on a quest to change the face of entertainment in Montego Bay and add authentic jazz with Jamaican artistes to the list of things to do for those who wish for something other than regular parties.
The event organiser, who is also the head of Wi Deh Ya Productions (an audio, stage and visual equipment company), expressed concern that Montego Bay has not capitalised on the opportunity to give jazz a greater presence, especially with the plethora of local talent that craves exposure.
"The presence of jazz music and events in Montego Bay is extremely lacking. With Sax Appeal, we hope to generate more interest in this kind of classical music, but the support from sponsors and the local community is necessary to drive the movement," he said.
McBean emphasised that "it is a pro-Jamaican event that features only Jamaican jazz acts. This is because we believe that we have sufficient musicians who are very good at the craft and can put on an excellent show on any given night. But it comes at a cost and the success of Sax Appeal last Sunday is an indication that persons want more of this kind of event. We just need to get the support to make a huge impact and change the entertainment scene at this side of the island".
Sax Appeal featured pianist Dr Kathy Brown, percussionist and tap dancer Ouida Lewis, vocalist Jennifer Edwards, and saxophonist Nicholas Laraque, who is also the saxophonist for reggae star Beres Hammond.
With a burnt-orange décor, scented candles and an ultra-posh setting, the Montego Bay Community College was transformed into a den of musical relaxation to showcase the allure of jazz and what it represents.
Jamaica-born percussionist and tap dancer Ouida Lewis, who lived in The Netherlands for 13 years, gave a stellar performance that kept the crowd engaged and fascinated with her ability to perform both as a dancer and as a musician.
Dr Kathy Brown had no problem captivating her audience, which listened intently as she exerted her skills. A medical doctor by profession, she has been playing the piano since she was five years old, and many children who attended Sax Appeal with their parents had the opportunity to mingle with Brown and the other musicians.
McBean noted the interaction. "Montego Bay is more than just parties. To many persons in Montego Bay, these musicians are unknown, but once you attend the show, you leave with an experience. It is a great family event that we seek to host more often, hopefully on a monthly or bimonthly basis, because it is not only for entertainment. Music students can learn, as they can interact with these musicians because of the personalised feel we've created with this event," he said.