Wed | Jan 16, 2019

Foggy the musician

Published:Sunday | October 13, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Whiteman looks back at the late Seymour Mullings' musical legacy

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

His eyes closed, face burrowed in concentration, Seymour 'Foggy' Mullings appeared lost in the harmonious reverie of the moment.

Foggy swayed to the beat of a jazzy version of the traditional Christmas favourite, Mary's Boy Child, as he treated the crowd at the Ward Theatre in Kingston to sweet tunes on the piano.

At the end of that number, the audience obviously savouring the music, unleashed thunderous applause that died as quickly as it started, in obvious anticipation of what was to come.

True to form, Foggy Mullings and his team delivered.

The dexterity of the man at the piano, with the accompanying saxophonist and other talented musicians, glimmered with the flashing lights in the semi-dark theatre.

Foggy and his team soon touched yet another harmonious chord.

This time it was a medley of jazz selections, followed by the popular hymn Just a Closer Walk With God, after which the musicians eased into Judy Garland's famed Over the Rainbow.

It was all beautiful, soothing, music played without the distracting vocals of a crooner that somehow evoked piercing feelings of nostalgia.

Foggy Mullings' musical prowess was on scintillating display as he slipped into a semi-fast version of the Christmas classic Gloria in Excelsis Deo.

It was 18 years ago, that Foggy Mullings participated in the 'Christmas Concert in 1995', a benefit gala.

He was by then an accomplished pianist, but had taken valuable time from his hectic political schedule, in the spirit of the festive season, to bring back the harmony.

Foggy's political contemporary, Burchell Whiteman, a former general secretary of the People's National Party, described his late friend as a classical musician with a large measure of versatility.

Whiteman remembered Mullings as very generous and giving of his musical talents.

"He could be easily taken advantage of because he was so giving of his talent. But the people close to him respected him and regarded him as a professional musician," said Whiteman.

And so, as he had done countless times before, Foggy Mullings was seated around the grand piano at the historic land mark theatre in the heart of downtown Kingston in December 1995 to share in the memorable musical fare.

Whiteman said he first heard Mullings play while he was a student at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus.

"He was then well-known islandwide as a celebrity jazz player from the Corporate Area," said Whiteman.

"He would play at night clubs and other top-of-the-line events."

Added Whiteman: "His music meant a lot to him, he was deeply involved in the music that was an important part of his life, and he was what I would call a classical jazz musician. That reflected in his temperament, understated, calming and reflective."

The retired politician said the last time he heard his pal play was at a private reception at a friend's home just before tackling an ambassadorial assignment in Washington.

Whiteman also noted that Foggy Mullings was an accomplished organist for the Anglican Church in Cayman.

Unknown to many, was the fact that the piano player, who hardly missed a sitting of Parliament in his hey day, had hardly missed a beat on the musical landscape in his prime.

Not only is the musical stalwart a past president of the Jamaica Federations of Musicians, but Foggy was also a member of the Jazz Hall of Fame since 1997.

He was one of 15 persons inducted that year in recognition of their sterling contributions to the development of Jamaican music as well as the preservation and promotion of jazz.

Foggy's contribution was recognised and acknowledged under the theme, 'Remembering The Past Protectors of The Music Industry'.

Claude Wilson, in a 2002 Gleaner article, noted that Jazz, the African-American-inspired music which started at the beginning of the 20th century in New Orleans, had been explored and certainly assumed by earlier Jamaican musicians.

Wilson complained that the music born of black heritage was being marginalised in reggae/dancehall land, and was languishing in abject decline at its roots in the United States.

He said Mullings was part of a wave of musicians who played mainly improvised music at some of Kingston's most notable venues.