Excellent performances at first Blues in Negril
Karrie Williams, Gleaner Writer
Rhythm and Blues took centrestage in Negril, Westmoreland, over the weekend with hundreds of persons converging at the Sea Star Inn in the town's West End for three nights dubbed Blues in Negril.
The festival's inaugural staging began on Friday night. It featured a host of international performers. They included Chuck Jackson from the Toronto-based Downchild Blues Band; Luddy Samms, formerly of The Drifters; Grammy award-winning artiste Liberty Silver; and renowned Blues singer Jeff Spence.
The performers were backed by the Sea Star Band.
On Saturday, the venue was filled to capacity, mostly with tourists. The huge crowd showed its appreciation of the performers with non-stop dancing and partying from the concert's start at 7 p.m. until the midnight ending time.
The festival's second evening of musical bliss began with a performance by German saxophonist Celia Baron, who did an excellent job of getting the crowd warmed up for the entertainment to come. She was followed by the duo of Louis and Jan Oneil and, later, Stan Mazda, who increased the concert's momentum.
Then came Samms with an act that electrified the audience. The seasoned performer thrilled the listeners with his melodic voice and artistic dance moves. He covered decades of music in his set, which included the James Brown classic I Feel Good.
Samms, who co-organised Blues in Negril, had patrons leaving their seats to break out into their best dance steps and waltzes throughout his pulsating performance.
The energetic dancing continued with Spence, who followed Samms to the microphone. The entertainer displayed his musical versatility by playing the keyboards as he sang hits such as Blueberry Hill and Walking To New Orleans. At the end of his allotted time, Spence was recalled for a well-earned encore.
His performance at the Sea Star Inn also marked Samms' first time in Jamaica. "I worked on cruise ships and did shows all over the Caribbean but never in Jamaica. The reception here tonight is just so great ... ! When I do a show, it's not so much the technicality or how well I can play; it's trying to get the people involved and ensuring they have a good time. That's what this show is about," Spence said following his performance.
Up next was the Canadian Terry Gillespie, who played the guitar in a predominantly instrumental set. He, too, was nothing short of electrifying and even found a way to seamlessly merge some reggae beats into his rhythm and blues set, resulting in a number of patrons inventing some interesting dance moves to show their appreciation.
The night ended with performances from Canadian blues singers Jerome GodBoo, Brant Parker, Tyler Yarema, and Cheryl Lescom.
"We are happy with the turnout over all three nights. It's been fantastic and everybody had a good time!" said Christopher Tomney, co-organiser of Blues in Negril and owner of the Sea Star Inn. "Next year, we will be getting an ever bigger venue to host this festival, which we plan on making better for all the blues lovers here in Jamaica and abroad."