Youthful sounds from Jazz at The Oasis
Michael Reckord, Gleaner Writer
For some reason there is not enough attention being paid to jazz in Jamaica these days.
It is not that those proponents of the genre here aren't as good as their predecessors either.
For instance, if you take a look at Simply Myrna on Saturday night, and Jazz at The Oxford two weeks ago, you will find that those in attendance enjoyed a romping good time, but that the crowd was altogether too small.
Variety was a major feature of the open-air jazz concert at The Oasis, Oxford Road. Not only were there more than 20 individual singers and instrumentalists performing in the garden's tiny gazebo, but the show comprised about twice that number of musical items of several forms.
Smoothly guided by emcee Markland Edwards, the three-and-a-half-hour concert began with the youthful Ozou'ne & Pon Fyah band, backing a grey-haired, grey-bearded singer, Ramong. The mix of ages was harmonious as Ramong's well-received songs, Mona Lisa and Mack the Knife, for example, were timeless.
The band's unusual, jazzy version of the Christian hymn, The Old Rugged Cross, was the bridge between the laid-back Ramong and the next singer, the effervescent Mari Isaacs.
In her flexible, wide-ranging voice and with great power, she sang five full songs and a medley of snatches of as many others.
The complete songs included I'm So in Love With You, The Children Are Our Future, You Don't Know What It's Like and Summer Time.
At the beginning of her medley, Isaacs assured the audience she was In a Dancing Mood and went to prove it with segments of songs like Ocean's Eleven, Shanty Town, Sammy Dead and Everyting Crash.
Up next to entertain the audience of less than a hundred people was the young, pretty singer, De'jah, who showed that she had a voice to match her looks.
Taking her theme as "love", she sang, with passion, How Could An Angel Break My Heart?, When I Look Back at This Time, and I Can Lose My Heart Tonight, among others.
The set by the supremely talented composer-singer-keyboardist Kathy Brown (introduced by the emcee as "part-time doctor, full-time musician"), along with members of her band who joined or replaced individuals from Pon Fyah, took the concert into the intermission. Brown's tunes and songs, some her own original pieces, were generally upbeat and cheerful.
They included the jazz standard Fly Me to The Moon, the Fats Domino hit of yesteryear, I'm Walking, Brown's Latin Blues and African Celebration (which were both dedicated to Black History Month), and Bob Marley's Don't Worry Bout a Thing.
To close her set, Brown called back Isaacs and De'jah to the crowded stage to join her in singing Marley's optimistic anthem, One Love.
Sitting with The Gleaner after her set, Brown spoke enthusiastically about her recent trip to South Africa, between late January and early February, and the wonderful response her audiences had to her performances in two cities. In South Africa, Brown declared,
"They're hungry for Jamaican music, and the Jamaican brand", generally.
The evening's closing act was Denver D and D'Family, a 10-member aggregation that has been around for only a year and a half.
Managed by Bianca Welds, the group is led by Denver Smith, who started on his musical career - like so many well-known Jamaican musicians - at Alpha Boys' Home.
Smith's debut album will be launched March 21 at Emancipation Park, Welds told The Gleaner, going on to describe the band's music as "fusion", and not of any one particular style. Included in the group are three young female singers, who joined the three male vocalists-instrumentalists - Smith, Hector Lewis and Dario Morgan - in a number of songs. They included When I Fall in Love, Fly Me to the Moon and I Love You (For Sentimental Reasons).
The band not only consists of young people, but has a youthful air and a unique sound. It would seem that the male singers, especially Smith, enjoy a lot of audience interaction, and the audience at The Oasis responded well, sometimes chatting back or singing along.
Tributes in song were paid to Bob Marley and Gregory Isaacs (to the latter by the singing of If You Want to Be My Number One and Night Nurse) and the ensemble ended its set, and the evening's programme, with the National Anthem.
According to the proprietors, Jazz at The Oasis will be held every other month.